Financial scandal at the Bank of Albania

Financial scandal at the Bank of Albania

Tirana, July 25, 2013/Independent Balkan News Agency

A financial scandal has been discovered at the Bank of Albania, where at least 600 million Lek or 6 million US dollars have gone missing.

The heist consisted on secretly taking for four years in a row the money which was in the process of destruction and newly printed money, which was going to be thrown in circulation.

The theft, which had continued since 2010, was discovered at the moment when the money being taken out of circulation was going to be destroyed.

Ardian Bitraj, 45 years of age, born in Skrapar and resident in Tirana was accused of the theft. Bitraj was an economist at the Bank of Albania since 1993.

Investigations for theft are also taking place for economist Mimoza Bruzia.

After his arrest, Bitraj, who was head of the Stock at the Bank of Albania, appeared before a judge at  the court of Tirana.

Bitraj is accused of abuse in the line of duty and failure to reveal a crime. The same accusation goes for his suspected accomplice, who denied her involvement.

The suspect has confessed about the theft, claiming that for four years, along with his accomplice, they appropriated significant amounts of money which were going to be taken off circulation and other funds which were ready to be thrown into circulation.

He said that he was forced to accept the theft, a committee appointed by the Bank of Albania had decided to audit the amount of money in stock, which had been taken out of circulation and was going to be destroyed.

The suspect had tried to postpone the inventory of the stock, but at the end, he gave in and said that considerable amounts of money had come out from the sector which he was head of.

“It’s been four years that I’ve been taking money from the stock, withdrawing 5 thousand Lek bank notes. I used to hide them on me and sometimes I also took advantage of the fact that my boss was young and he had no idea what went on there. After that, in order for others not to realize that that money was withdrawn and to balance the weight of the cases, I used to put books there”, said the suspect before the judges and prosecutor of the case.

The suspect said that his colleague was also involved, because a few months ago, she found out that 400 million Lek (around 4 million USD) were missing in their sector.

“A few months ago, she had realized that 400 million Lek were missing and asked me where the money had gone, but I promised her that I would return the money”.

The suspect said that there were days when he managed to leave the premises of the bank with 10 thousand USD on him and he had never been discovered.

He said that he had spent all the money playing in the casino. He even said that he was 50 thousand USD in debt in one of the casinos of Tirana.

This was the biggest heist discovered at the Bank of Albania and is considered to be the biggest financial scandal involving the Albanian central bank. Bank of Albania refused to make official comments on the scandal after police and court learned about this event. But, the Bank has ordered an internal investigation on the procedures for the protection of stock money. /ibna/