EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is one of the “biggest fish” in his country’s criminal networks, according to secret Nato documents published by the Guardian, a UK daily.
The leak seems to confirm a report published in December by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty that concluded that Western powers knowingly ignored Mr Thaci’s “mafia-like” network responsible for organ harvesting, drug and weapons smuggling for the sake of stability in the region.
Produced by Nato’s KFOR unit deployed on the ground in 1999 to stop ethnic cleansing by then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the documents identify Mr Thaci, who was re-elected prime minister last month, as one of the “biggest fish” in organised crime. The “power behind Mr Thaci”, however, is said to be Xhavit Haliti, a former head of logistics for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who is now a close ally of the prime minister and a senior parliamentarian in his ruling party.
One KFOR document states that Mr Haliti has strong ties with the Albanian mafia and is “highly involved in prostitution, weapons and drugs smuggling.” He also “more or less ran” a fund for the Kosovo war, profiting personally from the money. “As a result, Haliti turned to organised crime on a grand scale,” the reports state.
Blacklisted in several countries, Mr Haliti uses a fake passport to travel abroad and is said to be “the real boss” in his relationship with Mr Thaci, according to the KFOR cables.
Mr Haliti is also mentioned in the Marty report as one of the close allies of Mr Thaci and said to have ordered and in some cases personally overseen “assassinations, detentions, beatings and interrogations” during and immediately after the war.
The Thaci government has so far dismissed the Marty report as recycling old allegations and as an attempt to discredit its international standing after last year’s elections.
Nato, meanwhile, has said it would launch an internal investigation into how the documents were leaked to the British paper.
The Council of Europe on Tuesday is expected to endorse the report and ask for an international inquiry into the accusations.
The report was triggered by a book published by the former war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, who
said she had been prevented from properly investigating alleged atrocities committed by the KLA, especially killing Serb captives in order to harvest their organs.
In a related development, an EU judge in Kosovo has delayed until 5 February a decision on whether to try seven people on organ-trafficking charges.
The charges revolve around the Medicus Clinic in Pristina, which was shut down in 2008 after a police probe was launched when a young Turkish citizen collapsed at the airport after having a kidney removed for a transplant to an Israeli man.
Among the suspects is a former health secretary who had issued a licence to the clinic although Kosovo law forbids organ transplants.
The Medicus case is also mentioned in the Marty report as being “closely related” to the atrocities carried out by the KLA.