ONE of Albania's most wanted convicted killers has finally been extradited back to his native country after nearly 23 years on the run in the UK.
Hektor Mahmutaj, 44, (pictured above) who was living at Twickenham Drive, Wirral, 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 re-arrested in the UK in April and jailed for 12 weeks for absconding.
His extradition, like hundreds of others, has been held up by coronavirus travel restrictions, meaning he and several other fugitives had to be held in prison in the UK until flights could be arranged.
Westminster Magistrates' Court, which handles all extradition cases in England and Wales, has to hold several hearings each day to extend the extradition date of these fugitives due to the pandemic.
CASE CLOSED: Mahmutaj in a police image taken in the UK from around 2007
At a hearing on Wednesday, he tried to have his extradition discharged again, but the court refused this, meaning he had to go.
Albania media reports revealed today he is finally back in the country to face a retrial for a charge of the murder of farmer Gentjan Jahaj.
In May Westminster Magistrates' Court confiscated a £10,000 surety that Mahmutaj had paid as a bond due to his absconding.
Mahmutaj smuggled himself into the UK in a lorry in December 1997, before living here under 13 aliases to avoid detection.
According to a European Arrest Warrant, he shot Mr 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, but during the extraditions proceedings Albania assured the court he would get a retrial.
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 wanted image of Mahmutaj after he fled in the 1990s
Mahmutaj had claimed the 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.
Another alleged violent Albanian fugitive extradited back to Albania from the UK this week was Ronaldo Kolndreu.
The 20-year-old, whose address was not known by the court, did not fight extradition and on June 4 consented to to taken back in custody.
However, this was also held up by the coronavirus pandemic.
He is now back in Albania, according to a Albanian media.
Kolndreu will now face 15 years in prison that he was convicted for for the attempted murder of Sadik Alban Batalli on Jordan Misja Street, in Tirana, in Albania, two years ago on August 1 2018.