Reuters, November 06, 2002
Beckham kidnap suspect is Albanian
TIRANA (Reuters) - Albanian newspapers have reported that a Kosovo man suspected of plotting to kidnap Victoria Beckham was in fact an Albanian citizen using false identity papers.
Two dailies said Azem Krifsha, who was arrested along with eight others in England over the weekend and has been charged with theft, came from the city of Elbasan in Albania and not from the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.
The Albanian state prosecutor's office was unable to confirm or deny the report and declined comment.
"The man identified in the British press as Luli Azem Krifsha, 30, from Kosovo and living in London is in fact Lulzim Balliu, 30, from the village of Labinot near Elbasan," said the daily Shekulli.
"The documents this man used during his stay in England to obtain asylum have a fake identity," it said. "This man was not unknown to Albanian police. He is suspected of being involved in illegal trafficking, especially of prostitutes."
The daily Gazeta Shqiptare also reported that the man came from Elbasan but said it did not know his real name.
Albanian illegal immigrants can obtain fake Kosovo identity papers without great difficulty so they can play on foreign sympathy for ethnic Albanians living in the Yugoslav province to prolong their stay abroad.
The immigration authorities of European Union states employ native Albanian speakers to spot the difference in accents.
Shekulli said Balliu left Albania in 1993 and spent some time in Italy before migrating to Britain with his fake Yugoslav citizen's identity.
The gang, who were captured by police acting on a tipoff from a tabloid, are alleged to have plotted to kidnap the Spice Girl, wife of England captain David Beckham, and hold her for ransom.
Krifsha and four other men, three Romanians and one Briton, were remanded in custody on Monday after being charged with theft and conspiracy to rob. Police said they were making inquiries into the allegations of a kidnap plot.
Of the four others arrested over the weekend, one woman was released without charge and two men and another woman were bailed on matters unconnected to either the theft or the kidnap investigation.