Page last updated at 18:07 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

'Wanted torturer' found in London

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'Torture' spy found in London

By Nigel Morris and Sharif Sakr
BBC News, London

A former Albanian intelligence chief, who is wanted for torture and kidnapping, has been found living on benefits in west London under an assumed identity.

Ilir Kumbaro, 55, claimed asylum in the UK in 1996 by posing as a Kosovan refugee.

But his 13-year double life was brought to an end at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday at an extradition hearing.

Judge Howard Riddle said: "I have no doubt that the defendant in the dock is Ilir Kumbaro.

"I must send this case to the Secretary of State for a decision whether the defendant is to be extradited."

One of his alleged victims, father-of-five Remzi Hoxha, has not been seen alive since 1995.

Mr Kumbaro entered the UK in August 1996 under the name Shaqa Shatri.

He managed to convince immigration officials that he was a Kosovan refugee fleeing Serb persecution.

The Kosovan ID card used by Kumbaro
Kumbaro stole the identity of a Kosovan

Under his false identity, Mr Kumbaro was granted indefinite leave to remain and issued with a British passport.

He was given incapacity benefits because he claimed he was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Kumbaro lived in a council estate in Fulham, with people who are believed to be his wife and son.

No evidence was provided by the Department of Works and Pensions that he had been employed in the last 13 years.

'Slip-up'

Mr Kumbaro might have remained undiscovered in London had it not been for an apparent slip-up.

In order to claim incapacity benefits for his depression, Mr Kumbaro had to register with Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow Health Authority.

But instead of registering as 'Shaqa Shatri', Mr Kumbaro inexplicably used his real name.

The registration was later cancelled, but it was enough to alert UK detectives.

UN picture of the real Shaqa Shatri
The date of birth of the real Shaqa Shatri matches the one on the ID card

They had been hunting for Mr Kumbaro following a request from the Albanian authorities in June 2008.

On 2 September 2008, detectives from Scotland Yard's extradition unit, led by Det Sgt Peter Rance , arrested the man calling himself Mr Shatri at his flat in Fulham.

When cautioned the man said: "I am not Ilir Kumbaro, I am Shaqa Shatri."

Mr Kumbaro told detectives that the other people in his flat were his female cousin Naxhie Axemi and a male friend called Ervin Kumbaro.

Stolen identity

Two weeks after the arrest Interpol sent evidence to Scotland Yard showing that Mr Kumbaro had a son called Ervin, born in 1980. He also had a wife called Vjollica.

According to UK police the photographs of Vjollica Kumbaro resembled Naxhie Azemi.

Police also found a photograph of the man they claim is the real Shaqa Shatri, whose identity was stolen by Mr Kumbaro.

He is a 63-year-old Kosovan who looks nothing like Mr Kumbaro.

Meanwhile, images of Mr Kumbaro from Albanian intelligence files, including one of a young Mr Kumbaro in communist uniform, had an uncanny resemblance to the man living in Fulham.

There can be no safe havens for torturers and kidnappers
Amnesty International's Kate Allen

In a previous hearing Det Sgt Rance had been asked by the defence counsel whether he had had any specialist skills or training in face recognition.

He replied: "No - only 17 years as a police officer."

The defence said that Det Sgt Rance's statement to the court about the arrest was inadmissible because he was not familiar with those he claimed to identify, that he was not an expert and because his testimony cannot be tested.

The court heard that Mr Shatri, who is under no obligation to give evidence, acknowledged knowing Ervin Kumbaro, but not Ilir Kumbaro.

The defence also stated that the photographs of Ilir Kumbaro's wife and Mr Shatri's cousin did not match.

Judge Riddle said: "Mr Kumbaro went to enormous lengths to avoid detection.

"He fled his country shortly after the offences complained of, adopted a false identity and maintains to this day he is not Ilir Kumbaro.

"Even had the the Albanian state been vigilant in its enquiries from an early stage, it is evident that Mr Kumbaro was intent on avoiding prosecution by assuming, in an elaborate, careful and sustained way, a false identity."

Amnesty International director Kate Allen said: "We have campaigned for many years on this case.

"There can be no safe havens for torturers and kidnappers - all countries should ensure that human rights abusers can find nowhere to hide.

"With this decision the UK is furthering the cause of international justice."

Reporter: Guy Smith; Investigations Producer: Nigel Morris: Broadcast Journalist: Sharif Sakr; Camera: Dave Perella, Rob Taylor.


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