Millions Missing As Gambling Banker Goes Mad

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An Albanian bank worker has admitted to his bosses that he spent four years stealing from their vault, and no one noticed the money go missing.

We’ve all placed a few dodgy wagers in our time, gut feeling perhaps overriding sensible statistical likelihood, the odd bet placed haphazardly at an online gambling site in the UK or wherever, when we’ve not thought it through and trusted our luck more than judgment. We even won sometimes with these risky gambles, and indeed the opposite holds true as well, we have all placed bets on near certainties and been rewarded with the great big goose egg of fate.

Cash Reserves Plundered By Footie Fan

• Albanian central bank robbed by gambler
• Got away with $6.5 million before confessing
Mobile betting might have been more anonymous

This summer, for instance, more than a few of us will have backed Brazil to be Chile in normal time, only to discover they couldn’t manage it without penalties to do so. Our loss on that match was quite galling given how certain we all seemed of Brazil’s superiority, however it was as nothing to the loss incurred by Ardian Bitraj who managed to lose $180,000 on that one single match, and whilst the amount makes Mr. Bitraj quite special, where he got the money makes him almost unique.

Now obviously many of us have bank loans, for our home, our car, or perhaps we got one to start our own business, but whichever they are hardly unusual, so perhaps it wouldn’t be too surprising to hear that an avid gambler had borrowed some money from a bank to place some wagers, it wouldn’t even be all that special to hear he’d been injudicious with his placement of those bets and lost the lot. Such are the ways of the world, but the difference here would be Mr. Bitraj didn’t tell the bank.

Mr. Ardian Bitraj hadn’t filled out the forms, hadn’t attended an interview with the loan officer or even applied for an extension to his account’s credit online, no, Mr. Bitraj had just strolled away with the money taking it straight out of the bank’s vault, a vault he was in charge of. Indeed when the whole sorry story came to light it became apparent that this employee of Albania’s Central Bank had slowly stolen $6.5 million… and no one had noticed.

World Cup In Brazil His Undoing

As head of the cash processing department the 45 year old Albanian was, it is now realized, in an ideal position to, as he did so frequently, snaffle some cash from the boxes of reserves the bank keeps in the somewhat overly dramatically named “X Building” just outside the nation’s capital, Tirana. Indeed he made a habit of, approximately once a month, awaiting time alone in the vault to grab around 2 million leks (about $18,000) from the boxes of cash left in his charge.

He then placed the vast majority of this money as wagers on football matches, and whilst some of us might have used internet betting in the UK, in Albania his choice was to use a variety of bookmakers around the capital to place his wagers. For several years this was what he considered normal, both stealing and then wagering large amounts, but it was this love of gambling that would finally see this sneak thief brought down as the World Cup in Brazil proved too unpredictable.

Such was his ardency for gambling that at one point during the football festivities in Rio the overly carried away Bitraj managed to lift $90,000 from the vault in a single day without anyone noticing, a lapse in security that has shocked the bank, his colleagues and the general public. It seems almost impossible that anyone could walk out of a bank with $90,000 on their person without being spotted but apparently the Albanian Central Bank’s cash reserves weren’t a high priority.

Like all banks the Central Bank’s cash reserves were part of an integral security system of checks, audits and monitoring, absolutely none of which worked well enough to prevent our Mr. Bitraj financing his personal betting program with the money that should have been safe and secure in the vault. Of course since his confession (the only way they found out about it) it has come to light there were a few flaws in the system, enough to make it not seem very much like a system at all.

Strapped Cash To His Body In The Toilets

The cameras in the vault weren’t pointed at the boxes used to store the cash reserves in, instead being tilted to give excellent coverage of an office annex, rather than the actual cash room or cash itself, and worse the keys to the vault – all three of them – were kept in the safe of Mr. Ardain Bitraj. It is claimed by staff since this all came out that they’d received no instructions on how to store the keys, but it wouldn’t take a genius to think that all in the same place wasn’t a good idea.

Making sure he placed the boxes he stole from where they wouldn’t be sent out for use in the day to day banking of the country (where the difference in contents would be noticed) nor where the random audits would be likely to have a look at them, Bitraj was getting away with it, even placing items into the boxes he stole from in order to keep the weight consistent. He would then hide the money in black plastic bags, take it to the toilet and strap the cash to himself before walking out the door.

The audits that should have picked up on all this were never really in a position to do so with only approximately 2% of the contents checked, and sometimes only by whomever the office could find around to make up the numbers – in some cases a plumber and an electrician were part of the audit team – and when Bitraj finally confessed the governor lost his job and 18 other employees were arrested leaving the public aghast at this systemic failure to catch but a single thief.

Whilst some are gambling news of this negligence by his fellow employees and indeed employer may yet see some of them face charges, in the meantime it is Ardain Bitraj that is staring 20 years in prison in the face, and a trial that may begin in the next few weeks. According to his wife’s written testimony the strain had been taking its toll on her husband with him suffering from high blood pressure, a loss of appetite and an inability to sleep properly. Of course if you’d stolen $6.5 million from your employers you might have trouble eating and sleeping too.

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