Al­ba­nian gangs use Face­book to evade law

So­cial me­dia page set up by drug dealer hosts ap­peals for fake IDS and peo­ple to sit cit­i­zen tests

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Charles Hy­mas HOME AF­FAIRS EDI­TOR

Al­ba­nian crim­i­nals are us­ing Face­book to counter im­mi­gra­tion raids, smug­gle il­le­gal im­mi­grants into Bri­tain, set up fake mar­riages and cheat English lan­guage cit­i­zen­ship tests. Face­book failed to take any ac­tion against the site, called “Al­ba­ni­ans in Lon­don”, where the crim­i­nal schemes were posted pub­licly. The page was set up by Fari Lleshi, a con­victed bank robber who il­le­gally en­tered the UK and was de­ported in March af­ter be­ing con­victed of drug deal­ing in Bri­tain.

IT WAS the height of sum­mer on a sunny Sun­day in June and the alert went out on Face­book: “All Al­ba­ni­ans with­out doc­u­men­ta­tion should be care­ful at Water­loo Sta­tion. There is the Home Of­fice do­ing searches.”

The post, on June 23, was one of many such warn­ings to fel­low il­le­gal im­mi­grants on the “Al­ba­ni­ans in Lon­don” Face­book page, telling them where and when Bor­der Force of­fi­cers or po­lice were mount­ing sweeps.

Set up by con­victed bank robber Fari Lleshi, who came to Bri­tain il­le­gally, the Face­book page mixed pic­tures and posts of Al­ba­ni­ans en­joy­ing them­selves in Bri­tain with more sin­is­ter mes­sages aimed at the crim­i­nal black mar­ket.

As well as pro­vid­ing early warn­ings of im­mi­gra­tion raids, it acted as a con­tact point for Al­ba­ni­ans seek­ing peo­ple smug­glers to bring them into the UK and English-speak­ing crim­i­nals pre­pared to sit lan­guage tests so they could get a visa or a driv­ing li­cence. There are twice as many Al­ba­ni­ans who il­le­gally en­ter Bri­tain through UK ports as any other na­tion­al­ity, ac­cord­ing to the Home Of­fice, while the Na­tional Crime Agency (NCA) says Al­ba­nian gangs have mus­cled in on the drug-traf­fick­ing mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly co­caine.

“The threat faced from Al­ba­nian crime groups is sig­nif­i­cant. Lon­don is their pri­mary hub but they are es­tab­lished across the UK,” said an NCA spokesman.

The “Al­ba­ni­ans in Lon­don” Face­book page built a fol­low­ing of 123,000 with­out any ap­par­ent at­tempt by the in­ter­net gi­ant to rein it in – and de­spite Lleshi be­ing de­ported af­ter be­ing jailed for drug deal­ing in the UK and seen posing on Youtube pro­mot­ing his rap music while wield­ing hand­guns.

Yes­ter­day, the page ad­min­is­tra­tors shut it down within an hour of be­ing con­tacted by The Daily Tele­graph, and re­fused to an­swer ques­tions about the posts, say­ing only: “I’d like to know why don’t you find some­thing bet­ter to do? Go write about Brexit.”

Face­book said it would have taken down the page if its ad­min­is­tra­tors had not al­ready “un­pub­lished” it, as any­thing that en­cour­aged peo­ple smug­gling was banned from the plat­form.

In the course of five months, we

‘The threat faced from Al­ba­nian crime groups is sig­nif­i­cant. Lon­don is their pri­mary hub but they are es­tab­lished across the UK’

un­cov­ered a suc­ces­sion of posts, tip­ping off il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

“Al­ba­nia, I just passed by Lewisham. Em­i­gra­tion at the sta­tion be care­ful. God save you, share it as soon as pos­si­ble in an anony­mous way,” said one on March 28, while an­other replied: “God save all. Al­ba­nian, thanx for in­form­ing us. F--- Home Of­fice.”

One on July 18 said: “I have an ap­peal to all of you who are with­out le­gal papers in the UK. Be care­ful at Turn­pike Lane Sta­tion. It is full of po­lice.”

Ire­land is a cheaper and eas­ier route into the UK for il­le­gal im­mi­grants as tighter cross-chan­nel con­trols have pushed up the price to 14,000 eu­ros to reach the UK from the con­ti­nent.

One post reads: “Hello Al­ba­nian in Lon­don. I have two friends who have ar­rived in Dublin and claimed asy­lum. They let them go. They are free now but do not have any papers. If you know any safe way to get to Eng­land with­out any dan­gers, please ad­vise.”

One re­ply quoted £1,500 per per­son, with a phone num­ber. An­other said: “Pay­ing £1,300 a friend did get to Eng­land four days ago. I can give you the num­ber of that per­son who can do it in Ire­land. He did bring in 4 friends.”

English lan­guage and driv­ing the­ory tests are sub­verted by cre­at­ing a fake iden­tity doc­u­ment in the name of the Al­ba­nian who wants to pass, but with the pic­ture of the per­son who will take the test. One post reads: “I have my cousin but he can­not speak well English. Can any­one help to get life in the UK test? We pay good money.”

An­other asks: “Hello brother. Do you know any­one to pass the­ory driv­ing test?” A re­ply un­der the name “Leon Ryan” in­di­cated they could for £1,200.

The re­ply from a named Al­ba­nian in­vites them to send an email, adding: “For 3K, you can have it on your hand.”

An­other re­quests a mar­riage cer­tifi­cate, is­sued in Ti­rana, to be used to se­cure a visa into the UK.

It is un­der­stood the NCA has de­ployed six of­fi­cers to Al­ba­nia. A spokesman said: “We work closely with Al­ba­nian au­thor­i­ties and oth­ers in the re­gion to com­bat key threats to the UK.”

The Home Of­fice said: “We will not tol­er­ate any abuse of the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem and are clear that any­one found to be de­lib­er­ately dis­rupt­ing en­force­ment should feel the full force of the law.

“So­cial me­dia com­pa­nies have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pre­vent il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity on their plat­forms. Our on­line harms White Pa­per pro­poses a duty on com­pa­nies to tackle il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity on their plat­forms, in­clud­ing or­gan­ised im­mi­gra­tion crime.”

Fari Lleshi, a con­victed bank robber and drug dealer who set up the Face­book page, seen wield­ing hand­guns on Youtube

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