Major blow to Albanian drug trafficking network: 59 arrests across Europe

Italian and Albanian authorities have taken decisive action against a major drug trafficking network operating from both countries. With the support of Eurojust and Europol in a large-scale operation, 59 suspects were arrested on 5-6 February, including in Albania, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom, and 10 suspects were subjected to other precautionary measures in Italy. The network mainly smuggled heroin, cocaine, hashish and marijuana into Germany and Spain using cars with double bottoms or secret compartments. 

Last year, 21 suspects were arrested in a first operation against the same Albanian-led organised crime group (OCG). That operation also led to the seizure of drugs worth an estimated EUR 2.7 million. 

Initial investigations against the OCG were launched in 2019 by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) of Florence – District Antimafia Directorate. From January 2020, the Italian and Albanian authorities of the Special Anti-Corruption Structure (SPAK) in Tirana contacted Eurojust to coordinate cross-border judicial cooperation against this complex network. It operated from both Albania and Italy, transporting drugs by car to Spain and Germany, while other suspects were based in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. 

Judicial cooperation with Albania is facilitated by Eurojust, as it is one of the 11 countries outside the EU that has a Liaison Prosecutor at the Agency. At request of the Italian and Albanian authorities, Eurojust supported the creation of dedicated joint investigation teams between the PPO of Florence and SPAK and provided financial, logistic and operational support.

The Agency organised coordination meetings to prepare for today’s major action. It also set up a coordination centre to enable judicial cooperation with all national authorities involved during the action day.