Albanian politician found murdered in Dutch canal: report

Crime scene
Crime scenePhoto: Politie

A 43-year-old Albanian man was found dead in the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal at Nigtevecht on Friday afternoon. The victim is Festin Lato, the president of the unrecognized republic of Chameria, a region on the border of Albania and Greece that has been fighting for independence for years, De Gelderlander reports based on reports in Albanian media and confirmation from two of Lato's friends.

A passerby spotted the man's body in the water at around 5:00 p.m. on Friday. Investigation showed that it involved an Albanian man who was reported missing a time ago, according to NOS. He was killed in a crime. 

According to De Gelderlander, Lato has been evading an army of creditors for a long time. He was declared personally bankrupt by the court in Zutphen in April this year. Whether this has anything to do with his murder, is not clear. 

Over the past years Lato lived in a remote house in Afferden, in the Maas and Waal region between Nijmegen and Venray. The flags of the Netherlands, the United States and Chameria hung outside his house, according to Omroep Gelderland. Lato had proclaimed himself president of Chameria. In this capacity he regularly made public appearances at the European Parliament and Brussels and led many demonstrations, mainly focused on the independence of the republic, which isn't recognized by any country. He also coached the Chameria football team. 

Albanian website Gazeta Telegraf reported that Lato was killed after receiving a call from an as-yet-unidentified non-Albanian who may have led him into a trap. 

A good friend of Lato confirmed his death to De Gelderlander. He told the newspaper that he recently visited him in Afferden and there was no reason to believe anything would happen when he left. "Everything was fine", he said to the newspaper.

Angelo Aliu, the self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the Republic of Chameria, confirmed Lato's death on Facebook. He said he is shocked by the death and called it "a politically motivated murder of a hero of Chameria."

Experienced Dutch diplomat Jeroen Zandberg told De Gelderlander that Lato was involved in shady affairs. He advised Lato on his political struggle and is shocked by his death, he said. "He was a charming and smooth talking man", Zandberg said to the newspaper. "There were always creditors after him. I also got messages from people who said he was a scammer." 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Zandberg works for the UNPO, a Hague based organization for unrepresented nations, regions and peoples. The UNPO confirmed he has not worked with their organization for the past two years.