Murdered Albanian politician had an army in Gelderland village: report

Dutch police
A sign hanging in front of a Dutch police post. April 30, 2006Photo: M.M.Minderhoud via Michiel1972Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA

Festim Lato, an Albanian politician recently found murdered in the Amsterdam-Rijn canal, had his own private army in the Gelderland village of Afferden, where he lived. Various Dutch authorities were aware of this, but did not intervene, the Telegraaf reports based on sources and its own research.

Lato, 43, was the self-proclaimed president of Chameria, an unrecognized republic on the border of Albania and Greece. He lived on a residential farm on Kerkdam in Afferden. According to the newspaper, in past years the farm looked like a barracks with the forces of the future Chameria army staying in bunk beds at Lato's home. One source told the Telegraaf that the Chameria forcers were trained by soldiers from Kosovo. 

During a recent celebration of Albania's Independence Day, a military parade too place in Lato's back garden. A video on Facebook shows Lato inspecting the soldiers in combat uniforms, with their faces painted in camouflage colors. "This is the army that I am building", Lato said to a former employee, according to the newspaper. On YouTube there's a video of Lato holding up various automatic weapons. 

The municipality of Druten, which covers Afferden, was aware of the military presence in the municipality, an anonymous official confirmed to the newspaper. The only action taken was a municipal inspection of Lato's farm, to check whether he was complying with the 'housing' zoning plan. The building was closed for a few days at the behest of the municipality, after which it was simply used as a barracks again, the Telegraaf writes. 

In February 2018, the Facebook video of the military parade was sent to a specialized detective at the police in The Hague. He exchanged some emails with people around Lato, including with one person who said they "know everything" about Lato and were willing to talk. But no concrete action was taken, according to the newspaper. The Hague police did launch an investigation into fraud late last year, after two of Lato's business partners reported him. They were summoned to the police station for an appointment, and "never heard anything again", they said to the newspaper. 

A police spokesperson confirmed the fraud investigation to the newspaper, and said the police are aware of the video of the military parade, but could not say why nothing was done about it. The Public Prosecutor and the municipality of Druten would not answer the newspaper's questions. 

A Dutch entrepreneur who was at the military parade told the Telegraaf that he was amazed by the private army in a Gelderland backyard. "That Dutch politicians allowed that, I don't understand at all. How did Lato manage all that? I watched in astonishment", he said. "But yes, the president promised me that he would build 210 kilometers of new roads in his new country, Chameria. For that I could deliver 50 tractors and 100 crawler cranes, of a quarter of a million euros each. So I was thinking mainly of getting that contract."