Around EUR 5 million have disappeared from the Albanian Central Bank’s reserves over the past four years.
The police arrested seven employees on suspicion of stealing the money from the Central Bank’s reserves. According to local gambling news, one of them admitted to blowing most of it on casino games.
The theft was discovered during an inventory of assets, when it was discovered that 713 million lek (around EUR 5 million) were missing. The police started to investigate all transfers, including the ones made to relatives and friends of the suspects, as well as other employees.
The bank is in charge of the country’s financial stability, while at the same time managing 16 private banks, but governor Adrian Fullani said financial “operations have not been affected”.
“Bank of Albania has taken immediate action to repair the damage and step up security levels,” Fullani told reporters.
Zero tolerance against the thieves
Details are yet to be revealed, but one of the employees, Adrian Bitraj, admitted to stealing the money. He was the one who claimed he had spent most of it on gambling. Since authorities changed Albanian gambling laws to allow casino games, the industry has been thriving, but the number of problem gamblers has also gone up.
Albania’s economic growth in years follows an upward trend, but Erjon Brace, chairman of the parliamentary financial committee, said a “deep reform of the organizational system and control of the central bank” is necessary.
“This incident has affected both the image of the bank and the nation. We want zero tolerance against all those involved,” he said.