Millions of euros stolen from Albania's central bank

TIRANA - Seven employees of Albania's Central bank have been arrested on suspicion of stealing around 5 million euros ($6.75 million) from its reserves over the past four years, police said on Friday.

The arrests came after the bank had discovered that at least 713 million lek (5 million euros) were missing during an inventory of assets on Wednesday.

Police said all bank transfers were being investigated, including the ones involving relatives and friends of the suspects but also other employees.

Details of the alleged heist were yet to be revealed.

Local media reported that one of the suspects, Adrian Bitraj, admitted to the theft, claiming that he had spent most of the money on gambling.

Central Bank governor Adrian Fullani told reporters that the bank's financial "operations have not been affected." The bank "continues to supply the country's banking system with the necessary liquidity" after the cash shortage was revealed, he said.

"Bank of Albania has taken immediate action to repair the damage and step up security levels," Fullani said.

Erjon Brace, chairman of the parliamentary financial committee, called for a "deep reform of the organisational system and control of the central bank." "This incident has affected both the image of the bank and the nation. We want zero tolerance against all those involved," Brace said.

The Bank of Albania, in charge of the country's monetary policy and financial stability, also manages 16 private banks.