22nd Oct 2020

Kosovo PM is organ-harvesting crime boss, Council of Europe says

The Council of Europe has said the prime minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, is the head of a criminal gang involved in heroin trafficking and organ harvesting, accusing him of personally carrying out "assassinations".

The report, by Swiss politician Dick Marty, was published on Tuesday and is based on a two-year-long investigation which saw him travel to Belgrade, Pristina and Tirana to interview judicial authorities, politicians, NGOs, international bodies and US intelligence services. Mr Marty is due to present his findings at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on Thursday.

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The report explains that Mr Thaci's links to organised crime date back to 1998, when the Thaci-loyal Drenica Group took over the Kosovo Libaration Army and related Kosovar-Albanian criminal enterprises in the region.

"In confidential reports spanning more than a decade, agencies dedicated to combating drug smuggling in at least five countries have named Hashim Thaçi and other members of his Drenica Group as having exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics," it says.

"Thaci and these other Drenica Group members are consistently named as 'key players' in intelligence reports on Kosovo's mafia-like structures of organised crime. I have examined these diverse, voluminous reports with consternation and a sense of moral outrage."

The report names Mr Thaci and four other Drenica members as having personally taken part in "assassinations, detentions, beatings and interrogations".

On organ harvesting, it says Drenica had responsibility over a prison-like base in Tirana in which guards murdered ethnic Serb prisoners in order to cut out and sell their kidneys on the black market: "As and when the transplant surgeons were confirmed to be in position and ready to operate, the captives were brought out of the 'safe house' individually, summarily executed by a KLA gunman, and their corpses transported swiftly to the operating clinic."

Mr Marty also accuses Western powers, such as the EU, of not having done enough to investigate ethnic-Albanian war-era crimes in the interests of preserving stability in the fractious region. There has been "faltering political will on the part of the international community to effectively prosecute the former leaders of the KLA," he said.

The bombshell comes 48 hours after Mr Thaci on Sunday claimed victory in Kosovo's first-ever parliamentary elections in a vote marred by allegations of fraud.

On Monday, the EU welcomed the peaceful way in which the elections had been conducted. High representative Catherine Ashton and enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule congratulated the Kosovar people and authorities for "the calm and orderly manner" in which the ballot was held.

Kosovo and Serbia had not yet reacted to the findings on Tuesday evening. But if Mr Thaci holds on to power, the Marty report could also have an impact on the success of EU-mediated Kosovo-Serbia talks on the final status of Kosovo due to start shortly.

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