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News 30 Jun 17

Kosovo Embassy Driver Charged With Weapons Dealing

A chauffeur to the Kosovo consulate in New York faces charges of dealing in weapons, drugs and money laundering.

Lawrence Marzouk, Ivan Angelovski
BIRN
London, Washington DC
Seized arms. Photo: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York

Albert Veliu’s day job was as an employee of Kosovo’s Foreign Ministry, driving Kosovo Consul Teuta Sahatqija around the traffic-choked streets of New York.

However, according to charges levelled against him in a Brooklyn courthouse on Tuesday, he also ran a lucrative operation as a weapons runner, drug dealer and money launderer, while maintaining ties to the Cosa Nostra and to Albanian organized crime figures in New York and the Czech Republic.

As part of a Drug Enforcement Agency DEA sting, Veliu is alleged to have sold an undercover agent 15 AK-47s and a Yugoslav-era Zolja anti-tank rocket launcher.

He had sourced the weapons during a trip to Kosovo earlier this month before returning to New York on June 21, from where he directed operations. On June 27, four of his associates were arrested in Klina, west Kosovo, with the weapons, while Veliu and five others were detained in New York.

Veliu was told that Mexican drug cartels needed the weapons for fighting a drugs war near the US border.

The 34-year-old is also alleged to have laundered $800,000 of supposed drug money through a series of companies with the help of associates, including his brother, Alban Veliu.

Alban Veliu, Dilber Kukic, Ekram Sejdija, Xhevat Gocaj and Agim Rugova have also been charged with money laundering.

In a series of wiretapped meetings with DEA agents, Veliu boasted that his cousin was Alex Rudaj, a recognised leader of Albanian organized crime in New York, according to the indictment obtained by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

In 2006, Rudaj was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to 27 years in prison in the US.

Veliu also said his father-in-law was “the leader of an Albanian organised crime faction in the Czech Republic”, adding that he was “interested in transporting large amounts of cash to the Czech Republic and other Eastern European countries to be laundered back into the United States”.

BIRN was unable to identify his father-in-law.

Veliu and another defendant, Christopher Curanovic, an associate of La Cosa Nostra, have also been charged with brokering the sale of about 2 kilos of marijuana to a DEA confidential source.

Anthony Noterile, another associate of the Italian crime gang, has been accused of money laundering.

Fitim Sadiku, general secretary at Foreign Ministry, confirmed that Veliu had been working as “a driver for the Consulate General of the Republic of Kosovo in New York”, adding: “He has been working as a driver for some time, but we do not know for how long.”

The accused have yet to enter pleas.

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