Investing in Albania despite the Risks

Albania has long been associated with criminal activity and Albanian Mafia activities, with criminal activity focused on international drug trafficking, and illegal trafficking in humans and weapons. Yet on the 29th July the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha declared that criminal activity in Albania was now a thing of the past and should be considered to be in the past. This was stated as Albania made arrangements for Belgium to return ninety three Albanian prisoners to Albania.

Yves Leterme, the Prime Minister of Belgium said that Belgium had been plagued with Albanian criminals for the last two decades, as have other European countries. Albanian criminals sit in prison cells in Italy, Greece and elsewhere, whilst the UK has been subject to much illegal Albanian activity. In Albania itself statistics show that crime is on the decrease. This could well be a direct result of one third of Albania’s population working in foreign countries and committing their crimes abroad.

Just three days before the Albanian prime minister stated that crime was practically non existent now in Albania, 5 Albanian businessmen were arrested for involvement in international drug smuggling. Two of the five had already been arrested in Italy in 2008 when they were caught transporting heroin, but they managed to escape until their re arrest on the 26th July. Three of the five businessmen were in the construction industry and it is alleged that they were money laundering the funds from their criminal activities through legal construction work. It is also known that the profits of illegal activity by Albanians in Italy have been invested in Albania’s construction industry.

Albania is keen to paint itself as the picture of democracy now, yet instead of dealing with widespread corruption it simply attests it no longer exists. In truth the public services and judiciary are still riddled with corruption which the government only selectively deals with. High officials retain immunity when caught dabbling in corruption. Figures actually show that corruption is now getting worse again after several years of effort to rein it under control. As it is, the weakness of the police and judiciary make Albania a choice location for drug smuggling and money laundering. Investing in property may result in putting your money together with the proceeds of crime.

Albania is now attracting outlaw biker gangs according to Europol. Once again they front legal businesses such as construction to launder the proceeds of drug smuggling which comes through Albania from Turkey. The violence of some of the latest biker gangs to encroach on the country is well known in other areas of Europe such as Denmark, and they create problems with extortion. Rival gangs who deal in arms smuggling and drug smuggling could lead to turf wars which usually involve fire arms being used.

As the economy improves in Albania and it moves closer to the time it may be admitted into the E.U. it is expected that many Albanians currently working abroad may return to the country. Those who have enjoyed the spoils of criminal activity abroad will be back on home ground, and many face pressure from Albanian gangs to engage in illegal activity.

Thus it follows that those investing in the country should be cautious and employ lawyers to check the background of those they intend to invest money with. If investing in property it is worth the effort to pay the extra to invest in a gated property community as despite government statements it is worth being cautious considering the amount of repatriated criminals the country will soon be home to again. Generally foreigners are not specifically targeted in Albania by criminals but the situation could well change. Investors need to be cautious concerning who they choose to invest with.