CoE Urges Albania to Step Up Fight Against Money Laundering

Published: 18 December 2018

800px-National Bank of Albania in Tirana Albania 20070720 img 1467The National Bank of Albania in Tirana (Photo: Dori, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Lydia Osborne

Despite a robust legal framework and a wide range of national anti-corruption mechanisms, authorities in Albania have not effectively cracked down on money laundering, the Council of Europe said in a report published Monday.

The organization’s anti money laundering body, MONEYVAL, says Albania has a good understanding of its money-laundering vulnerabilities in the formal economy, but lacks a comprehensive approach to combat risks posed by corruption, organized crime, and the underground economy.

According to CoE’s evaluation, the range of offences that predicate money laundering  crimes that generate illicit income  is consistent with the country’s risk profile. However, the number of money laundering cases is not in line with the amount of dirty money such criminality would reasonably produce.  

Money laundering investigations in Albania rarely result in indictments, the report says, and money laundering proceedings connected to criminal cases are often suspended or dismissed by the prosecution.

Illicit profits generated from narcotics trafficking, tax crimes, smuggling, and corruption create the largest demand for money laundering in the country, which serves as a base of operations for regional organized crime organizations

Gambling and real estate are the most fertile sectors for money laundering, and the report deems accountants and lawyers particularly vulnerable professions due to limited oversight and their involvement in company formation.

Earlier this year, the United States Department of State included Albania on its list of major money laundering jurisdictions in the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, due to its large cash economy and informal sector.

“Real estate (particularly in the coastal areas), business development projects, and gaming are among the most popular methods of hiding illicit proceeds,” the State Department report says. “Law enforcement recognizes the need to combat money laundering but remains largely ineffective in doing so.”

Albania has been an official candidate to join the European Union since 2014, and a potential candidate since 2000.

In November, European Parliamentarians adopted a resolution on the country, but expressed concern over high levels of corruption and inefficiencies in the judiciary.