Owners of fraudulent call centers are not found even with the help of partners

  • Shqip
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  • Despite growing concerns from international partners that hundreds of call centers in Albania are deceiving EU citizens through fake investments, the Albanian government seems powerless before the situation. The sensational actions ended only with the seizure of a few blocks, but there is no trace of the extorted millions of euros, which are suspected to have disappeared in tax havens.

    Author: Elvis Myrta

    “In March 2021, citizen Alma Sokoli called me for a meeting. During the meeting he asked me to help her open a business. The business would be registered in my name, but it would belong to her husband, a Polish citizen”, – Nikolin Toma told the investigators in Shkodër, who turned out to be the administrator of “Ekstra Marketing 2021”, a call center that was actively defrauding German and Spanish citizens.

    “… after 2-3 days, Alma called me again and told me that they no longer wanted to carry out that activity, but a friend of her husband would do it and asked me if I still agreed”, – continues the confession to the investigators. In the complete file that INA MEDIA has, it appears that Nikolin Toma had agreed to set up the business, which has continued working at two different addresses in Shkodër.

    The testimony of other employees also confirmed to the Shkodra Police and Prosecutor’s Office that the Pole, Pawel Wziontek and another, still unidentified citizen were the people behind the fraudulent activity.

    “The declarants have also affirmed the fact that from October 5, 2021, another citizen, whom Ysniela addressed as the “boss”, had visited their work premises. He had appeared to them to be from the south of Albania and they had heard him called by the name “Daniel”, as well as by the name “Alban”, but they did not know his real name. According to them, he lived in Greece and advised them to improve their phone calls and conversations with customers. This person had also explained to him the field of crypto-currencies, the field where the most investments were made and it was requested to be invested in them. Asked if they knew the Polish citizen, Pawel Wziontek, some of them admit to having known him as the first owner, partner with the citizen presented as Daniel or Alban, affirming that they knew that this citizen was engaged to a girl from Shkodra “, – is written in the investigative file.

    In the end, the Police and the Prosecutor’s Office of Shkodra put only 9 employees under security measures and declared the Polish citizen and Alma Sokoli as wanted, while it has not yet been possible to identify “Daniel” or “Alban” from the south of Albania, who, it seems, was also the main person in this activity.

    The same scheme with fictitious administrators was found by the investigator in another file that INA MEDIA has. Everything was clarified, according to the Special Prosecutor’s Office, SPAK, by the testimony of two of the indicted, Xhulian Xhafe and Suada Tila, cohabitants.

    ” A few months after I started working as an IT for the Blue energy call company, Erjon Kasmi asked me to find someone to hire him as an administrator. Due to the need for money and at a time when my cohabitant, Suada Tila, was unemployed, we agreed that she would do it and she would receive a monthly payment of 600-650 euros”, – explained Xhulian Xhafa for SPAK. His testimony was also supported by the data that his co-habitant showed to the investigators.

    All documents, workbooks and every legal action was carried out and signed by the administrator, even though Erjon Kasmi from Kruja was present and employed the employees as well. Since 2017, this company changed 3 administrators, the third one was citizen Klevin Molla. According to the investigators, in no case, legally, did Erjon Kasmi leave a mark on the documents.

    He was handcuffed at Rinas airport, as he was leaving Albania, just a few hours after the raid on his call center premises.

    The difficulty in finding the real owners is also accepted by the State Police, which through the media spokesperson, Gentian Mullai, says that the main factor in this difficulty, is the scheme of hiding the owners, documented in the two files that INA MEDIA has.

    “Identifying and tracking the owners or administrators of these entities is difficult. The beneficial owners, in order to avoid legal responsibilities, open businesses in the name of their employees or third-party contractors, hiding behind them”, – said Mullai.


    “Fraudsters” with a degree

    Spanish authorities investigated and followed their movements with a magnifying glass, since 2018, after denunciations of fraud through the activity of call centers. But not only the Spanish, as the same footsteps seem to have been followed by the German authorities as well. Following the open accounts, where the fraudsters transferred the money and the identification of the online servers, led the foreign authorities to 5 Albanians, 3 of whom graduated in IT and Computer Science at the University of Tirana.

    In the cooperation file of 8 countries that INA MEDIA has, it is said that these people had developed the online programs and systems used for the fraudulent activity.

    Referring to the data brought by the German authorities, their traces were left in the construction of the pages and systems of IT companies Puma TS and SMS Company.

    The only ones who were put in handcuffs in Albania were citizens Irisa Puca and Adrian Korriku. The investigation file states: “It is suspected that the citizen under investigation, Irisa Puca, is responsible for the development of CRM systems, which were used for the relevant operation of fraudulent platforms, such as AGMarkets, SnPBroker, FXNober, etc. All relevant customer data was stored in these CRM systems, as such platforms, such as AGMarkets, SnPBroker, FXNober, etc., cannot operate economically without the storage and management of customer data.”

    From the above information, it appears that the citizen Adrian Korriku has been active in the same environment as Irisa Puca and they are related to each other, this was established by a lease contract for an apartment in Vilnius, Lithuania, which was made in the name of the citizens Irisa Puca and Adrian Korriku.

    On the other hand, before the investigators, the two defendants say that they have no knowledge of the fraudulent activity, as they are legally employed in the company and provide their services.

    “The indicted, Irisa Puca and Adrian Korriku, have been employed in the maintenance sector of electronic systems and platforms since their creation. It is the same as arresting the creators of platforms like WhatsApp, which are used on a daily basis. The maintainer of a system cannot be held responsible if entities using this platform use it for fraudulent activity. At no point did the prosecutor say how these two citizens contributed to computer fraud. The names of these two citizens were taken because of the legal work they performed in Lithuania or Georgia, where they were with a work contract, with a residence permit and in compliance with all the laws of the country of origin and the country where they lived. worked”, – Arben Prenga, lawyer, told the court.

    The data brought by the German authorities reveal 3 more names, one of which is active in the accounts where payments were made by the injured parties, but these people, considered by the authorities as the main organizers of the activity, could not be put in handcuffs.


    Subjects under investigation

    According to official data from Albanian law enforcement institutions, there are about 100 companies that are supervised by the police and the prosecutor’s office, as they are suspected of engaging in illegal activity.

    Officially, the State Police told INA MEDIA that there are about 60 cases being investigated and most of the subjects under investigation are in the capital.

    According to the information provided, it is learned that 50 subjects are under investigation only by the Prosecutor’s Office of Tirana. The prosecution institution responded to INA MEDIA ‘s interest in the companies under investigation that it cannot provide details due to investigative secrecy. While the prosecutor of the Economic Crime Section, Bledar Valikaj, said that there are 50 registered cases under investigation for this illegal activity.

    INA MEDIA managed to uncover the names of 10 entities operating in this fraud scheme. Most of these entities, referring to the data in the National Registry of Businesse, are registered as companies that operate in the field of tele-marketing, but that actually operate as Forex platforms . One of these companies operates in the city of Elbasan, one in Durrës, while the other entities are located in different areas of the capital.

    Names of companies under investigation

    1. Euro Voice

    6. EuroGR

    2. Sarel. Ltd

    7. On Top Securities

    3. AMG Call

    8. Dag it Solution

    4. Reboot

    9. Telex

    5. IT PumaTS\SMCompany

    10. Expert Group

    But, in addition to police surveillance and investigations by the prosecutor’s office, the authorities have intervened in the last 2 years, hitting some of these subjects.

    According to the police, 16 operations were carried out during this period, 3 of which were ordered by SPAK. It is officially reported that around 250 people have been escorted to take their statements, while 143 of them have been charged with “Computer Fraud”.

    Referring to data from the court, 108 people are being investigated while on their own recognizance, 24 are under “house arrest”, while 11 of them are in jail.

    Officially, the Special Prosecutor’s Office told INA MEDIA that 5 letters have arrived at this institution from foreign authorities, which have as their object the investigation of call center scams. Three requests have been executed, while the other two are still under verification.

    Also, referring to official data, in the last quarter the Police of Tirana have hit 5 Forex companies. Thanks to the “Programmer” operations; “Fraud”; “Nine”; “Trick”; “Snare” and “Trade”, 9 people were arrested and 19 others were prosecuted. The court deemed the arrests as legal, but left only 3 of the 9 arrested in the cell.

    Companies under investigation


    Persons under investigation


    Home arrest

    Free state







    The fact that almost none of the owners could be caught and arrested has raised suspicions potential leak of information within state institutions.

    Confidential sources told INA MEDIA that this phenomenon has been and continues to be present, but officially the authorities deny it. The law enforcement institutions have not registered any proceedings for de-conspiracy of operations. No officer is under investigation or disciplinary action.


    Italian intercepts

    “… I liked Nike, but it was too expensive. My God!”, – while waiting for the next victim to open the call, one of the operators of a call center, identified by the Italian authorities, makes plans for her next purchases.

    The conversation was recorded through the Aruba server, which the center used for automated calls and which was seized by the Italian prosecutor’s office months ago.

    Through emails sent to Italian citizens and phone numbers set for their recovery, the Italian authorities identified Gilbert Pushan, Valbona Abedinaj and Elisa Çaçi as the main authors of the fraudulent activity. Three call centers, opened in 2017, turn out to be in the name of Elisa Çaçi and according to the investigative file, in the posession of INA MEDIA, during one year they made 39,674 calls, in an attempt to find citizens, who would invest with them.

    Behind the fraudulent activity, as it has emerged from the investigative files, are not only Albanian citizens, but also foreigners, Poles and Israelis. They have been identified only through the cooperation of other employees or through wiretapping. Meanwhile, an investigation by the Spanish authorities seems to have documented the suspicions that even persons with strong connections to the government, as well as businessmen, were behind the call center fraud.

    Amant Aleksandër Josifi, was a well-known businessman in the field of call centers, but until 2020 he was also an advisor to the former Minister of Defense, Olta Xhaçka. He has an international search warrant active, issued by Spanish authorities. INA MEDIA has learned that the former adviser of Xhaçka left Albania a few days before the finalization of the ” Frida-REFOX ” operation, in the framework of which the security measure had to be executed against him.

    Confidential sources, referring to the TIMS system, told Investigative Network Albania that he has crossed the border with Greece. The Albanian authorities say that they have not been able to confirm whether Amant Josifi then traveled to the United Arab Emirates, where it is suspected that he is currently hiding.

    In response to a request for information, sent by INA MEDIA, SPAK says that there is no proceeding for Josif and that he is wanted by the Spanish authorities.


    The inaction of Albanian authorities

    The files analyzed by INA MEDIA show that the main data for identifying the perpetrators of computer fraud through call centers were provided by international partners, where the fraud took place. Although the base, where the illegal activity starts, is Albania, these files do not reflect the investigative actions carried out to identify the perpetrators, but only controls of the subjects, identified by Italy, Germany or Spain, or the surveillance of the investigated, requested by foreign authorities.

    Asked at one of the press conferences about the results of the operations against the call centers, the senior leader of the State Police, Edmond Rizaj, said that the investigations start from the partners, since the victims of the criminal offense are located in those countries.

    The lack of monitoring and measures for the frauds committed through the Forex platform by call centers prompted debates between Member of Parliament Erion Braçe and the head of the Financial Supervision Authority, in the Economy Commission, held on May 10 of last year.

    The former Deputy Prime Minister demanded accountability from the AMF for not taking measures, saying that the institutions have done nothing, where, even those arrests that have been made, were a result of the reports from foreign authorities.

    “What worries me is that none of the financial institutions have dealt with this activity. We became the center of the world, the shame, because of the reports that came from the law enforcement agencies of the countries where the citizens were deceived through this process”, – said Braçe in the commission.

    The head of the AMF, Ervin Mete, responded to the Socialist MP’s account request: “Today, as we speak, there is no entity licensed in Albania for the activity of brokerage, related to EU countries, as all the licenses of data have been removed, suspended due to violations and termination of contracts with the EU. So, today all those who do this activity are unlicensed and should be prosecuted.”

    Regarding this matter, to the question of INA MEDIA about the flourishing of this illegal activity, and what are the measures to prevent and strike these companies, the Financial Supervision Authority answered: “The Forex market, as it is unlicensed, is not under the purvue of the AMF”.

    The law enforcement authorities stated that they have not received any information from the AMF about companies that exercise this activity. The State Police told INA MEDIA that the interventions are carried out at the request of foreigners, as the victims are not Albanian citizens.

    “As a result of the investigations carried out by the Structures for the Investigation of Economic and Financial Crimes, it has been established that the vast majority of commercial entities, with the object of call center activity, with Albanian or foreign owners, develop their activity with clients mainly from the countries of EU”, – explained the police.

    The same position is held by the prosecution, which clarifies that the Financial Supervision Authority should control these markets.

    “All these companies should be subject to licensing by the AMF as soon as possible and be controlled by this institution”, – said the prosecution institution.

    And while the law-enforcement institutions find it difficult to attack this phenomenon, expert Zef Preçi alludes that these activities are not being stricken down, since the people who set up these fraud schemes have political support.

    Zef Preçi

    “If the adviser of a minister or a mayor gives support and interferes in legal activities, it is understood that they gain immunity”, – says Preçi.


    Money laundering

    Registered in some cases as legitimate businesses, call center companies dumped fraudulently generated money in the form of salaries on the Albanian market.

    The file against the Israeli citizen, Rafael Genish, at the disposal of INA MEDIA, shows that from the verifications of the prosecutor’s office, this citizen spent over 33 million ALL or 275 thousand euros on social contributions, health and taxes in just 5 months.

    “On this basis, the question arose as to what are the cooperation contracts that this company has for the realization of its income and consequently for the payment of all these expenses, in the conditions where the proceeding body, from all the control it has carried out, has not found not a single cooperation contract between RG Capital and any other company that needed the services of RG Capital. As a result, it is evident that the entire activity carried out by the company RG Capital is illegal and has as its sole purpose the deception of foreign citizens from different countries”, – it is stated in the investigation file.

    But, entering the market is clean in the form of salaries, although according to the investigators it is the most frequent form of laundering of these incomes, it is not the only one.

    The former prosecutor, Eugen Beçi, in an interview for INA MEDIA, shows that this activity opens very big doors for money laundering through investments in fictitious stock exchanges.

    “If a person invests 100 ALL in Forex or fake stock exchanges, they will be returned as profit, for example 50 ALL. This 50 ALL for the person with criminal income is already “legal”, justified as a profit from investments in the stock market, while the designer of this scheme earns his own 50 ALL. This is where it starts, and the money goes to different banks, so that the beneficiary, as the owner of Forex, avoids the traces”, – said Beçi.

    Eugen Beçi

    For Eduart Gjokutaj, an economic expert, this happens because Albania is quite weak in preventing money laundering.

    “Albania does not have the necessary instruments to prevent money laundering and fiscal evasion, which circulates through digital money. Although these activities are licensed by the National Bank, this is not a guarantee to call this business legal”, – says Gjokutaj, according to which the criteria related to the commercial and fiscal register must also be met.

    The money laundering scheme from the call center companies was also accepted by the former director of the Criminal Police Department, Tonin Vocaj, in an appearance for the media.

    “These call centers are an opportunity for these people, who open them, to launder money. It is understood that these revenues come from criminal activity and in whatever field they are invested, they are money that is cleaned”, – said Vocaj.

    Tonin Vocaj, former director of the Criminal Police Department

    Transfer of money to third countries, cooperation with certain second-level banks that facilitate transactions, investment in real estate, investment in names of individuals and not in the real owners, are some of the forms of performing money laundering.

    “This activity has paralyzed all institutions, including the Tax Authority. There is an obvious fiscal evasion of these companies. Technological facilities have allowed money to be transferred to third countries, resulting in the non-collection of taxes here or the victims in Western countries,” – Preçi added.


    Young people, towards call centers

    The call center sector has the largest workforce in Albania, with around 25,000 people.

    Unlike call centers, the National Employment and Skills Agency admits that it has no data on the number of employees working on Forex platforms , as these are illegal activities.

    But, the head of the call center union, SKOT, says that there are about 3,000 young people who choose to follow easy profits and “cheat”.

    “From the data we have collected during these two years, when the union took shape, we have information that there are about 3000 people who are employed as Forex operators “, – said Ilir Xhemalaj.

    Among the big salaries offered by this sector, the young people who work in these call centers are divided into three categories: Junior, Broker and Retention.

    INA MEDIA was able to contact employees of all three categories. The salary of a Junior is 350-500 euros.

    “The work went well, because the salary was 350 euros and the bonuses about 150 euros, so in total I made 500 euros the first month. They were a lot compared to salaries in Albania”, – said a 22-year-old, who introduced herself to her clients as Chiara.

    Juniors are the employees who make the presentation of the platform and, if the client is tempted, they pass the call to the Broker, who has the task of convincing him to invest. While Retention usually provides 80% of the revenue of call center companies. Retention are the people who carry out the transactions and receive the money from the customers. Their salary varies from 800-1000 euros, plus a percentage that varies from the amount collected.

    “Usually I pass the big time, for example I managed last month to collect about 600 thousand euros. The owner gave me an apartment, because its value was more than 60 thousand euros. I have insured my life because I have a family business and two apartments. I have secured all these in 3 years and a little work”, – said Luçia, who has been working in the stock market for 4 years and now holds the title of Retention or, in other words, supervisor.


    The scheme of transactions

    In the files analyzed by INA MEDIA, the scheme of how money is received from defrauded foreign citizens in values of several thousand euros is the same. They are first lured to invest in assets that do not exist, but which are virtually staged as real and, after gaining the trust of the citizens, they take the money they “invest” and disappear.

    They open bank accounts in several banks, mainly in the country of origin, where the defrauded citizens live, as well as in European Union countries. The accounts were largely the same in all cases reported and analyzed by the authorities.

    The file also shows that the transfers were also made to PayPal, to accounts with fictitious names. These monetary values circulated in several accounts, until the moment they fell into the hands of the perpetrators of criminal offenses.

    In the last investigated cases, citizens who fell prey to fraud were also given cryptocurrency accounts, where monetary values were sent.

    For SPAK prosecutor Ened Nakuçi, investing in online currencies makes it difficult to track transactions. During the press conference, after the finalization of the “Fitimi i Ëndrrave” operation, his Italian counterpart, Raffaele Titto, was on the same line, explaining that tracking money through bitcoin is very difficult to achieve.

    Marko, who works as a broker, describes clients who invest in cryptocurrencies as naive. According to him, they believe that they will become rich in a month.

    “When someone is going to invest in crypto, we know that they are naive. They believe that they will become rich within a month. They are lied easily. It is enough to talk to them about the history of bitcoin, which started from 0.00008 dollars on the first day and reached 70 thousand dollars”, – said the young man.

    This activity takes place informally, even though the relevant legislation has entered into force, namely Law No. 66/2020 “On financial markets, based on distributed ledger technology”.

    Eduart Gjokutaj

    Expert Gjokutaj sees the adoption of this law as a hasty policy.

    “Approval of legislation regulating online exchanges of digital money is a hasty policy, as long as the integrity of the formal market and cyber security are not guaranteed”, – says Gjokutaj.

    Ky shkrim është pjesë e projektit që mbështetet financiarisht nga Zyra e Mardhënieve me Publikun e Ambasadës së SH.B.A. në Tiranë. Opinionet, gjetjet, konkluzionet dhe rekomandimet e shprehura janë te autor-it/ve dhe nuk përfaqesojnë domosdoshmërisht ato të Departamentit të Shtetit. / This article is part of a project that is financially supported by the Public Relations Office of the US Embassy in Tirana. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of State.