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Albanian organized crime gangs are taking increasing control over Europe’s profitable narcotics markets

By David Amoruso

Albanian gangsters have established a high-profile influence within the underworld in Great Britain, controlling much of the country’s drug trafficking market, particularly cocaine, according to a new report by the National Crime Agency. Albanian organized crime gangs have also upped their presence in the Netherlands, Europe’s Mecca for dope and narcos.

The National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime by Britain’s National Crime Agency doesn’t beat around the bush. Looking at the past year, its investigators have made some interesting conclusions. Especially concerning the sale and abuse of narcotics that shows yet again how the war on drugs has failed miserably.

Demand for all common types of drugs remains high in the United Kingdom, offering huge profits for those who control routes across the country’s borders and up into its northern cities.

Even away from the pubs and city lights the party doesn’t stop. Authorities are seeing an increasing use of synthetic cannabinoids - sometimes referred to by their trade names Spice and Black Mamba - in prisons in England and Wales over the last five years.

Spice is one variation of psychoactive substance, produced by spraying a synthetic cannabinoid solution onto inert plant materials. Though often advertised as an alternative form of natural cannabis, Spice is often significantly stronger with effects more similar to hallucinogens and sedatives than cannabis. Synthetic cannabinoids are commonly imported into the UK from China as a herbal substance but more recently are available as a liquid spray allowing the liquid to be sprayed onto paper which can then be concealed and taken into prisons in much the same way as LSD.

COCAINE IS A HELL OF A DRUG

Still, the big money remains in heroin and, especially, cocaine. The total volume of cocaine seized worldwide during 2016 is at an all-time high, the report notes. Between 2013 and 2015, Colombia experienced the two largest single year coca cultivation increases ever recorded. These almost doubled the country’s coca cultivation to the highest levels since 2007. It is estimated that 560 metric tons of cocaine is available for international distribution. Colombia has now regained its place as the world’s largest coca producer, and produces more than second-placed Peru and third-placed Bolivia combined.

This increase in production leads to higher volumes of cocaine being shipped to the United Kingdom, either directly or via a European hub. The quality of the drugs is also getting better. More and more higher purity cocaine is being seen at street level, with seizures at 80-90% purity being sighted across the country. These batches are often sold at premium prices per gram.

Investigators note the large involvement of organized crime groups from countries along the Balkan route – Albania, Serbia, and Turkey – forming direct relationships with cocaine suppliers in Latin America.

THE ALBANIANS HAVE ARRIVED

The threat faced from Albanian crime groups is significant. London is their primary hub, but they are established across the United Kingdom. Crime gangs from Albania have established a high-profile influence within the British underworld, the report states, and have considerable control across the country’s drug trafficking market, particularly cocaine. They are also expanding their influence upstream.

Across the sea, in the Netherlands, authorities are also seeing an increasing presence of Albanian organized crime gangs. Police in Amsterdam began investigating a bunch of Albanian drug traffickers who were living in luxury apartments throughout the city without ever showing up on any official property registration papers. With rent at these residences exceeding €2,000 euros per month, investigators were very interested how these men were able to come up with such a large sum of cash every month.

Several raids and busts later, they knew.

Police found guns, hundreds of kilograms of high purity cocaine, sometimes heroin and hashish, machines used for packaging drugs, stolen merchandise, and millions of euros in cash. These high-class apartments were used as nothing more than just another office in the lucrative world of narcotics.

And as always, everything is connected.

In May of 2016, a Dutch court sentenced 32-year-old Albanian national Aleksandr K. to one year in prison for laundering money made from selling drugs. Back in Albania, he used to be a member of the Republican Garde and worked security for the nation’s parliament.

He was apprehended after a tip from investigators in the United Kingdom and is suspected of smuggling drugs into Britain and then laundering its proceeds in the Netherlands. In tapped phone calls, Aleksandr K. was overheard using coded language, talking about “a turkey” and “white telephones.”

With bases of operations in major hubs like Amsterdam and London and direct links to Latin American drug suppliers, the Albanian crime gangs have firmly entrenched themselves in Europe’s narcotics markets.

Whether they will hold on to, or even expand their business is up to authorities. Now that they have placed them in the spotlight, it’s time for the final act in the life of a successful drug baron: The Downfall.

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