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News 20 May 15

Albanian Court Jails Central Bank Thieves

A court in Tirana has jailed two former employees of the central bank for a total of 30 years for stealing 713 million leks, woth €5.1 million, over a period of four years.

Gjergj Erebara
Albania's Central Bank | Photo by : Hektor Pustina/AP  

A court in Albania has jailed Ardian Bitraj, a former supervisor of cash deposits at the Bank of Albania, for 20 years for the theft of 713 million leks.

He pleaded guilty and said he had lost the proceedings in gambling. Mimoza Bruzia, another bank employee, got 10 years as a collaborator in the crime.

Both will see a third of their sentences knocked off for admitting responsibility, however.  

Earlier, nine other bank employees received shorter sentences for abuse of office.

The theft was discovered in July 2014 and caused outrage. Several protests were organized by civil society groups demanding the resignation of the then bank governor, Ardian Fullani.

Fullani resisted the calls for his resignation and was supported by many political leaders. However, last September he was arrested and accused of abuse of office.

The Central Bank supervisory board then dismissed him and five months later parliament appointed another governor. Fullani is currently free, pending investigations.

According to the charges, Bitraj stole the money gradually over a period of four years. A part of the stolen money was used banknotes, earmarked for destruction, but the majority of banknotes  were new and destined for circulation.

Security camera footage leaked to the media last year showed that Bitraj breached security procedures to open the stock cash deposit safe on his own.

Bitraj told the court that he had acted alone and had spent the money gambling. The investigation has not recovered any of the money so far.  

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