Airport Heist Suspects Arrested, Government Declares Guilt

Five suspects were apprehended this week in relation to the theft of up to EUR 10 million from the tarmac at the Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza.

Following the arrest of the fifth suspect on Tuesday, Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of the Interior Sandër Lleshaj have both commented that “robbers” and “criminals” of the Rinas airport heist have been caught.

On 9 April, the cash cargo of a commercial bank was robbed from the tarmac at Tirana International Airport in Rinas. Five individuals in a van reportedly broke the security fence at the airport and approached an airplane that was ready to take off. They intervened with the transfer money between the armored cash transport vehicle and the plane, and fled.

After fleeing, a police car that was allegedly patrolling the area, intercepted them and a firefight ensued. One of the robbers was shot to death, and his accomplices fled. The police has so far given no statement on the circumstances of the heist, letting the media speculate.

This is the third robbery of its kind that has occurred during the weeks prior to an election in the country. The Albanian government blamed the lax security on the “Chinese company” managing the airport and deployed the military to secure the area.

Rama tweeted that “the authors of the Rinas heist” had been apprehended “further narrowing the circle of the criminals”. He praised the work of the State Police and said this proved they were an efficient force against crime, producing “concrete results on a daily basis”.

Lleshaj then commented on Facebook, stating that the strike against the robbers continues and that the “fifth one (robber) was put behind bars”. He also praised the work of the State Police and the Prosecution.

Under Albanian law, an individual under arrest is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The five individuals have only been apprehended at this stage and have not been charged, undergone a court process, or been found guilty.

To refer to them as “robbers” and “criminals” at this stage is not only premature, but also violates the legal principle of the presumption of innocence.

This presumption is an international human right under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European convention of Human rights, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.