Albanian police are still at war with drugs. Some months ago, the The Economist defined Albania as the largest supplier of drugs in Europe, risking being called the European Colombia, due to insufficient prevention measures. During the past few weeks, a dozen people, transporting small or large quantities of cannabis, were detained and arrested. In recent incidents, Italian police have seized thousands of tons of banned substances coming from Albania. The latest operation was at the beginning of January 2017, where they seized 17 sacks of drugs, with a market value of EUR 7 million. In the same period, a truck with 200 kilos of marijuana was also seized in Igoumenica, Greece, and its transporters were chained.
Police said the truck came from Albania, having Germany as destination. On January 14, Demo Progonati, the presumed head of a trafficking group, accused of trafficking 2.4 tons of drug, was arrested. On January 15, three young men crashed their vehicle, while trying to escape the police in Shkodra city, North-Western part of Albania. They possessed 10 kilograms of hashish. A couple was arrested with 2.3 kilos of heroin, while traveling the Durres-Bari ferry line. A police officer who allowed their passage, despite having had information on their illegal drug transport, was arrested as well.
The main drug destination from Albania is Italy. Illegal substance transportation is conducted by boat, small plane, and water motorbike.
While the European Commission constantly monitors the situation regarding organized crime and drug trafficking in Albania, there are accusations and charges against the Albanian political class of drug trafficking and allegations against various politicians. During the European People’s Party Summit that was held in Maastricht in the Netherlands some months ago, Lulzim Basha, Chairman of the Democratic Party, raised as his main concern the cultivation of narcotic plants, noting that the proceeds will be used by the majority to buy votes during this year’s governmental elections. The drug business seems to involve more and more people. Albanian and foreign media have often brought in focus the fact that even women and children have been part of the process. During the last year, the Prosecution Office initiated an investigation of the murder of a teenager in Kruja city, who was suspected to have been executed on behalf of drug traffickers. Payments averaging 2000-2500 ALL (Albanian Lek), are considered high when taking into account the unemployment rate and the average salary of the country.
According to Italian newspaper “La Republica”, Albanians are involved in drug and gun trafficking, while Turkish organizations deal with illegal immigration traffic. “Albanians exclusively possess the Balkan Route to Italy. They are the masters of the Strait of Otranto. In the 50 miles separating Vlora city from Salento, nothing moves without the consent of Albanians”, stated the latest DIA report for the Italian Parliament. The fact that there are no shortages of Albanian drugs, even in winter when harvesting has ended in months, has raised major concern that drugs are produced in warehouses and other facilities, established purposely for its non-natural cultivation.