Kosovo and Albania authorities have reportedly detained more than 50 police officers at the Vermice border crossing point as part of a joint investigation into bribery and corruption on the border.
“This investigation is being undertaken in close coordination and under the leadership of the Special Prosecution and includes covert investigative measures,” Kosovo Police Inspectorate said of the operation.
According to Kosovo’s Police Inspectorate, the investigations began in 2021.
Some 26 Kosovan police officers were reportedly arrested during Friday’s operation. Albania’s Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) reported it had arrested 17 police officers. Three police officers were suspended, and a further 14 officers and citizens put under house arrest.
According to SPAK, the police officers are suspected of “abusing the office, passive corruption, and exercising illegal influence on public officials.”
The investigation reportedly documented 312 episodes of corruption by border police, including the permitting of the import of smuggled goods, allowing the trafficking of vehicles, and permitting individuals with legal issues to cross the border into, or exit, EU countries.
“The illegal actions consisted of numerous cases of corruption committed continuously during the exercise of duty by these employees, forcing Albanian and foreign citizens to pay different amounts of money for passage from Albania to Kosovo and vice versa,” SPAK said.
The operation brings the total number of arrested border police officers to one hundred. Last month, Kosovo authorities arrested some 48 border police on allegations of bribery at two other crossing points with Albania, Qafe e Prushit and Qafe Morine.
The Police Inspectorate said Kosovo Customs, Kosovo Intelligence Agency and the Kosovo Police had all been involved in the year-long investigation in cooperation with Albanian authorities, codenamed “Pika” (the Point).
“Since May  we have investigated this case in collaboration with the Police Inspectorate,” Chief Prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi told reporters in March.
“Today we were informed that 50 state officials have been arrested, 48 belonging to Kosovo Police, and two officials of the Kosovo Customs Service. Other people are on the run, and some are not citizens of Kosovo,” he continued.
Corruption is a significant public concern in both Kosovo and Albania. In both countries, citizens view corruption as the most important issue facing the country after unemployment.
More than half of Kosovans believe corruption is on the rise in the country, and a further third believes the corruption rate to be static.
In Albania, eight out of ten adults report interacting with petty, administrative corruption at some point during the course of every year.
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