Law enforcers in Albania and Italy have arrested 37 members of an organised criminal group that trafficked large quantities of illegal drugs, said the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) that supported on the operation on June 30.
Albania has been struggling for years to prevent both local cultivation of drugs – the Albanian village of Lazarat was known until a 2014 police raid as Europe’s “marijuana mountain” – and trafficking to Western Europe via its territory. Progress in the war on drugs as well as against other forms of crime and corruption was essential for Tirana to progress towards EU accession.
Eurojust describes the group as a “powerful criminal organisation” that was trafficking drugs from Albania to Italy using leisure boats, then on mainly to the Bari, Puglia and Basilicata regions.
3.5 tonnes of marijuana, cocaine and hashish with an estimated street value of over €40mn were seized in the joint operation as well as other assets in Albania – including a coffee factory, a food business, 15 apartments and seven cars – worth a further €4mn.
“This outstanding investigative result with simultaneous execution of this cross-border operation was made possible thanks to the Joint Investigation Team between the Albanian and Italian authorities, whose agreement represents a model for the co-operation between Albanian and EU judicial authorities,” said Eurojust on June 30.
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