Kosovo's Prime Minister Denies 'Mafia' Claims

"Kosovo's prime minister has strongly denied allegations that he was the leader of a ""mafia-like"" criminal organisation with links to organ and drug smuggling.

Hashim Thaci used a live broadcast on Kosovo's public television to label a report into organised crime and organ trafficking in the country ""monstrous"" and ""scandalous"". The Council of Europe report into organ trafficking in Kosovo and Albania caused a diplomatic crisis after it was leaked to the Guardian on Tuesday.

Thaci, a former leader in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was re-elected prime minister on Sunday, in the first elections since the country declared independence from Serbia almost three years ago.

""I feel heavily insulted by the baseless charges made against me, and above all against my country and my people,"" he said, adding that the Council report was ""ill-intentioned propaganda"".

Thaci was backed today by the president of Albania, on whose territory many of the crimes are alleged to have taken place. Bamir Topi said there was no ""convincing proof"" in the report.

The document, the outcome of a two-year inquiry by Dick Marty, a human rights rapporteur and member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, accuses Thaci and senior members of a KLA faction loyal to him of ordering ""assassinations, detentions, beatings and interrogations"" during and after the Kosovo war. Citing FBI, MI6 and other intelligence sources, it claims the prime minister is considered ""the boss"" of a criminal network that has exerted ""violent control"" over the heroin trade over the last decade.

The most explosive allegation was that the KLA smuggled scores of prisoners into northern Albania in the aftermath of the war, holding them captive in makeshift jails. The report said a small number of prisoners were sent to a makeshift clinic near Tirana airport, where they were killed for their kidneys.

Amnesty Internatio