Agents from UK-funded Albanian secret service sold info to gangsters
Revealed: How rogue agents from UK-funded Albanian secret service unit ‘passed intelligence to gangsters that led to the murder of underworld rival’
- EXCLUSIVE: Info from wiretaps leaked by a corrupt operative led to gang hit
- Shock revelations come as Rishi Sunak pledged to stem Albanian migration
Rogue agents from a UK-funded Albanian secret service unit that fights organised crime have been selling intelligence to gangsters.
Information from wiretaps leaked by a corrupt operative from the covert team – codenamed Merlin – led to the murder of a man as part of a feud between rival drug lords in the Balkan country, a Mail investigation has found.
And a whistleblower said at least two other Merlin agents have sold classified information to the crime networks they were meant to be crushing.
The shocking revelations come after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month pledged to spend more to combat illegal migration and organized crime from Albania.
Merlin was set up within Albania’s secret service, known as Shish, in 2000 when gangs from the country first began operating in the UK.
From the start it received most of its funding from British taxpayers.
Gunned down: Kastrati clan crime family member Denis Kasaj was killed in hail of bullets blasted at his Mercedes from a Czech Skorpion machine gun
The burnt out getaway car following the murder of Kastrati clan member Denis Kasaj
The Czech Skorpion machine gun used in the brutal murder of Denis Kasaj
Its agents received training by the UK and the department’s activity is monitored by a contact officer based in the British embassy in Tirana with intelligence passed back to London.
Merlin was so secret that even its existence remained unreported for 16 years until the murder of Denis Kasaj, a member of the Kastrati clan crime family, who was gunned down in a Mercedes in hail of bullets from a Czech Skorpion machine gun.
Paid hitman Ilir Memushaj was jailed for 14 years in 2017 for the killing which detectives discovered was carried out the request of a rival crime clan, the Binjaku, as part of a long-running feud between the families.
Both clans have established vast drug networks across Europe, including the UK.
The gunman’s Blackberry had 12 photographs of transcribed phone calls marked ‘secret’ obtained by a Merlin agent through wiretapping operations.
Hitman Ilir Memushaj at court during his 2017 trial before he was jailed for 14 years for murder
During these calls gangsters disclosed details of the Mercedes, its occupants, and precisely where it would be at the time of the shooting.
A Merlin field agent later stood trial accused of being a double agent and selling state secrets to the criminals.
He was cleared after the judge ruled it could not be proved beyond doubt that he had leaked the intelligence as other Merlin agents had access to the same information.
But the judge found that the information obtained by the Binjkau clan had come from a serving Merlin agent.
The judgement said: ‘The fact was proven that the data obtained from the Blackberry device… are the same as those compiled by criminal prosecution bodies for the transcription of telephone conversations resulting from wiretapping.’
The whistelblower, who works for Shish, named two other agents who worked for Merlin but have since been moved or dismissed due to suspicions they were leaking intelligence.
‘Information from their department was sold to criminals, illegal phone interceptions were made without the approval of prosecutors, with the information taken on USB flash drives or as photos,’ the whistleblower said.
‘I think information still gets leaked. If that did not happen we could see more criminal organisations dismantled and more assets seized.’
Despite this, funding from British taxpayers’ continues and ‘without that support Merlin could not exist today,’ the whistleblower said.
He said working for Merlin is a ‘dream job’ for Albanian agents due to its unrivalled access to information and the extensive funding and support offered by UK
‘There’s a good salary compared to other departments and brand new cars including Audis were chosen by the head of Merlin, with the bills paid by the British embassy.’
The agency has a director and four inspectors who work with other Shish agents when they need support on an investigation.
Another former Shish officer said: ‘The Merlin directorate has been under constant care of the UK Embassy in Tirana.
‘On one occasion when the director of Shish wanted to replace the Merlin director, the UK ambassador came several times to the Shish headquarters opposing the decision. He was not replaced.’
He stressed that other Merlin officers were hard-working and honest and had run successful operations especially against drug trafficking.
The Foreign Office said it did not comment on intelligence.
A Shish spokesman said the agency was ‘considering’ a response and then did not provide further comment.
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