Western Balkan criminals find refuge in UAE

Organized criminals in the Western Balkans and particularly in Albania are increasingly using the United Arab Emirates as a haven to hide and hide their money from law enforcement, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI -TOC) in a new analysis.

Albanian organized crime figures are important, they are not the only ones to have found refuge in the Gulf state. (Photo: Ivan Siarbolin, Pexels, License)“Their ability to stay in the country seems to be facilitated by purchasing real estate and investing in the local economy,” GI-TOC said. “The country has also proven attractive to the underworld because until recently it was very difficult to extradite wanted criminals from this Gulf state.”

They feel so secure that they often invite friends and family to join them as they flaunt their ill-gotten wealth without being harassed.

Albanian organized crime figures are prominent, but they are not the only ones to have found refuge in the Gulf state. Major figures from Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as Edin Gačanin, the leader of the Tito and Dino cartel, have been sighted in the country. Gačanin has been referred to as the “European Escobar” for his role in transporting cocaine through the Balkan route and to lucrative markets in Western Europe.

“The decision by Balkan crime bosses to relocate to the UAE is part of a larger trend,” GI-TOC said. “The move to distant markets to launder the proceeds of crime shows the increased sophistication of Balkan criminals and is an indicator of the flexibility and business orientation of these organizations.”

“Law enforcement should cooperate with the UAE to address this issue, taking a holistic and long-term approach. In addition, more needs to be done to address the dangers of reintegrating proceeds of crime laundered abroad into the fragile political economy of the Western Balkans,” GI-TOC suggested.

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