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EXCLUSIVE: One of Albania's most wanted 'killers' is caged in UK after nearly 23 years o

ONE of Albania's most wanted convicted killers has finally been caged after nearly 23 years on the run in the UK.

Hektor Mahmutaj, 44, was one of Albania's top-ten most wanted fugitives after fleeing to England following the murder of a farmer in July 1997. His extradition was ordered by former Home Secretary Sajid Javid in early 2019. However, Mahmutaj had absconded before the decision was reached after he was given conditional bail by District Judge Samuel Goozee at Westminster Magistrates' Court during the proceedings, despite having a string of offences in the UK, including possession of a firearm. He was arrested last week and jailed for 12 weeks for absconding before he will be extradited to Albania. Mahmutaj smuggled himself into the UK in a lorry in December 1997, before living here under 13 aliases to avoid detection.

SLIMLINE: Mahmutaj when he was arrested in the UK in 2006

According to a European Arrest Warrant, he shot farmer Gentjan Jahaj in July 1997 from a car in Bejar village, in his home country, and was convicted in his absence in April 2000 to a 25 year prison term. He was not arrested until December 2006 and later convicted and jailed for two-and-a-half years for firearm offences in the UK, but an extradition application from Albania was denied the following year on technical grounds about not being guaranteed a retrial when he returned. Albanian police reissued the warrant ten years later after a change in its law concerning retrials.

WANTED: An Albanian police image of Mahmutaj from the late 1990s

Mahmutaj has now claimed any potential extradition would infringe his human rights. He was arrested again in January 2018, and fought against extradition, claiming it would breach his human rights. This was rejected and he will now face a retrial for the murder once extradited. A Home Office spokesman said: "Hektor Mahmutaj was arrested on 23 March 2020 in relation to an extradition request from Albania and breach of bail. He is currently serving a 12 week sentence for failing to surrender."

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