Dozens arrested in trans-Balkan anti-drug operation

By bne IntelliNews July 8, 2016

Thirty people, including 14 Albanian citizens, were arrested in an international anti-drug operation conducted in Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria, while 23 others are wanted, the police in Tirana said on July 7.

One of the Albanian government's priorities is the fight against illegal narcotics. In its March 2016 report, the US State Department said that Albania remains a major source country for the production of marijuana and a transit point for shipments of cocaine and heroin on its way to European markets.

The state police announced in the statement that in cooperation with partners in Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Italy, the international operation, dubbed Balkan, which began in 2015, has been finalised.

The investigation was focused on a criminal group involved in trafficking of heroin, cocaine and marijuana, which was active in several countries in the region, 

During the investigation, the police found the suppliers of narcotics in Turkey, who through intermediaries from Turkey and Kosovo, delivered the narcotics to Kosovo, Albania and then to Greece and other European countries. A branch of this group also shipped marijuana from Albania to Macedonia, Greece and Turkey.

Among those arrested in Albania, several are businessmen involved in the construction sector. They include Jurgen Molla, co-owner of the construction firm Molla, and Nuredin Nazeraj, an owner of a luxury hotel in the coastal city of Vlore. Shyqyr Kotorri and Anesti Koromani are investors in construction projects, the police said.

According to Albanian broadcaster Oranews, police sized 26.6 kilograms of heroin during the operation.

In September 2015, Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri declared that 99.2% of cannabis grown in the country, about 690,000 plants spread over 44 hectares identified by aerial maps, had been destroyed. However, according to a report by BIRN, cannabis cultivation remains widespread.

The US and the European Union are continuing to provide help to Albania to improve its capabilities in the fight against narcotics. 

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