NATO papers say Kosovo PM is 'big fish' crime boss

25th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is one of the "biggest fish" in organised crime in his country, a British newspaper cited leaked NATO military intelligence reports as saying on Tuesday.

The Guardian said the documents showed the United States and other western countries backing Kosovo's government since it declared independence in 2008 have long known about the administration's alleged criminal ties.

The secret documents, produced by KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, emerged as the Council of Europe debated a report by which accuses Thaci of involvement in organ trafficking and other crimes.

According to the Guardian, the NATO papers identify Thaci as one of three key figures in organised crime in Kosovo, along with a senior aide who has ties to the Albanian mafia.

Xhavit Haliti, a former head of logistics for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and now a top lawmaker, is described in the documents as the "power behind Thaci".

The NATO papers allege that Haliti turned to organised crime including prostitution, weapons and drug smuggling "on a grand scale" after a fund for the Kosovo war in the late 1990s ran dry, the Guardian said.

In December, Thaci dismissed the Council of Europe report as "scandalous, a fabrication and a lie" and has vowed to sue report author Dick Marty for libel.

The report alleges that Thaci headed a group within the ethnic-Albanian guerrilla KLA -- which fought Serbia in 1998 and 1999 -- that set up a network of unofficial prisons in Albania.

It alleges one of Thaci's allies operated a ring for the "forcible extraction of human organs for the purposes of trafficking" from the prisoners, mainly Serbs.

Marty said last week that Thaci was not personally involved in organ trafficking but was aware of the affair.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and despite Serbia's fierce opposition has been recognised by 72 countries, including the United States and all but five of the 27 EU members.

The Kosovo conflict left around 10,000 people dead before NATO forces intervened.

© 2011 AFP

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