NPR logo Report Alleges Kosovo PM Headed Criminal Gang


Report Alleges Kosovo PM Headed Criminal Gang

A Council of Europe draft report makes serious allegations against Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. Armend Nimani/Getty Images hide caption

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Armend Nimani/Getty Images

A draft report by the Council of Europe obtained by several European newspapers makes startling allegations against the leader of one of the region's newest countries.

Kosovo's U.S.-backed Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is identified as the boss of a "mafia-like" organization behind the smuggling of weapons, human organs and drugs through Eastern Europe.

Britain's Guardian newspaper, which obtained the report, quotes from it:

"In confidential reports spanning more than a decade, agencies dedicated to combating drug smuggling in at least five countries have named Hashim Thaci and other members of his Drenica group as having exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics."

The allegations come amid a court case from 2008 in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, of alleged organ trafficking. More from the Guardian:

"That case -– in which organs are said to have been taken from impoverished victims at a clinic known as Medicus -– is said by the report to be linked to Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) organ harvesting in 2000."

The Associated Press reports that the alleged crimes occurred after the Kosovo war ended in 1999. The AP added:

"[The] investigation of the KLA's alleged trade in organs stemmed from a book by U.N. War Crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, based on information she said she received from Western journalists."

The draft report is expected to be adopted Thursday by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, following which it will be made public. It would then be debated by the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, France on Jan. 25.

A statement on the Council's website says the draft report's author, Dick Marty, visited the Balkans region where he met with "justice and interior ministry officials, public prosecutors and prosecutors investigating war crimes, national parliamentary delegations and officials of various international institutions represented in Pristina ... as well as NGOs, particularly ones representing disappeared persons."

Marty is a Swiss politician who led the European investigation into allegations that the CIA abducted and moved terrorism suspects across European borders after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Kosovo's government dismissed the allegations, calling the report an attempt "to tarnish the image of the Kosovo Liberation Army." But the allegations could prove embarrassing as the country held its first elections Sunday since gaining independence from Serbia in 2008. Thaci, who won the election, is working to form a coalition government.

Update at 8:22 a.m. ET: As the Center for Investigative Reporting writes, the news corroborates "allegations raised in a 2009 investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the BBC."