20th Century

How the Albanian Mafia Infiltrated the Government | Logan Lafferty

By Logan Lafferty

Organized crime increasingly became a problem in Albania in the 1990s, after the fall of its communist government. Crimes like blackmailing, intimidation and racketeering were constantly increasing.

The disintegration of the Eastern Bloc (Wikimedia Commons)

Even after the transition to a more liberal form of government, Albania might best be described as a weak democracy which struggled to impose authority over its citizens, particularly in the area of law enforcement, which led to the rise of organized crime groups. Even to this day the Albanian government struggles to contain organised crime and some gangs have managed to infiltrate government structures; Albania may be a (admittedly weak) democracy but due to its government’s infiltration by organized crime it does not have enough power to control the state and the organized crime groups are taking advantage of that.

Alex Rudaj, one of the most notorious leaders of the Albanian Mafia

As Eno Trimçev says:

the lack of awareness on the part of local and international actors of the ability of organized crime groups to penetrate the Albanian state—the so-called state capture process—means that the basic tools to combat this dangerous phenomenon are not being put in place (Trimcev, 2003)

In his article titled “Organized Crime in Albania: An Unconventional Security Threat,” Eno Trimçev took a closer look at organized crime in Albania and how the state reacts to organized crime and I’d like to give a brief précis of his paper.

Eno Trimçev is a professor who received his BA in Political Science and Economics and went on to complete his MA in Comparative Politics in 2005. But Trimçev did not stop there. He went on to receive his MSc in Political Theory and his DPhil qualifications from the University of Oxford in 2007 and has published widely on Albanian affairs.

As we have seen, the state of Albania, with its weak political institutions, is vulnerable to infiltration by organized crime. Among the many challenges facing the newly-formed democratic government in the post-communist era was poverty, loss of community relationships, weak law and order, and, later in 1997, civil war which all left opportunity and space for organized crime. This is especially the case as, once the civil war ended, some Albanian politicians have been all-too-willing to accept bribes from organised crime gangs to further their careers. Such corrupt practices creates a further bond between the state and organized crime. As Trimçev states:

 “It is painfully obvious that the modus vivendi that has been reached between state and political institutions and organized crime is causing a permanent deformation of the democratic system” (Trimcev, 2003).

When politicians take money from organised crime, the influence of organised crime players in the Albanian political arena further increases. Money and fear are two of the biggest factors that drive the relationship between the state and organized crime in both directions, as politicians are essentially “entrapped” by organized crime gangs and cannot further their careers without it, while organized crime will not easily let politicians out of their grasp.

Where once the threat on the security of Albania was from neighbouring hostile states, the main security threat from Albania is now within the state:

“Since Albanian society lacks the values and the efficient institutional arrangements to combat organized crime, state capture has become a real danger that may result in a long-term distortion of the Albanian political system” (Trimçev, 2003).

Even if the Albanian government set upon a course of “cleaning up” the political system, organized crime groups would still take advantage of their weak points.

Trimçev’s paper was well-developed and does a good job explaining the history of Albania and he explains why its government is intertwined with organized crime and, while being a useful resource for students, should serve as a cautionary tale or an example of the dangers which ensue to society when organized crime acquires influence in government.

Citation to the original article:

Eno Trimçev, “Organized Crime in Albania: An Unconventional Security Threat.” Connections, 2: 2 (2003), pp. 61–68.

Eno Trimçev’s Curriculum Vitae at Academia[.]edu