Kosovo's prime minister is the head of a "mafia-like" Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe, according to a Council of Europe inquiry report on organised crime. Hashim Thaçi is identified as the boss of a network that began operating criminal rackets in the runup to the 1998-99 Kosovo war, and has held powerful sway over the country's government since. The report of the two-year inquiry, which cites FBI and other intelligence sources, has been obtained by the Guardian. It names Thaçi as having over the last decade exerted "violent control" over the heroin trade. Figures from Thaçi's inner circle are also accused of taking captives across the border into Albania after the war, where a number of Serbs have been murdered for their kidneys, which were sold on the black market.
The Swiss senator Dick Marty, conducted a two-year inquiry into organised crime in Kosovo after the Council of Europe mandated him to investigate claims of organ harvesting by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) after the war with Serbia ended in 1999.
Dick Marty's report suggests Thaçi's links with organised crime date back more than a decade, when those loyal to his Drenica group came to dominate the KLA(UCK), and seized control of "most of the illicit criminal enterprises" in which Kosovans were involved south of the border, in Albania. During the Kosovo war and for almost a year after, Thaçi "The Snake" and four other members of the Drenica group named in the report carried out "assassinations, detentions, beatings and interrogations". This same hardline KLA faction has held considerable power in Kosovo's government over the last decade, with the support of western powers keen to ensure stability in the "Europe's youngest democracy". Marty's report suggests the KLA held Serbs and other captives in secret detention centres in Albania for almost a year after the war ended. A small number of prisoners that survived, the report suggests, were transferred to a makeshift clinic just north of the capital Tirana, where they were shot in the head before their kidneys were removed. The report paints a picture in which ex-KLA commanders have played a crucial role in the region's criminal activity. It says: "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." Marty says: "Thaçi 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." His inquiry was commissioned after the former chief prosecutor for war crimes at the Hague, Carla Del Ponte, said she had been prevented from investigating senior KLA officials. Her most shocking claim, which she said required further investigation, was that the KLA smuggled captive Serbs across the border into Albania, where their organs were harvested. Inquiry finds the KLA did hold mostly Serb captives in a secret network of six detention facilities in northern Albania, and that Thaçi's Drenica group "bear the greatest responsibility" for prisons and the fate of those held in them. The report states: "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.''
Serbs and Roma from Albanian concentration camps, during the war, were not the only victims of organ trafficking in Kosovo. Many desperate Russians, Moldovans, Kazakhs and Turks were lured into Kosovo "with the false promise of payments" for their kidneys. The organs had been illegally removed from victims and transplanted into wealthy recipients in the clinic, known as Medicus. Those who paid up to €90,000 (£76,400) for the black-market kidneys included patients from Canada, Germany, Poland and Israel.
A human body could be sold on the black market for EUR 2mn, that kidneys fetched between EUR 15,000 and 100,000, while prices for a liver or heart could reach as much as EUR 1mn.
Serbia has long complained of atrocities committed by the KLA after July 1999, when Nato-led air strikes forced Slobodan Milosevic's troops to retreat from the province. Marty finds evidence for those concerns, stating that Kosovo's guerrilla army formed "a formidable power base in the organised criminal enterprises" in Kosovo and Albania. A group known as Drenica, led by Thaçi, became the KLA's dominant faction and senior KLA figures from the group hold senior positions in Kosovo's government today.