The Kosovo Connection

Information on Kosovo and the Heroin Trade

From Media Awareness Project:

Source: Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden)
Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jun 1998
Author: Elisabet Andresson
Comment: Translated from Swedish


Heroin is one of the most feared drugs: the mortality among heroin users is many times higher than among other drug users.

This year police and customs officials have uncovered record-breaking quantities of heroin in Sweden;among other reasons thanks to stepped up cooperation with the police in the former states of East Europe. About 65 kilograms of heroin have been seized in Sweden this year. That can be compared with 14 kilograms for all of 1997. “In all likelihood, cooperation with the Czech Republic and Slovakia has meant a lot,” said Lennart Davidsson, the National Criminal Police Force”s expert on heroin smuggling from the Balkans.

Today the Czech Republic and Slovakia are the main countries for heroin smugglers.

Traffic that previously went via the Netherlands and Belgium, among other places, has moved eastwards. “Many criminals have discovered that the east is a good area to work in since the monitoring system is not as developed there,” said Steve Alm, an expert on narcotics and narcotic preparations at the National Criminal Police Force. The heroin generally comes to Europe via Turkey and is then smuggled through the former Yugoslavia. Stashes are often uncovered in the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary, and from there the heroin is moved out into Europe. “Just in terms of investigations, we are quite clear about how it is organized,” said Thomas Servin, the chief of the drug-related and violence unit at the Skåne county criminal police force.

According to the police, it is mainly Kosovo Albanian rings that organize heroin smuggling into the Nordic area. With their low prices; and lower demands for profits; they have pushed other groups out of competition from portions of the European market. They have been successful, among other reasons, thanks to traditional ties to Turkey and a powerful network across Europe. “Between 80 and 90 percent of what has been seized in Sweden this year can be linked to Kosovo Albanian rings,” Davidsson said.

The rings often recruit unemployed young men from, for example, Germany and the Czech Republic as couriers.

They look for men who look blonde and Nordic. The couriers then usually move the heroin in an EU-registered car to the Swedish border.

The smuggling often occurs via Germany and Denmark; that is, EU countries, which means that customs authorities only get to do spot checks if they are suspicious. According to the police, it is Kosovo Albanians who to a large extent also receive the heroin in Sweden and send it onwards to sellers. “A minority of Kosovo Albanians in Sweden are engaged in it. These are men who do not see other alternatives if they want to earn money,” Davidsson said. Currently several major heroin investigations are under way. But even if the police often say they know a lot about how the smuggling is organized, it can be difficult to get evidence in cases.

Often it is only the courier who is caught.

In 1996, though, three Kosovo Albanians who lived in Landskrona and Malmö were sentenced for having organized heroin smuggling to Sweden and thence to Norway.

A problem for the police and prosecutors is that the couriers are almost always loyal to their employers.

However one Czech courier, who was caught last year with one kilogram of heroin in Trelleborg, helped police get on the trail of Kosovo Albanian employers in Central Europe. Another problem is that within the rings too there is strong loyalty, which means that very little information slips out. “This involves very tight family-based organizations. Very rarely is there the internal dissension that you see in other, looser confederations,” Alm said.

No one knows whether this year’s record-breaking seizures of heroin are due just to the fact that police and customs authorities have become more efficient or whether they also indicate that the smuggling has intensified. Yet there are indications that demand for heroin has increased in Sweden. “Here in Skåne we have see how many drug users are starting directly with heroin; previously most of them took the long route and might have started with hashish,” Servin said. A drug user who buys heroin on the street frequently pays around 2,000 kronor per gram. That means that the seizures that have been made thus far this year would be worth 130 million kronor.

Checked-by: (Joel W. Johnson)

From a 2001 article:

Heroin and Sex Trade Fuel Albanian Nationalism

By Jamie Dettmer

Two summers on and Kosovar Albanians remain a problem along the lines this magazine outlined when it cautioned against the U.S.-led NATO intervention in the Balkans.

While holding no brief for Serbia’s thug in chief, Slobodan Milosevic, now in The Hague preparing for a deserved comeuppance, Insight warned there would be no closure and that the circumstances would be set for a destabilizing rise in demands for the establishment of a greater Albania that would lead to turmoil in neighboring Macedonia and possibly later threaten NATO ally Greece.

Furthermore, there was ample evidence available on the ties of militant Kosovar Albanians to organized crime and how intertwined the Albanian mafia was — and still is — with the so-called national liberation struggle. U.S. sources dealing firsthand with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) reported their anxieties to their superiors on that score. They told Insight that intelligence detailing KLA links with heroin trafficking and syndicated prostitution were neglected at the time.

The intelligence so completely was ignored in fact that, to the horror of State Department officials, U.S. Army generals argued after the Serb withdrawal from Kosovo that the policing of the province should be handed over to the KLA — lock, stock and barrel — eliciting from one exasperated civilian the comment: “Yup, that’s great. Let’s put the criminals in charge of law enforcement.”

Now, as predicted, NATO and Interpol are struggling with the twin challenges posed by the militant Albanian nationalist movement. The designs on Macedonia have received considerable media coverage following the outbreak of fighting there and NATO’s efforts to broker a cease-fire. The organized-crime dimension has attracted less U.S. press attention, despite the fact that it involves enslavement and exploitation of thousands of young, vulnerable Balkan women.

According to a recent internal British-government briefing, Albanians or Kosovars now control more than two-thirds of the “massage parlors” in London. That estimate fits with another study completed last year by Britain’s National Criminal Intelligence Service. It noted a long-term threat from organized Albanian gangs, many linked with the KLA, that run prostitution and sex-trafficking rackets across Western Europe.

With law enforcement weak in the Balkans, more-open European borders and dire poverty afflicting the former Yugoslavia, the gangs are having a profitable time. In some cases women simply are abducted and pressed into carnal service, although the majority are lured overseas with the promise of jobs, only to find themselves starved, beaten and raped if they object to doing what they’re told. London isn’t the only European capital to have witnessed an astonishing rise in Albanian-run sexual-slavery rackets — police in Rome, Milan, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Athens and Stockholm, all cities with large Albanian emigre populations, also have reported an upsurge.

Italian authorities estimate that more than 8,000 Albanian girls are working as prostitutes in Italy and that nearly one-third of them are younger than age 18. Some sources maintain the Albanians have taken the prostitution racket in the north of the country away from one of Italy’s toughest Mafia groups, “Ndrangheta.”

According to leading French criminologist Xavier Raufer, there is no difference between Albanian militant groups and the Albanian mafia — they are the same he insists, arguing that conflict in the Balkans assists the Albanian mafia’s criminal activities that, in turn, provide funds for the liberation struggle. The two feed on each other.

“There’s no such thing as rebels and militias on the one hand and the Albanian mafia on the other. In the Albanian world — in Albania and Kosovo and in the Albanian-populated part of Macedonia — you have clans, and in those clans you have a mix of young men fighting for the cause of national liberation, young men belonging to the mafia, young men driving their cousins or other girls from the village into prostitution. The guys are liberation fighters by day and sell heroin by night or vice versa,” Raufer says.

According to Italian prosecutor Catal do Motta, the Albanian mafia is especially violent. “We know how to fight against our own Mafia, but now we have a new one — and it is a foreign culture we don’t understand.” He echoes counterparts in other Western European states who are facing a similar challenge, one that’s already beginning to show up in the United States.

On the sexual-slavery side, while European police voice growing concern, policymakers appear less ready to combat the problem — maybe because to do so could well provoke public disaffection with NATO’s continued presence in Kosovo.

In many cases national-immigration laws play into the hands of the sex traffickers. The few prostitutes ready to come forward and bear witness against their exploiters tend to be deported before a prosecution can be mounted while the pimps and ringleaders remain virtually immune. Threats of reprisals against sex slaves’ families back in the Balkans also militate against a determination to seek revenge on their oppressors. Until international cooperation is orchestrated to stop it, the Albanian-run slave trade will likely, and sadly, continue unabated.

From the Serbian Network:

Now that NATO has been triumphant, trade in the Balkans can again flourish. The heroin trade, that is. It was tricky there for a while. While the Serbs were fighting grimly to save their country from disintegration, their opponents, the KLA, were fighting to save a $400 billion a year heroin business. By wiping out KLA strongholds in Kosovo. Slobodan Milosevic had inadvertently also wiped out the heroin supply network that links Central Asia to Europe.

The KLA has always been the armed wing of this Albanian Mafia. Its humiliating defeat at the hands of the Serbs was rather embarrassing for the United States. It was bad enough that the KLA was so lousy at fighting. Despite their sophisticated weaponry they could not stop 40,000 Serb regular and paramilitary forces from throwing out, in a matter, of a few weeks, 800,000 Albanians. But at least they could pay for their weapons.

Without the heroin money, however, they would no longer even be able to do that. NATO had to intervene. It could not allow such a lucrative business to slip through its fingers.

The rise of the Albanian Mafia has been one of the most extraordinary phenomena of the last 10 years. For decades, the bizarre dictatorship of Enver Hoxha had isolated Albanians from the rest of the, world. The demise of Communism, however, had the effect of releasing the nation’s pent-up criminal energy. Every kind of criminal scheme began to flourish. There were phony land deals, pyramid schemes and drug trafficking. Young women were transported to Italy to work as prostitutes. Children were sold to earn their keep as beggars in European cities.

And, of course, there was the lucrative ferrying of illegal immigrants across the Adriatic. Privatized state enterprises became front companies for laundering money. Albania became the paradigm of the post-Communist state in which former apparatchiki team up with the local Mafia to loot the people of their assets. The Kosovar Albanians dominated much of this criminal activity. In part, this was because they were from sophisticated, cosmopolitan Yugoslavia that had allowed its citizens the freedom to travel. In part, also, because they were already thoroughly experienced in heroin trafficking from the days when the Balkan Route for narcotics went through Yugoslavia.

The Balkan Route starts at the poppy fields of Pakistan and Central Asia, goes through Turkey and ends up in Western Europe. Yugoslavia’s collapse into civil war in the early 1990s meant that heroin traders needed to find a more secure route. The heroin now went through Albania. Using the overland route drugs travel from Turkey to Greece and then to Macedonia. Albanians then transport the drugs by truck to the ports of Vlore and Durres [in Albania]. From there it is ferried by small craft either north toward the Dalmatian coast [Croatia] or across the Adriatic to Italy. Then it is taken to Germany and Switzerland.

The vast Albania Diaspora ensures easy distribution. Albanians who crossed the border into Kosovo could get Yugoslav passports. This enabled them to travel anywhere in Europe, where they could demand political asylum as refugees from Milosevic.

The Albanian Mafia is thought to control upwards of 70 percent of the illegal heroin market in Germany and Switzerland. More than 800 Albanian nationals are currently serving prison terms in Germany for heroin trafficking. The respected Jane’s Intelligence Review recently reported: “Albania has become the crime capital of Europe. The most powerful groups in the country are organized criminals who use Albania to grow, process, and store a large percentage of the illegal drugs destined for Western Europe… Albanian criminal gangs are actively supporting the war in Kosovo.”

According to Germany’s Federal Criminal Agency: “Ethnic Albanians are now the most prominent group in the distribution of heroin in Western consumer countries.” The Albanian Mafia resembles the Sicilian Mafia in many ways. It is clan-based, driven by blood feuds that go on for generations, and has a definite geographic base from which it controls the Diaspora.

In no time the Albanians displaced the Turks in the heroin business. Armenians and Georgians who supply the raw opium base prefer doing business with Albanians than with Turks. Moreover, Kosovar Albanians who dominate the Albanian Mafia used the proceeds of the heroin sales to buy arms for the anti-Serb guerrilla war in Kosovo. Here the Central Asians can be very helpful. Raiding armories and selling weapons is a multibillion-dollar enterprise in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

In 1997 Interpol declared that Kosovo Albanians hold the largest share of the heroin market in Switzerland, in Austria, in Belgium, in Germany, in Hungary, in the Czech Republic, in Norway and in Sweden. Thanks in part to NATO, the Balkans will soon come to resemble places like Colombia, where drug traffickers are so powerful that they effectively control the state. Politicians, political parties, provincial governments and security authorities are in the pocket of drug lords. This is pretty much already the case in Albania and Macedonia. It will be like that in Kosovo soon. “The economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles,” as the Rambouillet accords put it.

For the United States the establishment of a KLA state in Kosovo is a happy outcome. The KLA really does believe in the free market economy. What it understands by this is the opportunity to loot and pillage a people, so successfully accomplished in neighboring Albania. The securing of the Balkans Route means that the KLA will always be flush with money. With this it can take over the economy of Macedonia and Montenegro and also finance all kinds of prostitution and child slavery rackets in Europe. It will always be able to pay for its weapons should it decide to restart its war against Yugoslavia.

From American Council For Kosovo:

Kosovo Albanian mafia takes over world drug market — Serbian daily
Source: BBC Monitoring Service — United Kingdom
Text of report in English by Belgrade-based Radio B92 text website on 28 August
Monday, 28 August 2006

Belgrade, 28 August: According to [Belgrade-based] daily Blic, any drugs, in any amount, can be ordered from Albanian dealers in Kosovo. Citing sources from within the Serbian Internal Affairs Minister, Blic writes that the common practice in these drug transactions is to have one person from the group which ordered the drugs stay with the group that is supplying the drugs until the transaction is completed. “In bootlegging a professional driver that does not know what kind of risks he is getting into is usually hired. He is told that he must transport some products and is paid by the job and that is where it ends for him,” the daily’s sources claim. “However, the main job is done by someone who is always observing and is involved in the narcotics web, someone who known who the drugs are being sent to and who will take the money,” the unnamed source said. Such was the scenario last Monday [21 August], when two Albanians, a driver and a passenger with 45 kilograms of heroin hidden in the truck’s spare tire, started their trip from Presevo to Italy. The truck crossed the Serbian and Croatian borders easily and was not uncovered until reaching the Slovenia-Italy border, at which point the trailer, which was otherwise completely empty, was searched after being deemed suspicious. This was the largest drug confiscation action this year in Slovenia. The driver and the passenger remain the authorities’ main link in the investigation of the supply-and-demand chain of drug smuggling within the Balkans. The Blic source said that the Albanian mafia and drug dealers, according to FBI statistics, are the leading suppliers on the world market, passing the Colombian cartel, the Italian mafia, Japanese Yakuza and the Chinese Triad. “The centres of narcotics distribution are Pristina, Pec and Prizren, and marijuana, heroin, hashish, cocaine and other drugs arrive to Kosovo from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, through Albania and Macedonia. Forty per cent of heroin in the US and Europe comes from Kosovo, and five tons of the drug arrive to the western European market every month,” the source claims. An increasing in heroin production in Afghanistan has also helped the Albanian drug mafia over the past several months. Serbia is located right in the middle of the so-called Balkan route, through which drugs from Bulgaria are smuggled towards Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Austria. Such a position enables Serbian dealers to have an active role in getting drugs from Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as from Kosovo Albanians. The drugs arrive from Veliki Trnovac, Presevo and Bujanovac, while the main Serbian drug dealers are located in Novi Pazar. “A portion of the drugs remains here, while the majority is transferred to West Europe, through tested links between Serbs who live there or businesspeople who are secure in their dealings. Serbs have in that way taken over a majority of drug dealings in Slovenia and control the heroin market in Denmark. The strings are being pulled by a Serb in Slovenia, who is one of the most influential drug dealers who has ties that reach as far as the Columbian cartel, while the ties in Denmark stem from the time of the Zemun Clan. The Serbian police has confiscated 233 kilograms of heroin this year and has cut off nine smuggling channels,” Blic’s source states. Source: Radio B92 text website, Belgrade, in English 0936 gmt 28 Aug 06