Massive Drug Network Dismantled from Albania to Germany

Authorities arrested 59 people in Albania, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom in an operation conducted on Monday and Tuesday against a criminal network involved in drug smuggling.

Europol Albania ArrestsFebruary 5 and 6 operation Muratore targeted drug smugglers across Europe. (Photo: Europol/Youtube/screenshot, License)“The network mainly smuggled heroin, cocaine, hashish and marijuana into Germany and Spain using cars with double bottoms or secret compartments,” the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, Europol, said in a statement.

It was also noted that an additional 10 suspects in Italy were subjected to alternative precautionary measures.

Europol, in coordination with the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, Eurojust, highlighted that last year 21 suspects were arrested in the initial operation targeting “the same Albanian-led organized crime group.” That operation resulted in the seizure of drugs valued at approximately 2.7 million euros (US$2.9 million).

The Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) of Florence, through its District Antimafia Directorate, initiated the operation in 2019, according to the statement.

Starting from January 2020, the Italian and Albanian authorities from the Special Anti-Corruption Structure (SPAK) in Tirana reached out to Eurojust to coordinate cross-border judicial cooperation against this intricate network, which operated from both Albania and Italy, primarily trafficking drugs by car to Spain and Germany, while other suspects were located in the Netherlands and the U.K.

Based on information from the Albanian State Police, the criminal network smuggled drugs either from Albania or the Netherlands into Italy, where they were distributed for sale in various Italian provinces and, subsequently, in Germany.

The network, a blend of Italian and Albanian cohorts, operated through four sophisticated criminal structures, strategically stationed in Italy’s Tuscany, Albania, and the Netherlands.

Their scheme was not just about smuggling; they had established operational hubs in Florence and Bologna, complete with secret warehouses and workshops, all tailored to serve their criminal agenda, according to Albanian police.

Eurojust, according to the statement, convened coordination meetings in preparation for the major operation, codenamed Muratore, on February 5 and 6. Furthermore, it established a coordination center to facilitate judicial cooperation with all relevant national authorities throughout the operation.

Europol has also been actively involved in supporting the case since 2020, offering extensive analytical support and expertise on Albanian organized crime. This assistance has facilitated the identification of key targets and the mapping of their criminal activities across Europe.