Shijak Drug Arrests Show German Police’s Influence

The police operation intended to capture a Shijak organization suspected of trafficking drugs seems to have been launched on the request and under the direct pressure of the German government. All the arrested seem to have been part of an organization led by members of the Avdyli family of Shijak, that would traffic narcotics between Albania and Germany.

It seems that the 613 kg cocaine shipment seized in February 2018 in the Durrës port as it arrived from Colombia, to be received by Arbër Çekaj, was also related to this group’s activities.

Arbër Çekaj fled Albania and went into hiding in Germany, where he was then arrested by the local police, who refused Albania’s extradition request on the grounds that he was being investigated in Germany. Trustworthy sources within the Prosecution Office told Exit that Çekaj has decided to cooperate with the German police and provided them with details and names connected to cocaine and heroin trafficking in Germany.

Following this intel, the German government put pressure on the Albanian one to arrest the members of this criminal group – four of the heads of German police, investigative services, and government briefly visited Tirana at the start of October in order to compel the Albanian government to strike one of the main criminal organizations responsible for bringing in drugs from Albania to Germany.

This pressure led to the Albanian police’s two latest operations intended to find and eliminate the heroin processing lab in Has, and to strike the Avdyli organization in Shijak.

In order to give the impression of an all-out war on crime on the part of the Albanian police, it seems that a nominal operation for the arrest if Klement Balili, who bears no relation to the Avdylajs, was also included.

However, another important fact is being held secret. The Avdyli organization is the criminal group the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office is already investigating in relation with Durrës mayor Vangjush Dako. Though the recordings were never officially published, the Prosecution Office has wiretaps of conversations between Dako and the Avdylajs regarding buying and procuring voters in exchange for public works contracts in the Durrës municipality.

This fact was publicly denounced by the Democratic Party a year ago. Dako sued them for slander, but in May 2018 the court ruled against him, after learning of the existence of this investigation.

It seems that the German’s request has come as a saving grace for the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office, who could now arrest the Avdylajs without touching Dako, thus burying the investigation into the Durrës mayor. However, this remains to be seen in the upcoming weeks.

Below, find a timeline of the events that lead to the arrest of the Avdylaj gang members, including German influence in the matter.

May 4, 2018 – Arbër Çekaj is arrested in Dusseldorf, Germany.

August 2018 – Germany refuses to extradite Arbër Çekaj, as he was under investigation for drug trafficking between Albania and Germany.

September 2018 – Arbër Çekaj agrees to cooperate with the German police to investigate criminal drug trafficker groups.

October 3, 2018 – German Parliamentary Secretary of State for the Interior, Building and Community, Stephan Mayer, visits Tirana and meets Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj. The main topic of discussion consists in exchange of information in order to fight organized criminal gangs operating in Albania and Germany.

October 8-11, 2018 – Vice President of the Federal Criminal Police Office, Peter Henzler, and high leaders of Germany’s criminal police visit Albania. They meet Minister of Interior Affairs, Fatmir Xhafaj, and high officials of the Albanian police and Prosecution Office, and signed the start of a collaborative project for joint investigations, named OCRA. During the joint press conference, Xhafaj confirms the joint German-Albanian investigations regarding drug trafficking include Arbër Çekaj:

There is a change on this aspect, it is no longer an issue of extradition, but a joint investigation.

There are several successful operations that have been carried out during this year, as well as several ongoing joint investigations, that have been discussed by the German criminal police representatives and the Albanian police, and are of an operational level.

October 17, 2018 – German Federal Police chief, Dieter Romann, visits Tirana and meets with Minister of Interior Affairs, Fatmir Xhafaj. During the joint press conference, Romann and Xhafaj announce that there would be close cooperation and information exchange related to organized crime between the countries. During the same press conference, Xhafaj declares that the police will make several important arrests in the days that follow.

October 18, 2018 – The Has police discovers a heroin and cocaine processing laboratory in Has. the police confiscates 182.5 kgs of morphine and 22 litres of liquid matter used in the production of heroin. During the operation, the police arrests at least 10 people, whose names aren’t made public.

October 21, 2018 – During an operation in Durrës and Shijak, the police arrests five members of the Avdyli family, as well as Gjevi Ndoka, and 14 other people, as part of a structured criminal group that produced and trafficked the heroin and cocaine coming out of the Has lab.

Gjevi Ndoka, also known as “Xhevi” is the brother of former MP Arben Ndoka, who was also arrested yesterday. So far, the police has stated that former MP Ndoka was arrested for “expropriation” via falsification of documentation, and his arrest is unrelated to drug trafficking.

The police also arrested former Socialist MP and former General Prison Director, Arben Çuko. According to journalist Klodiana Lala, Çuko was found, from the Avdylaj wiretaps. to be accepting bribes from inmates in exchange for leaves. According to Lala, Arben Çuko and Arben Ndoka were arrested based on the same wiretaps, even though, officially, Ndoka stands accused of “expropriation”.

Also on October 21, 2018, the Durrës police launched another operation in Durrës to arrest Lulzim Berisha, who was released from prison in 2016. Berisha’s arrest warrant, issued by the Prosecution Office, designated him as a member of the Avdylaj gang. Again, according to Lala, Berisha had been responsible for transporting the drugs from Has, via the Durrës port, to Germany, where the businessman arrested for a 613 kg shipment of cocaine, Arbër Çekaj, is also located.

October 22, 2018 – In a joint press conference of the police and the Prosecution Office, head of the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office, Donika Prela, confirmed that former MP Ndoka stands accused of expropriation. However, she chose to withhold the fact that his brother was arrested on the same day, as part of the Avdylaj gang.

Also on October 22, 2018, the police released Flamur Avdyli, without any explanations. Flamur Avdyli is known as the owner of several businesses in Durrës and Shijak, including a luxury Durrës hotel named Germany.