MEICO, rebel arms supplier

Under NATO supervision Albania has progressively disposed of the military stocks it amassed during the Stalinist reign of Enver Hoxha. However the alliance sometimes turns a blind eye to arms deals that suit its purposes.

Stocks a-plenty – The final report of the UN Panel of Experts that was submitted to the UN Security Council on April 15 confirms information that has circulated in Western intelligence circles for the past couple of years on the key role played in the Libyan conflict by MEICO, Albania’s military export agency. According to the U.N report, in September 2011, MEICO exported some 800,000 Chinese-made cartridge chargers to rebel-controlled Benghazi.

An ally of Maoist China for many years, Albania still possesses large stocks of Chinese munitions which are particularly well-suited to the weaponry used by rebel groups in Africa and elsewhere. Along with the arm export agency of Croatia, MEICO is currently a supplier to Syria’s opposition fighters, with financing from the Gulf.

Rapid and efficient transport – In 2011 Albanian weapons and ammunition were transported to Benghazi by the local airline Ayk Avia. In the same year the same company also transported military materiel to Puntland for the private security company Saracen (IOL 661). Ayk Air also recently transported arms shipments to Moldova and Armenia.



Dëshmorët e 4 Shkurtit n° 5, Tirana
Leka Granit – Chairman
The director of the explosives factory in Mjekes, Elbasan, during the reign of Communist Enver Hoxha,Leka Granit became the international director of MEICO, Albania’s military export agency, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and he was promoted to chairman in 2008. Granit negotiated several big arms deals including the sale of weapons to Croatia during the Balkans War in 1995. MEICO also sold munitions to Afghanistan via the American broker AEY. In 2008 some 27 people died in an explosion at an ammunitions disposal facility in Gerdec, a village near Tirana. The incident led to the sacking of MEICO’s then chairman Ylli Pinari, who was replaced by Granit. Following the Gerdec tragedy but also in view of the large quantity of RDX explosives stocked in Albanian arsenals, NATO’s maintenance and supply agency NAMSA embarked on a programme to destroy Albanian light arms stocks, with finance from the US Department of State. MEICO managed nonetheless to sign several arms deals with Kosovo and Montenegro but the agency had been struggling to survive until it received the order to supply ammunitions to Libya’s rebel forces in 2011, followed later by fresh orders for Syria’s rebels.