Risk Bulletin Download PDF

Observatory of Illicit Economies in South Eastern Europe


Summary highlights

  1. A trafficking hub in the middle of nowhere.

    Ever heard of Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje? This inconspicuous town in central Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to a trucking company called Sičaja. In January 2021, the head of the company, a well-known and politically connected businessman, was arrested for possessing 400 kilograms of cannabis. The town has become a drug trafficking hotspot, which shows the significance of logistics hubs in supply chains and links between the licit and illicit economies, as well as connections between business, political and criminal elites.

    Read more

  2. A crackdown on organized crime in the Western Balkans?

    In a series of arrests in January and February 2021, police in Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina took down criminals that media allege have links to the notorious Kavač and Škaljari criminal clans from Montenegro. Moreover, Serbia’s president has promised to crack down on organized crime. A few important figures have been arrested, but some elements of the media and the police have also been caught up in recent developments.

    Read more

  3. The vulnerability of Roma children to commercial sexual exploitation.

    Commercial sexual exploitation of children is a serious concern across the Western Balkans. Roma children constitute a particularly vulnerable group. Drawing on information from a forthcoming GI-TOC report, we look at why Roma children are so susceptible and how the problem manifests itself, both within the Western Balkans and in other parts of Europe.

    Read more

  4. The ‘hawks’ of Kurbin: a school of thieves.

    In recent years, break-ins and thefts at the homes of football players and celebrities have made the headlines in Spain and Italy. Many of the perpetrators are young men who come from the region of Kurbin, in Albania. We look at why this area is producing and exporting so many burglars.

    Read more

  5. Youth as the engine of the community: an interview with Sebastia Youth Centre.

    The municipality of Kurbin, centred around the town of Lac, has developed a reputation in Albania and abroad for being a finishing school for burglary. This region faces socio-economic hardships, with limited licit career options for youth and few civil society organizations (CSOs). To address this problem, a young lawyer and a local teacher teamed up to establish the Sebastia Youth Center, a CSO that aims to counter stereotypes and give youth a platform for a better life. We talk to the founders and leaders, Emarilda Leti and Elton Laska.

    Read more

About this issue

Welcome to the sixth issue of the Risk Bulletin produced by the Observatory of Illicit Economies in South Eastern Europe of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC).

We start off, as always, with a profile of a hotspot of organized crime in the region, this time the little-known town of Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This logistics hub became a focal point with a recent drug bust of 400 kilograms of cannabis.

There have also been several significant operations against organized crime in some countries of the Western Balkans, including Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, leading to a number of arrests, including the well-known leader of a football fan group in Serbia. The situation in Serbia has taken a few twists and turns, including a smear campaign against a group of investigative journalists by some tabloids and politicians, which the GI-TOC has condemned.

The GI-TOC will soon release a groundbreaking report on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) across the Western Balkans. In this issue, we feature one aspect of the problem, namely the exploitation of Roma children who are particularly vulnerable to CSEC.

Albanian burglars, known as the ‘hawks’, have become notorious over the past few years for conducting break-ins and thefts at the homes of the rich and famous, particularly football players and celebrities in Spain and Italy. Many of the ‘hawks’ are from one small, poor region of Albania named Kurbin. We look at why this area is producing and exporting so many burglars and talk to two directors of a civil society organization that works with youth in the area to make them less vulnerable to a life of crime.

Finally, we feature an overview of recent publications related to organized crime and corruption in the Western Balkans and showcase a number of new reports by the GI-TOC. We intend to publish such a list on an occasional basis and would welcome any suggestions.

Please let us know if you would like to contribute a story; we offer authors an honorarium. If you have a proposal for a story or would like to provide feedback, please contact almedina.dodic@globalinitiative.net.