Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Sunday Times has discovered that the government is failing to use legislation that could lead to the deportation of Albanians who commit crimes in Britain and who gained citizenship on the basis of false information.

The 1981 Nationality Act allows for the revocation of an individual’s citizenship if it is proven that the person obtained it by deception. In the 1990s, many Albanians secured entry to the UK by claiming to be from Kosovo, then ravaged by war.

The Home Office has admitted that the law has never been used to deprive anyone of citizenship.

There was controversy last week when it emerged that Siraj Yassin Abdullah Ali, sentenced to nine years in prison for helping the 21/7 London bomb plotters, had escaped deportation because he might otherwise have faced “inhumane treatment or punishment” in his native Eritrea that would have breached his human rights.

An investigation by this newspaper has uncovered the scale of the use of human rights legislation by Albanians convicted of crimes at home to postpone or avoid extradition.

Since 2005, 36 criminals wanted for extradition by Albania have been arrested. Only 18 have been returned home. In recognition of the need to review extradition, Theresa May, the home secretary, asked Lord Justice Scott Baker last October to examine the system. He is due to submit his report within weeks.

Any proposals he makes will mean little to the family of Gentian Jahaj, a 28-year-old shepherd murdered in the village of Bejar. He died when the driver of a car, angry at how long it was taking Jahaj and his flock of sheep to cross the road, shot and killed him.

In October 2000, an Albanian court ruled that Hektor Mahmutaj, who had fled the country and was tried in absentia, had committed the crime and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.

Mahmutaj arrived in Britain soon after that ruling and began a new life on Merseyside, where he ran a fish and chip shop and set up home with a girlfriend with whom he had a child. As he fought an extradition request, Mahmutaj was convicted of possession of a firearm at Liverpool crown court and sentenced to two and a half years.

While serving that sentence, he learnt that the request to extradite him had been refused on the grounds that sending him home would breach his human rights. It is understood that his lawyers successfully argued that returning him to Albania and removing him from his British family was unfair. Mahmutaj could not be contacted for comment.

In another case Frrok Koceku, found guilty of murder by an Albanian court in his absence, used human rights legislation to defeat an extradition bid. However, last year he was arrested in Italy and now faces a second extradition battle. He remains in custody there.

A court in Albania decided that Koceku, a builder, had shot and killed Besim Buci with a submachinegun in October 1996.

Koceku fled to the UK and gained entry using a fake Kosovan name. When the extradition request was made, a lengthy legal battle ensued during which Koceku admitted travelling to Britain on a fake passport but denied the murder.

His lawyers argued that his religious and political beliefs, the absence of the right to have a retrial and fear of inhuman treatment in Albania would make his extradition illegal.

In January 2008, a district judge agreed and denied the request.

Human rights laws also helped Pjeter Lekstakaj to win an appeal against extradition to Albania. In 2000, he was found guilty in absentia of the murder of a neighbour over a land dispute in 1999, and of the illegal possession of weapons. He received a 10-year prison sentence.

Lekstakaj, who is now partially sighted and walks with a stick, fled to Britain where he, too, posed as a Kosovan refugee and was granted indefinite leave to remain.

He was arrested in 2007 after the Albanians requested his extradition. He argued that, under human rights laws, he needed to remain in Britain to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The court agreed.

At his home in Birmingham, Lekstakaj’s wife said that her husband was too distressed to talk and insisted he was innocent. She added: “He is suffering from post-traumatic stress and is very depressed because of everything that has happened to him.”

An Interpol source in the Albanian capital Tirana said: “Human rights laws are just being used as a wall to stop the extradition of some of Albania’s most wanted criminals.”

Riza Vatoci and Vullnet Mucelli are two more Albanians hoping to emulate their compatriots’ success in the courts and avoid extradition.

Vatoci, facing a 15-year term in Albania after a court convicted him of killing a gangland rival with a machinegun in 1996, was minutes from being flown back last year when he launched his latest appeal.

Officers from Albania’s Interpol branch were with him at Heathrow airport when, just a day after a judge had ruled that he should be sent home, a further appeal was granted.

Vatoci had been arrested two years earlier as he waited to sign on at a job centre in Swindon, Wiltshire, after which he started proceedings to show that extradition would breach his human rights. Vatoci could not be contacted for comment.

Mucelli, who will hear the result of a judicial review by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, is arguing that the failure to grant him a retrial breaches his human rights.

A court deemed him guilty of a fatal shooting in Tirana in 1997 and sentenced him to 26 years. Mucelli was not in court for either verdict or sentence, having fled to Britain, where in 1998, claiming to be a Kosovan, he was given entry. He was arrested four years ago and has fought the extradition bid ever since. He remains in custody awaiting the outcome of Wednesday’s hearing.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are working hard to remove British citizenship from anyone who has obtained it by deception. We are awaiting the outcome of a test case which should clear the way for us to strip that privilege from hundreds of people who do not deserve it.

“A review is currently under way to ensure that UK extradition operates effectively.”
Source: Sunday Times (£)


luraalbania said...

about koceku you should delete his picture because he is not wanted by any governments, he won in uk, in Albania, in Italy, and in France, and he is like anthers free person.

Cheradenine Zakalwe said...

The article says he was found guilty of murdering someone with a machine-gun in Albania. Is that not true?

In any case, the picture is from the Sunday Times, so you should take it up with them.

Anonymous said...

Would this mean these people will be sent back???

Anonymous said...

about vatoci,he is not person albania wanted..this is all lie.......

Anonymous said...

about vatoci,on interpol notice,it says he is wanted for body harm not for killing gangland rival with machinegun,what is this bullshit u writing here,this is just racism agans kosovian albanians....

Cheradenine Zakalwe said...

Are you able to grasp the simple fact that this article is from the Sunday Times newspaper? I haven't changed a word in it. If what you say is true, maybe the people concerned can sue the Sunday Times for libel.

As to whether they would be sent back, I doubt it. It's almost impossible to be kicked out of Britain these days.

Anonymous said...

It's not bull shit these people should not commit crimes in ther own country's then come here and committ crimes and get away with it, it's wrong.

Anonymous said...

The albanian justice is a bullshit

Anonymous said...

Pjeter(Peter), Leka(Luke), Hektor(Hector) are not muslims, which failed serbian propoganda chetnik writes all this stuff? Theyre all Christian Catholics except for Riza who's surname is Catholic anyway(Vatoci-Vate)...failed attempt orthodox chetniks, now tell me when are we going to start mass repatriations of Slavic immigrants back to their homeland in Russia?

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