Mafia states

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Mafia states

Unread post by Dobre » December 7th, 2013, 10:11 pm

The global economic crisis has been a boon for transnational criminals. Thanks to the weak economy, cash-rich criminal organizations can acquire financially distressed but potentially valuable companies at bargain prices. Fiscal austerity is forcing governments everywhere to cut the budgets of law enforcement agencies and court systems. Millions of people have been laid off and are thus more easily tempted to break the law. Large numbers of unemployed experts in finance, accounting, information technology, law, and logistics have boosted the supply of world-class talent available to criminal cartels. Meanwhile, philanthropists all over the world have curtailed their giving, creating funding shortfalls in the arts, education, health care, and other areas, which criminals are all too happy to fill in exchange for political access, social legitimacy, and popular support. International criminals could hardly ask for a more favorable business environment. Their activities are typically high margin and cash-based, which means they often enjoy a high degree of liquidity -- not a bad position to be in during a global credit crunch.

But emboldened adversaries and dwindling resources are not the only problems confronting police departments, prosecutors, and judges. In recent years, a new threat has emerged: the mafia state. Across the globe, criminals have penetrated governments to an unprecedented degree. The reverse has also happened: rather than stamping out powerful gangs, some governments have instead taken over their illegal operations. In mafia states, government officials enrich themselves and their families and friends while exploiting the money, muscle, political influence, and global connections of criminal syndicates to cement and expand their own power. Indeed, top positions in some of the world's most profitable illicit enterprises are no longer filled only by professional criminals; they now include senior government officials, legislators, spy chiefs, heads of police departments, military officers, and, in some extreme cases, even heads of state or their family members.

This fusing of governments and criminal groups is distinct from the more limited ways in which the two have collaborated in the past. Governments and spy agencies, including those of democratic countries, have often enlisted criminals to smuggle weapons to allied insurgents in other countries or even to assassinate enemies abroad. (The CIA's harebrained attempt to enlist American mafia figures to assassinate Fidel Castro in 1960 is perhaps the best-known example.) But unlike normal states, mafia states do not just occasionally rely on criminal groups to advance particular foreign policy goals. In a mafia state, high government officials actually become integral players in, if not the leaders of, criminal enterprises, and the defense and promotion of those enterprises' businesses become official priorities. In mafia states such as Bulgaria, Guinea-Bissau, Montenegro, Myanmar (also called Burma), Ukraine, and Venezuela, the national interest and the interests of organized crime are now inextricably intertwined.

Because the policies and resource allocations of mafia states are determined as much by the influence of criminals as by the forces that typically shape state behavior, these states pose a serious challenge to policymakers and analysts of international politics. Mafia states defy easy categorization, blurring the conceptual line between states and nonstate actors. As a result, their behavior is difficult to predict, making them particularly dangerous actors in the international environment.

It has become difficult to distinguish the geopolitical calculations of some states from the profit motives of criminal organizations.

Conventional wisdom about international criminal networks rests on three faulty assumptions. First, many people believe that when it comes to illicit activities, everything has been done before. It is true that criminals, smugglers, and black markets have always existed. But the nature of international crime has changed a great deal in the past two decades, as criminal networks have expanded beyond their traditional markets and started taking advantage of political and economic transformations and exploiting new technologies. In the early 1990s, for example, criminal groups became early adopters of innovations in communications, such as advanced electronic encryption. Criminal syndicates also pioneered new means of drug transportation, such as "narco-submarines": semi-submersible vessels able to evade radar, sonar, and infrared systems. (Drug cartels in Colombia eventually graduated to fully submersible submarines.) In more recent years, criminal organizations have also taken advantage of the Internet, leading to a dizzying growth in cybercrime, which cost the global economy some $114 billion in 2011, according to the Internet security firm Symantec.

A second common misperception is that international crime is an underground phenomenon that involves only a small community of deviants operating at the margins of societies. The truth is that in many countries, criminals today do not bother staying underground at all, nor are they remotely marginal. In fact, the suspected leaders of many major criminal groups have become celebrities of a sort. Wealthy individuals with suspicious business backgrounds are sought-after philanthropists and have come to control radio and television stations and own influential newspapers. Moreover, criminals' accumulation of wealth and power depends not only on their own illicit activities but also on the actions of average members of society: for example, the millions of citizens involved in China's counterfeit consumer-goods industry and in Afghanistan's drug trade, the millions of Westerners who smoke marijuana regularly, the hundreds of thousands of migrants who every year hire criminals to smuggle them to Europe, and the well-to-do professionals in Manhattan and Milan who employ illegal immigrants as nannies and housekeepers. Ordinary people such as these are an integral part of the criminal ecosystem.

A third mistaken assumption is that international crime is strictly a matter of law enforcement, best managed by police departments, prosecutors, and judges. In reality, international crime is better understood as a political problem with national security implications. The scale and scope of the most powerful criminal organizations now easily match those of the world's largest multinational corporations. And just as legitimate organizations seek political influence, so, too, do criminal ones. Of course, criminals have always sought to corrupt political systems to their own advantage. But illicit groups have never before managed to acquire the degree of political influence now enjoyed by criminals in a wide range of African, eastern European, and Latin American countries, not to mention China and Russia.

In the past decade or so, this phenomenon has crossed a threshold, resulting in the emergence of potent mafia states. José Grinda, a Spanish prosecutor with years of experience fighting eastern European criminal organizations, maintains that in many cases, it has become impossible for him and his colleagues to distinguish the interests of criminal organizations from those of their host governments. According to Grinda, Spanish law enforcement officials constantly confront criminal syndicates that function as appendages of the governments of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. In confidential remarks contained in U.S. diplomatic cables released by the whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks, he detailed his concerns about the "tremendous control" exercised by what he termed "the Russian mafia" over a number of strategic sectors of the global economy, such as aluminum and natural gas. This control, Grinda suggested, is made possible by the extent to which the Kremlin collaborates with Russian criminal organizations.

In mafia states, government officials and criminals often work together through legal business conglomerates with close ties to top leaders and their families and friends. According to Grinda, Moscow regularly employs criminal syndicates -- as when, for example, Russia's military intelligence agency directed a mafia group to supply arms to Kurdish rebels in Turkey. More indicative of the overlap between Russia's government and its criminal groups, however, is the case of a cargo ship, Arctic Sea, that the Russian government claimed was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Sweden in 2009. Moscow ostensibly sent the Russian navy to rescue the ship, but many experts believe it was actually smuggling weapons on behalf of Russia's intelligence services and that the hijacking and rescue were ruses intended to cover up the trafficking after rival intelligence services had disrupted it. Grinda says that the smuggling was a joint operation run by organized criminal gangs and what he cryptically termed "Eurasian security services." The Russians were embarrassed, but the outcome was essentially benign, even a bit comical. Still, the affair underscored the unpredictability of a security environment in which it is difficult to distinguish the geopolitical calculations of states from the profit motives of criminal organizations.


Russia is hardly the only country where the line between government agencies and criminal groups has been irreparably blurred. Last year, the Council of Europe published a report alleging that the prime minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, and his political allies exert "violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics" and occupy important positions in "Kosovo's mafia-like structures of organized crime." The state-crime nexus is perhaps even stronger in Bulgaria. A 2005 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last year is worth quoting at length, given the disturbing portrait it paints of Bulgaria's descent into mafia statehood. The cable read, in part:

Organized crime has a corrupting influence on all Bulgarian institutions, including the government, parliament and judiciary. In an attempt to maintain their influence regardless of who is in power, OC [organized crime] figures donate to all the major political parties. As these figures have expanded into legitimate businesses, they have attempted -- with some success -- to buy their way into the corridors of power. . . . Below the level of the national government and the leadership of the major political parties, OC "owns" a number of municipalities and individual members of parliament. This direct participation in politics -- as opposed to bribery -- is a relatively new development for Bulgarian OC. Similarly in the regional center of Velingrad, OC figures control the municipal council and the mayor's office. Nearly identical scenarios have played out in half a dozen smaller towns and villages across Bulgaria.

This state of affairs led Atanas Atanasov, a member of the Bulgarian parliament and a former counterintelligence chief, to observe that "other countries have the mafia; in Bulgaria the mafia has the country."

Mafia states integrate the speed and flexibility of transnational criminal networks with the legal protections and diplomatic privileges enjoyed only by states.
Crime and the state are also becoming intertwined in Afghanistan, where top government officials and provincial governors -- including President Hamid Karzai's half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was assassinated last year -- have been accused not just of colluding with drug-trafficking networks but of actually leading them. As the drug trade becomes ever more globalized, African countries have been drawn in, too, becoming important transit points for drugs from the Andean region and Asia on their way to drug-hungry European markets. Inevitably, several African rulers and their families, along with lower-level politicians, military officers, and members of the judiciary, have entered the narcotics-trafficking business themselves. In Guinea, for example, Ousmane Conté, son of the late president Lansana Conté, was officially labeled a "drug kingpin" by the U.S. government in 2010.

Police departments, secret services, courts, local and provincial governments, passport-issuing agencies, and customs offices have all become coveted targets for criminal takeovers. Last year, René Sanabria, a retired general who headed Bolivia's antidrug agency, was arrested by U.S. federal agents in Panama and charged with plotting to ship hundreds of kilograms of cocaine to Miami. Sanabria pled guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Similarly, a succession of generals who held the chief antidrug post in Mexico are now in prison for taking part in the very kind of crime they were supposed to prevent.

A mafia state has also taken root in Venezuela. In 2010, President Hugo Chávez appointed General Henry Rangel Silva as the top commander of the Venezuelan armed forces; earlier this year, he became minister of defense. But in 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department added Rangel Silva to its list of officially designated drug kingpins, accusing him of "materially assisting narcotic trafficking activities." The Treasury Department also recently slapped that label on a number of other Venezuelan officials, including five high-ranking military officers, a senior intelligence officer, and an influential member of congress allied with Chávez. In 2010, a Venezuelan named Walid Makled, accused by several governments of being the head of one of the world's largest drug-trafficking groups, was captured by Colombian authorities. Prior to his extradition to Venezuela, Makled claimed that he had videos, recorded telephone conversations, canceled checks, and other evidence proving he worked for a criminal network that involved 15 Venezuelan generals (including the head of military intelligence and the director of the antinarcotics office), the brother of the country's interior minister, and five members of congress.

Owing in part to such ties, the cocaine business has flourished in Venezuela in recent years, and the country now supplies more than half of all cocaine shipments to Europe, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. And the drug trade is not the only illicit activity that has flourished in Venezuela's era of state-sanctioned crime: the country has also become a base of operations for human trafficking, money laundering, counterfeiting, weapons smuggling, and the trade in contraband oil.

In the past, foreign policy scholars generally considered international crime to be a relatively minor problem that domestic legal systems should handle. The impact of crime, they believed, was insignificant compared with the threat of terrorism or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Fortunately, the conventional wisdom is starting to change. More and more experts and policymakers are recognizing that crime has become a significant source of global instability, especially with the emergence of mafia states.

Criminal gangs, for example, have become involved in for-profit nuclear proliferation. A. Q. Khan, the notorious Pakistani nuclear peddler, claimed that he was spreading bomb-making know-how to other nations in order to advance Pakistan's interests. But the international network he built to market and deliver his goods was organized as an illicit, for-profit enterprise. Nuclear proliferation experts have long cautioned that nonstate actors might not respond to nuclear deterrence strategies in the same way states do; there is reason to worry, then, that as criminal organizations fuse more thoroughly with governments, deterrence might become more difficult. Perhaps most worrisome in this regard is North Korea. Although North Korea recently announced that in exchange for food aid, it would suspend its nuclear weapons tests, stop enriching uranium, and allow international inspectors to visit its main nuclear complex, the country still remains a nuclear-armed dictatorship whose state-directed criminal enterprises have led U.S. officials to nickname it "the Sopranos state." Sheena Chestnut Greitens, an expert on the crime-state nexus in North Korea, has written that the country has "the means and motivation for exporting nuclear material," warning that "proliferation conducted through illicit networks will not always be well controlled by the supplier state," which adds additional uncertainty to an already dangerous situation.

Even putting aside the alarming prospect of nuclear mafia states, governments heavily involved in illicit trade might be more prone to use force when their access to profitable markets is threatened. Take, for example, the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia over the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to the Carnegie Endowment's Thomas de Waal, an expert on the Caucasus, before the conflict, criminal organizations operated highly profitable operations in South Ossetia, where illicit trade accounted for a significant part of the economy. Although direct evidence is difficult to come by, the scale of these illegal activities suggested the active complicity of senior Russian officials, who acted as the criminals' patrons and partners. Of course, the conflict was fueled by many factors, including ethnic strife, domestic Georgian politics, and Russia's desire to assert its hegemony in its near abroad. But it is also conceivable that among the interest groups pushing the Kremlin toward war were those involved in lucrative trafficking operations in the contested areas.


Increasingly, fighting transnational crime must mean more than curbing the traffic of counterfeit goods, drugs, weapons, and people; it must also involve preventing and reversing the criminalization of governments. Illicit trade is intrinsically dangerous, but the threat it poses to society is amplified when criminals become high-level government officials and governments take over criminal syndicates. Yet today's law enforcement agencies are no match for criminal organizations that not only are wealthy, violent, and ruthless but also benefit from the full support of national governments and their diplomats, judges, spies, generals, cabinet ministers, and police chiefs. Mafia states can afford the best lawyers and accountants and have access to the most advanced technology. Underfunded law enforcement agencies, overworked courts, and slow-moving bureaucracies are increasingly unable to keep up with such well-funded, agile foes.

Law enforcement agencies are also hamstrung by the fact that they are inherently national, whereas the largest and most dangerous criminal organizations, along with the agents of mafia states, operate in multiple jurisdictions. Mafia states integrate the speed and flexibility of transnational criminal networks with the legal protections and diplomatic privileges enjoyed only by states, creating a hybrid form of international actor against which domestic law enforcement agencies have few weapons. The existing tools that national governments can use to counter the new threat -- treaties, multilateral organizations, and cooperation among national law enforcement agencies -- are slow, unwieldy, and unsuited to the task. After all, how can a country coordinate its anticrime efforts with government leaders or top police officials who are themselves criminals?

The emergence of mafia states imperils the very concept of international law enforcement cooperation. In 2006, the heads of police of 152 nations met in Brazil for the 75th General Assembly of Interpol, the multilateral organization whose constitution calls on it "to ensure and promote the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities." Interpol's president at the time was Jackie Selebi, the national police commissioner of South Africa. In his opening address, Selebi exhorted his colleagues "to find systems to make sure that our borders and border control are on a firm footing"; a noble cause, to be sure. Unfortunately, its champion turned out to be a crook himself. In 2010, Selebi was convicted of accepting a $156,000 bribe from a drug smuggler and is now serving a 15-year prison sentence.

But more troubling for Interpol than any single high-profile embarrassment is what insiders call a "low-trust problem," which has historically stifled the agency's efforts. "The sad truth is I am not going to share my best, most delicate information with the Russian or Mexican police departments," one senior official in the United Kingdom's organized-crime agency told me when asked about Interpol. Even though the agency goes to great lengths to ensure the confidentiality of the information that its member agencies share with it, the reality is that national law enforcement agencies remain wary of revealing too much.

As the role of mafia states has become clearer, law enforcement officers across the globe have begun to develop new policies and strategies for dealing with such states, including requiring high-level public officials to disclose their finances; scrutinizing the accountants, lawyers, and technology experts who protect crime lords; and improving coordination among different domestic agencies. The rise of mafia states has also added urgency to the search for ways to internationalize the fight against crime. One promising approach would be to create "coalitions of the honest" among law enforcement agencies that are less likely to have been penetrated or captured by criminal groups. Some states are already experimenting with arrangements of this kind, which go beyond normal bilateral anticrime cooperation by including not just law enforcement agencies but also representatives from intelligence agencies and armed forces. A complementary step would be to develop multinational networks of magistrates, judges, police officials, intelligence analysts, and policymakers to encourage a greater degree of cooperation than Interpol affords by building on the trust that exists among senior law enforcement officers who have fought transnational criminal networks together for decades. As is often the case, long-term collaborations among like-minded individuals who know one another well and share values are far more effective than formal, officially sanctioned cooperation between institutions whose officers barely know one another.

Unfortunately, despite the near-universal recognition that combating international crime requires international action, most anticrime initiatives remain primarily domestic. And although mafia states have transformed international crime into a national security issue, the responsibility for combating it still rests almost exclusively with law enforcement agencies. Indeed, even in developed countries, police departments and other law enforcement bodies rarely coordinate with their national security counterparts, even though transnational crime threatens democratic governance, financial markets, and human rights.

An important obstacle to combating the spread of mafia states is a basic lack of awareness among ordinary citizens and policymakers about the extent of the phenomenon. Ignorance of the scope and scale of the problem will make it difficult to defend or increase the already meager budgets of government agencies charged with confronting international crime, especially in a time of fiscal austerity. But such awareness will be hard to generate while so many aspects of the process of state criminalization remain ill understood -- and therein lies an even larger problem. Devoting public money to reducing the power of mafia states will be useless or even counterproductive unless the funds pay for policies grounded in a robust body of knowledge. Regrettably, the mafia state is a phenomenon about which there is little available data. The analytic frameworks that governments are currently applying to the problem are primitive, based on outdated understandings about organized crime. Addressing this dearth of knowledge will require law enforcement authorities, intelligence agencies, military organizations, media outlets, academics, and nongovernmental organizations to develop and share more reliable information. Doing so, however, would be only a first step -- and an admittedly insufficient one. ... fia-states ... ing-review ... tes/p28239 ... s-magazine

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Re: Mafia states

Unread post by Dobre » December 7th, 2013, 10:15 pm

Kosovo’s “Mafia State” and Camp Bondsteel: Towards a Permanent US Military Presence in Southeast Europe

Washington’s Bizarre Kosovo Strategy could destroy NATO

In one of the more bizarre foreign policy announcements of a bizarre Obama Administration, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that Washington will “help” Kosovo to join NATO as well as the European Union. She made the pledge after a recent Washington meeting with Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Washington where she praised the progress of the Thaci government in its progress in “European integration and economic development.” 1


Her announcement no doubt caused serious gas pains among government and military officials in the various capitals of European NATO. Few people appreciate just how mad Clinton’s plan to push Kosovo into NATO and the EU is.

Basic Kosovo geopolitics

The controversial piece of real estate today called Kosovo was a part of Yugoslavia and tied to Serbia until the NATO bombing campaign in 1999 demolished what remained of Milosevic’s Serbia and opened the way for the United States, with the dubious assist of EU nations, above all Germany, to carve up the former Yugoslavia into tiny, dependent pseudo states. Kosovo became one, as did Macedonia. Slovenia and Croatia had earlier split off from Yugoslavia with a strong assist from the German Foreign Ministry.

Some brief review of the circumstances leading to the secession of Kosovo from Yugoslavia will help locate how risky a NATO membership or EU membership would be for the future of Europe. Hashim Thaci the current Kosovo Prime Minister, got his job, so to speak, through the US State Department and not via free democratic Kosovo elections. Kosovo is not recognized as a legitimate state by either Russia or Serbia or over one hundred other nations. However, it was immediately recognized when it declared independence in 2008 by the Bush Administration and by Berlin.

Membership into the EU for Kosovo would be welcoming another failed state, something which may not bother US Secretary Clinton, but which the EU at this juncture definitely can do without. Best estimates place unemployment in the country at as much as 60%. That is not just Third World level. The economy was always the poorest in Yugoslavia and today it is worse. Yet the real issue in terms of the future of EU peace and security is the nature of the Kosovo state that has been created by Washington since the late 1990’s.

Mafia State and Camp Bondsteel

Kosovo is a tiny parcel of land in one of the most strategic locations in all Europe from a geopolitical standpoint of the US military objective of controlling oil flows and political developments from the oil-rich Middle East to Russia and Western Europe. The current US-led recognition of the self-declared Republic of Kosovo is a continuation of US policy for the Balkans since the illegal 1999 US-led NATO bombing of Serbia—a NATO “out-of-area” deployment never approved by the UN Security Council, allegedly on the premise that Milosevic’s army was on the verge of carrying out a genocidal massacre of Kosovo Albanians.

Some months before the US-led bombing of Serbian targets, one of the heaviest bombings since World War II, a senior US intelligence official in private conversation told Croatian senior army officers in Zagreb about Washington’s strategy for former Yugoslavia. According to these reports, communicated privately to this author, the Pentagon goal already in late 1998 was to take control of Kosovo in order to secure a military base to control the entire southeast European region down to the Middle East oil lands.

Since June 1999 when the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) occupied Kosovo, then an integral part of then-Yugoslavia, Kosovo was technically under a United Nations mandate, UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Russia and China also agreed to that mandate, which specifies the role of KFOR to ensure an end to inter-ethnic fighting and atrocities between the Serb minority population, others and the Kosovo Albanian Islamic majority. Under 1244 Kosovo would remain part of Serbia pending a peaceful resolution of its status. That UN Resolution was blatantly ignored by the US, German and other EU parties in 2008.

Germany’s and Washington’s prompt recognition of Kosovo’s independence in February 2008, significantly, came days after elections for President in Serbia confirmed pro-Washington Boris Tadic had won a second four year term. With Tadic’s post secured, Washington could count on a compliant Serbian reaction to its support for Kosovo.

Immediately after the bombing of Serbia in 1999 the Pentagon seized a 1000 acre large parcel of land in Kosovo at Uresevic near the border to Macedonia, and awarded a contract to Halliburton when Dick Cheney was CEO there, to build one of the largest US overseas military bases in the world, Camp Bondsteel, with more than 7000 troops today.


The Pentagon has already secured seven new military bases in Bulgaria and Romania on the Black Sea in the Northern Balkans, including the Graf Ignatievo and Bezmer airbases in Bulgaria and Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania, which are used for “downrange” military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Romanian installation hosts the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force–East. The US’s colossal Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo and the use and upgrading of Croatian and Montenegrin Adriatic harbors for US Navy deployments complete the militarization of the Balkans.[ii]

The US strategic agenda for Kosovo is primarily military, secondarily, it seems, narcotics trafficking. Its prime focus is against Russia and for control of oil flows from the Caspian Sea to the Middle East into Western Europe. By declaring its independence, Washington gains a weak state which it can fully control. So long as it remained a part of Serbia, that NATO military control would be politically insecure. Today Kosovo is controlled as a military satrapy of NATO, whose KFOR has 16,000 troops there for a tiny population of 2 million. Its Camp Bondsteel is one of a string of so-called forward operating bases and “lily pads” as Donald Rumsfeld called them, for military action to the east and south. Now formally bringing Kosovo into the EU and to NATO will solidify that military base now that the Republic of Georgia under US protégé Saakashvili failed so miserably in 2008 to fill that NATO role.

Heroin Transport Corridor

US-NATO military control of Kosovo serves several purposes for Washington’s greater geo-strategic agenda. First it enables greater US control over potential oil and gas pipeline routes into the EU from the Caspian and Middle East as well as control of the transport corridors linking the EU to the Black Sea.

It also protects the multi-billion dollar heroin trade, which, significantly, has grown to record dimensions in Afghanistan according to UN narcotics officials, since the US occupation. Kosovo and Albania are major heroin transit routes into Europe. According to a 2008 US State Department annual report on international narcotics traffic, several key drug trafficking routes pass through the Balkans. Kosovo is mentioned as a key point for the transfer of heroin from Turkey and Afghanistan to Western Europe. Those drugs flow under the watchful eye of the Thaci government.

Since its dealings with the Meo tribesmen in Laos during the Vietnam era, the CIA has protected narcotics traffic in key locations in order partly to finance its covert operations. The scale of international narcotics traffic today is such that major US banks such as Citigroup are reported to derive a significant share of their profits from laundering the proceeds.

One of the notable features of the indecent rush by Washington and other states to immediately recognize the independence of Kosovo is the fact that they well knew its government and both major political parties were in fact run by Kosovo Albanian organized crime.

Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of Kosovo and head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, is the former leader of the terrorist organization which the US and NATO trained and called the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, or in Albanian, UCK. In Kosovo crime circles he is known as Hashim “The Snake” for his personal ruthlessness against opponents.

In 1997, President Clinton’s Special Balkans Envoy, Robert Gelbard described the KLA as, “without any question a terrorist group.” It was far more. It was a klan-based mafia, impossible therefore to infiltrate, which controlled the underground black economy of Kosovo. Today the Democratic Party of Thaci, according to European police sources, retains its links to organized crime.

A February 22, 2005 German BND report, labeled Top Secret, which has since been leaked, stated, “Über die Key-Player (wie z. B. Haliti, Thaci, Haradinaj) bestehen engste Verflechtungen zwischen Politik, Wirtschaft und international operierenden OK-Strukturen im Kosovo. Die dahinter stehenden kriminellen Netzwerke fördern dort die politische Instabilität. Sie haben kein Interesse am Aufbau einer funktionierenden staatlichen Ordnung, durch die ihre florierenden Geschäfte beeinträchtigt werden können.“ (OK=Organized Kriminalität). (Translation: “Through the key players—for example Thaci, Haliti, Haradinaj—there is the closest interlink between politics, the economy and international organized crime in Kosovo. The criminal organizations in the background there foster political instability. They have no interest at all in the building of a functioning orderly state that could be detrimental to their booming business.”3

The KLA began action in 1996 with the bombing of refugee camps housing Serbian refugees from the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. The KLA repeatedly called for the “liberation” of areas of Montenegro, Macedonia and parts of Northern Greece. Thaci is hardly a figure of regional stability to put it mildly.

The 44 year old Thaci was a personal protégé of Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the 1990s, when he was a mere 30-year old gangster. The KLA was supported from the outset by the CIA and the German BND. During the 1999 war the KLA was directly supported by NATO. At the time he was picked up by the USA in the mid-1990s, Thaci was founder of the Drenica Group, a criminal syndicate in Kosovo with ties to Albanian, Macedonian and Italian organized mafias. A classified January 2007 report prepared for the EU Commission, labeled “VS-Nur für then Dienstgebrauch” was leaked to the media. It detailed the organized criminal activity of KLA and its successor Democratic Party under Thaci.

A December 2010 Council of Europe report, released a day after Kosovo’s election commission said Mr Thaci’s party won the first post-independence election, accused Western powers of complicity in ignoring the activities of the crime ring headed by Thaci: “Thaci and these other ‘Drenica Group’ members are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime,” the report said. “We found that the ‘Drenica Group’ had as its chief – or, to use the terminology of organised crime networks, its ‘boss’ – the renowned political operator … Hashim Thaci.” 4

The report stated that Thaci exerted “violent control” over the heroin trade. Dick Marty, the European Union investigator, presented the report to European diplomats from all member states. The response was silence. Washington was behind Thaci.5

The same Council of Europe report on Kosovo organized crime accused Thaci’s mafia organization of dealing in trade in human organs. Figures from Thaçi’s inner circle were accused of taking captives across the border into Albania after the war, where a number of Serbs are said to have been murdered for their kidneys that were sold on the black market. In one case revealed in legal proceedings in a Pristina district court in 2008 organs were said to have been taken from impoverished victims at a clinic known as Medicus – linked to Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) organ harvesting in 2000.6

The question then becomes, why are Washington, NATO, the EU and inclusive and importantly, the German Government, so eager to legitimize the breakaway Kosovo? A Kosovo run internally by organized criminal networks is easy for NATO to control. It insures a weak state which is far easier to bring under NATO domination. Combined with NATO control over Afghanistan where the Kosovo heroin controlled by Prime Minister Thaci originates, the Pentagon is building a web of encirclement around Russia that is anything but peaceful.

The Thaci dependence on US and NATO good graces insures Thaci’s government will do what it is asked. That, in turn, assures the US a major military gain consolidating its permanent presence in the strategically vital southeast Europe. It is a major step in consolidating NATO control of Eurasia, and gives the US a large swing its way in the European balance of power. Little wonder Moscow has not welcomed the development, nor have numerous other states. The US is literally playing with dynamite, potentially as well with nuclear war in the Balkans.

*F. William Engdahl is author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. He may be contacted via his website,


1 RIA Novosti, US to Help Kosovo Join EU NATO: Clinton, April 5, 2012, accessed in

2 Rick Rozoff, Pentagon and NATO Complete Their Conquest of The Balkans, Global Research, November 28, 2009, accessed in

3 Tom Burghardt, The End of the Affair: The BND, CIA and Kosovo’s Deep State, accessed in ... Deep_State.

4 The Telegraph, Kosovo’s prime minister ‘key player in mafia-like gang,’ December 14, 2010, accessed in ... -gang.html.

5 Ibid.

6 Paul Lewis, Kosovo PM is head of human organ and arms ring Council of Europe reports, The Guardian, 14 December 2010. ... ast-europe

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