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Sunday, 30 April, 2000, 22:14 GMT 23:14 UK
Alarm over missing Albanian gold
Albanian poor
Gold is far removed from Albania's grim realities
The Albanian Government has discovered that gold coins worth nearly $3m were stolen from its treasury during 1997's disorder.

The loss follows an inventory ordered by the prime minister, Ilir Meta, at the treasury vault in Kerrabe, south-east of the capital, Tirana.

The arrest has been ordered of three army officers responsible for guarding the vault when the gold disappeared.

Much of Albania was out of government control in 1997, following the collapse of pyramid investment schemes in which many people lost their life savings.

Ilir Meta
Prime Minister Ilir Meta ordered the check

Anti-government protests, turning into riots, toppled the government and led to a nationwide state of emergency.

The prime minister's inventory was ordered last March and it is unclear why his government has taken so long to discover what happened to the coins.

A government statement said Mr Meta had immediately informed international financial institutions once it was known the gold was missing.

A lock on one of the treasury's massive concrete doors in a tunnel where gold deposits are kept was found to be damaged last January, but officials blamed a landslide rather than theft.

'Government's hand forced'

The newspaper Koha Jone said the government was forced to admit the theft after prosecutors ordered the arrest two days ago of three officers guarding the gold.

Security at the treasury has been increased.

Around one million weapons are believed to be in circulation in Albania and large parts of the country remain lawless.

President Rexhep Meidani estimated last week that Albania's per capita income in 1999 was $1,200, compared with World Bank estimates for 1998 of $810.

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17 Nov 99 | Europe
Albania moves over power cuts
29 Mar 99 | Europe
Analysis: Albania's dilemma
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