A consignment of 450 kilograms of drugs has been intercepted on its way from Albania to Bari, Italy, local media reported. Other Italian media didn’t specify the source of drugs, instead reporting only that they came from the Balkans.
The vessel was stopped about 18 miles from the Italian coast and contained 418 kg of marijuana and 31 kg of hashish. The load was divided into 45 packs, each containing packs of 2, 5, and 10 kg marked with abbreviations relating to where they were produced, what drugs they were, and their destination once they reached Italy.
A 48-year-old Italian citizen was arrested by law enforcement officials from the Guardia di Finanza and the Aeronaval Operative Department and was taken to prison. The operation was a part of a mission to control the external borders of the European Union from the importation of narcotics.
Albania has been identified as both a source and a transit country for the international drug trade and has been referred to as the ‘Columbia of Europe’. Drugs including marijuana, cocaine, and heroin are being increasingly trafficked to and from the country and it serves as a base of operations for organised crime gangs working in the US, South America, Europe and the Middle East.
According to the latest State Department Report, corruption within the government and authorities in Albania facilitates an environment where drug traffickers can operate with impunity. Furthermore, convictions and imprisonments within the country are infrequent and weak border controls and customs enforcement exacerbates the issue.
The government says it is winning the war on drugs and that the production of drugs within the country is declining.
Recently, ex-Minister of the Interior Samir Tahiri got a suspended sentence for “abuse of office” yet was acquitted for his involvement in alleged drug trafficking. His replacement, Fatmir Xhafai resigned last year after it was made public that his brother was wanted in Italy for a drug trafficking conviction.
In September, the suspect in a cross-border 137kg cocaine sting managed to escape while under surveillance by the Albanian police.
Gential Malindi, the alleged ringleader of three suspects who had been tracked to Albania by the Greek police and the US Drug Enforcement Agency escaped after leaving the Port of Durres, despite being surveilled by local authorities. Despite this failure, the police referred to it as a “successful operation” while Malindi is still at large.