Last week, Safet Bajri was arrested in Tirana at the request of Belgian authorities. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison by a Belgian court for human trafficking and prostitution. He has been sentenced twice, first in 2015 to 9 years in prison, then again in 2017 to 13 years in prison. In total he must suffer 22 year in prison. According to the police, Bajri was the man who controlled a main prostitution ring in Brussels.
Belgian media say that, after his arrest in Tirana, the Belgian authorities must decide on how Bajri, known in Belgium as Safet Rustemi, will carry out his sentence – whether he will be extradited to Belgium or whether he will be allowed to carry out his sentence in Albania. Belgian media quote the Brussels chief of police, Martin Van Steenbrugge, who stated:
Rustemi is one of the most dangerous criminals. He is still active in the crime world. The police have invested a lot in investigating his crimes. He must carry out his sentence of 22 years in prison.
Bajri had escaped arrest because, in June 2017, he was deported from Belgium in the wake of a deportation of illegal immigrants wave. While he was being investigated, and was awaiting trial out of prison, as he had paid bail, Bajri was identified and was being kept as an illegal immigrant by the Belgian immigration authorities, who then decided to deport him.
The Belgian Ministry of Interior Affairs, and the Brussels General Prosecutor harshly criticized the decision of immigration authorities, accusing them of having let loose one of Belgium’s most dangerous criminals. However, the defended themselves by stating that they had received no request to keep this criminal within Belgium. The Secretary of State on Asylum and Migration, Theo Francken, then said:
Will Rustemi carry out his sentence? This possibility still exists. We have an extradition agreement with Albania, which obligates the Albanian police to find this man, send him to Belgium, so he can carry out his sentence here. Albania is no longer the other end of the globe.
Following his sentencing, Safet Bajri was included on Belgium’s most wanted list.
Safet Bajri is one of the main leaders of the Bajri criminal organization, which also includes Enver Bajri, Ilir Bajri (Rustemi), and Behar (Brajgovic) Bajri, all of them brothers or first cousins, who have dealt in drug and human trafficking and prostitution in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Albania.
Ilir Bajri and 5 other members of his gang were arrested in Shkodra on September 6, whereas Safet Bajri, alongside three other gang members, were arrested in Tirana on September 22. Behar Bajri was arrested a few days ago in the Netherlands while Enver Bajri, who is considered to be the head of the organization, is still wanted by the police.
Behar Bajri and Ilir Rustemi had been arrested previously by the Albanian police, in 2016, following an armed assassination attempt against Donald Shtjefni, a rival gang member, in Shkodra. However, they were released under still unknown circumstances.
While the gang members were carrying out their criminal activities in Albania, Belgium did not halt its attempts to find and arrest them. In July 2018, the Belgian daily La Dernière Heure published an article titled “A portrait of a truly bad guy, Safet Rustemi” which exposed the fact that one of Belgium’s most wanted and most dangerous had found refuge in Albania where he was being protected politically by Socialist MP Luan Harusha. Dernière Heure accused Harusha of having rescued Safet Bajri from arrest after an armed dispute in one of Shkodra’s most famous bars.
This connection between the Socialist MP and the Bajri gang has been pointed to before by the opposition and some of the countries media outlets.
Harusha denied any connection to Safet Bajri following the Belgian article. In an interview with Fax Web, when asked whether Safet Bajri had financed the Socialist campaign in Shkodra during the 2017 elections, Harusha answered:
Safet Bajri is my neighbor, he wasn’t even here for the elections. Let alone to have come here out of prison in September, October, or whatever.
However, this statement is demonstrably false. Bajri hasn’t spent a single day in prison, and he was in Shkodra during the elections.
It is not yet known whether this accusation of political protection will be investigated. Similarly, it remains unknown whether Bajri will be investigated for crimes he committed in Albania, or whether he was arrested solely on the account of the Belgians. The police and prosecution announcements so far have been less informative, than propagandist.