38 Albanians arrested in Italian-led drug trafficking probe

International

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Some 38 Albanian nationals including a prosecutor, a government department head and three senior police officers have been arrested for drug trafficking, corruption, abuse of post and money laundering, Albanian authorities said on Friday.

Albania’s Special Structure Against Corruption and Organized Crime, or SPAK, said that the two-year, Italian-led probe showed that the suspects who operated in Albania, Italy, Montenegro and Spain were part of four international criminal groups mainly involved in drug trafficking.

Twenty-eight of the suspects – including two bodyguards who worked for a former Albanian interior minister – were arrested in Albania.

Since 2016, police in those countries seized some 6 metric tons of cannabis, cocaine and other drugs estimated at 55 million Euros ($65 million).

“The public officials, in some cases themselves the owners of the drugs, had guaranteed that the narcotics destined for the (Italian region of) Puglia would arrive there securely either by land or sea,” said the statement.

Authorities would confiscate millions of euros worth of the suspects’ assets including apartments, plots of land, restaurants, and other businesses.

Albania was once a major European producer of marijuana and a crossroads for its smuggling. A government crackdown seven years ago led to a significant reduction in the number of cannabis plantations, but regular seizures indicate traffickers are still seeking alternative places to grow or store marijuana and have become part of international rings of other hard drugs.

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