“Balkans’ Escobar” Sentenced to 10 Year in Prison

The Serious Crimes Court sentenced Klement Balili to 10 years in prison. Charges weighing on Balili included drug trafficking, membership in a criminal group, lack of justification for his assets and money laundering.

Balili’s lawyer, Theodhori Sallaku said they would appeal the court decision.

Yesterday’s court hearing was also attended by representatives of the US Embassy in Tirana. Former US Ambassador Donald Lu had called out Balili’s name as one of the “big fish” expected to be caught by the net of Albania’s reformed justice system.

The prosecution had demanded an 18-year sentence for Balili. The court’s verdict yesterday to sentence Balili to 15 years in prison was reduced by one third, bringing the final sentence down to 10 years. The reduction followed a previous decision by the same court in February 2019 to accept Balili’s request for an abbreviated trial.

An abbreviated trial is a concept in Albanian procedural law where the defendant has the right to be judged by an abbreviated trial. This type of trial involves an accelerated procedure that does not require the detailed examination of facts that were evidenced during the preliminary investigation. It benefits the defendant by allowing a reduction in sentence by up to 1/3 and not allowing the application of a life sentence.

In January 2019, Klement Balili, a suspected international drug lord, decided to turn himself in to the Albanian police after he had been at large for more than two years.

Balili is also wanted by the Greek police for crimes committed in Greece, where he was also labelled as “the Balkans’ Escobar”. His arrest warrant was issued by the Greek police in May, 2016, when Balili was working for the Albanian government as Director of Roads Transportation in Saranda city. The Albanian police did not arrest him at that time. He was dismissed from his public office and then fled. Whilst he was at large, the media both in Greece and Albania published photos and videos of Balili cruising the coast of Albania and attending a wedding in the companionship of the head of the Socialist Party in Tepelena. More than two years later, Balili decided to give himself in to the police.

Despite an arrest warrant by Greece, he is being tried in Albania because the two countries do not have an extradition agreement. The ruling socialist majority changed the Albanian law in May 2018 and prohibited extraditions. The changed law benefited several notorious Albanian criminals who were wanted in other countries.