Albanian authorities “did absolutely nothing to probe the supply of the bomb that killed my mother”
Speaking to The Shift in a quiet cafe in Albania’s capital Tirana, Matthew Caruana Galizia explained that four years later, local authorities have still not opened an investigation to establish how a bomb of this small Balkan state found herself under her mother’s car. in Malta.
Following the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017, links emerged suggesting that the bomb used to detonate her car was from Albania. “The bomb that was used to assassinate my mother came from Albania, via Italy. It was provided by Albanian organized crime. You can pretty much buy them off the shelf here, ”Matthew told The Shift.
“The Albanian government has not carried out any investigation into how a bomb was supplied by Albanians and then used to assassinate a journalist in Malta. They didn’t do anything. They did absolutely nothing, ”he added.
He further questioned how Maltese criminals could get hold of a bomb so easily from Albanian organized crime and so that there would be no repercussions in the country. The explosive device was reportedly supplied to the murderers accused by Robert Agius and Jamie Vella who were arrested in Malta. Agius is believed to have visited Albania at least three times before the assassination.
“It is impossible for Prime Minister Edi Rama not to know that there is this problem,” said Caruana Galizia. “If he doesn’t know that Albania’s bomb supply is a problem, then he has to fire absolutely everyone in his intelligence services.” There’s no way he couldn’t find out.
Bombs in the streets of Albania
In the early evening at September 2020, a car bomb exploded in broad daylight in central Tirana, Albania.
As crowds of people filled the streets, shopping, walking home from work or going to meet friends, a loud bang emanated from a vehicle on the road, followed by the fire.
Police reported that a remote-controlled explosive was placed in the car and then triggered when the intended victim, Taken Gjini, boarded and left. Gjini survived the attack, as did the various passers-by who were hit by shrapnel and burning debris.
It was later revealed that the attack was part of an ongoing criminal gang conflict, likely involving drugs.
But this was by no means an isolated case.
In december 2019, a prosecutor’s car exploded during a remote demolition in Vlora. In May 2020, a TNT bomb exploded in an alley between a hotel and a bar linked to previous gang activity. In July 2020, a TNT explosion was reported in an apartment in Laprake, Tirana.
In February 2021, a hotel was targeted by a remote control TNT bomb in Sarande. At March 12, 2021, TNT was placed inside the car of prosecutor Arjan Muca in the family neighborhood of Kommuna Parisit. On March 16, police arrested two men for fabricating remotely detonated explosives in Tirana.
Other cases have occurred on a semi-regular basis across the country, so much so that they hardly make the headlines anymore.
A fight against organized crime
Car bombs, TNT and explosives are often used by the vast Albanian criminal network to attack, silence and intimidate.
Now an EU candidate country whose official membership negotiations are due to start shortly, Albania is trying to shake off its bad image. While Albanian politicians have been successful in wooing Brussels, the reality is that there is still a long way to go.
The minimum wage is only € 213 per month, 40% of households are deprived of sufficient material income and nearly a quarter could sink into poverty within a month. Extreme poverty mainly affects people living in rural areas, with little education or skills, or those who are unable to find work. This poverty, combined with a weak rule of law and ineffective governance means that organized crime may have flourished.
The economy of Albania is mainly based on cash and informal. The country has also become a privileged location for national and international money launderers. It’s a source and transit country for human trafficking, one of the main exporters of cannabis, a transit country for heroin and cocaine, a central human trafficking route, and known for arms trafficking. Despite promised reforms and political cleanups, little seems to change.
The public consensus is that the government allow these things to continue, as long as they get a cut.
But the reasons behind Albania’s problems with crime and criminality are complex. For nearly 500 years, the country was under Ottoman rule and then plunged into one of the most repressive and isolated communist regimes in the world. Left there in 1990, he took his first steps towards democracy before finding himself involved in a ponzi scheme which has ruined the country and many of its citizens.
In 1997, Albania was on the verge of civil war. Armed gangs roamed the streets, assassinations and executions took place in public, and you could go for coffee in central Tirana and count people drinking coffee with AK47s slung over their shoulders.
During these years, many state armories were looted and looted for firearms, ammunition and explosives. Years later, it is estimated that there are 210,000 illegal weapons still in the country, despite various attempts at amnesty.
The Albanian underworld continues to thrive and the Albanian Mafia is seen as one of the most powerful in Europe, responsible for the lion’s share of drugss, trafficking in human beings and even arms. Maintaining links with notorious Italian criminal clans, they also indulge in money laundering, extortion, and even online gambling, reaching the shores of Malta
Bombs On Shelf
The Shift contacted a former policeman who explained how easy it is to get explosives in Albania. “If you want DTT, I can get it for you tomorrow,” he said.
“There are two kinds – one that you light with a fire like a cigarette, the other with electricity from the telephone. You just have to call the phone and “BAM”.
The Shift asked how long it would take to make one of these bombs to order and how much it would cost. “If you buy direct from the manufacturer it’s € 600, if you buy through a middleman, or two, or three, the price goes up,” he said.
“It will take four days to a week. If you are lucky you can find some already made and have them the same day, ”he added.
He said TNT, the same compound used in the bomb that killed Daphne, is all over the black market. Much remains from the civil war of 97 remain, but he adds that some are acquired from the country’s mining industry.
The north of the country is full of chrome and mineral mines, many of which use TNT for detonation. The people involved in the racketeering simply say they used more TNT than they did and sell the rest to contacts in the underground world. It could also be taken by construction professionals, a market known for its ties to the Mafia.
As for getting them out of the country, that poses little or no problem. Hundreds of Albanians cross borders illegally every month. Plus, the export of drugs, people, and weapons means that slipping in a bomb or two is of little added risk.
After all, the Albanian Mafia is now one of the main partners of the Italian Mafia. Several high-profile drug seizures have highlighted the growing collaboration between Italian, Sicilian and Albanian organized crime groups.
In june 2020 for example, 3.5 tonnes of cannabis, hashish and cocaine were seized by police in Italy and Albania. The cargo was valued at over 40 million euros. Another 4 million euros were seized in Albania.
Sources suggest that the infamous Santapaulo-Ercolano clan linked to Malta has begin to work with Albanian gangs in the southern town of Vlora. Italian investigators implicated in the hash traffic believe the relationship was it’s been going on for years during which, the chiefs and key figures of Ercolano visited Albania, sometimes for months at a time.
This too widely believed that the Albanian mafia is becoming so strong that it takes power from the Italians in some places.
Meanwhile, the possible origin of the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia combined with Agius’s visits to the country has not been addressed or investigated by the Albanian government.
Despite The Shift’s questions being emailed and sent directly to the Deputy Home Secretary on several occasions, no response was received.
“There was no statement from the government. Nothing. Absolutely nothing, ”said Matthew Caruana Galizia.