This country makes billions on cocaine and heroin.

Criminal clans and blood feuds, a harsh code of honor and decades of dictatorship — Albania was hardly a Paradise, despite its nature, climate and location on the Adriatic coast.

And in recent years, Albania is increasingly called the first European state, where drug cartels came to power. «" figured out how drug dealers, earning billions on marijuana, cocaine and heroin, turned the "Balkan DPRK" into "Balkan Colombia".

The armored Ford rolled down the street of the Ecuadorian city of Santiago de Guayaquil. Behind the wheel was a man, unlike a native of Latin America. In the car with him rode his wife and three year old daughter. When the car braked at the intersection, the woman half-lowered the bulletproof glass to light a cigar. At this moment the motorcycle with two unknown stopped nearby, and one of them four times shot from the gun.

The child was unharmed, as was his mother. The father of the family, Kosovar Albanian Ramsey Greuther Furth at trolli arena, was mortally wounded. The Ecuadorian police found neither the perpetrators nor the clients of the murder, but the security forces had their reasons. Six months before in the same city was killed Ilir, Hide, the other a Kosovar in 2014 got international police. He was a member of a criminal group that smuggled cocaine from Ecuador to Europe, and allegedly became an informant of the American Drug enforcement Agency after his arrest. Greuther Furth at trolli arena by a strange coincidence, was shot in Guayaquil the same apartment, which to him took, Hide.

Operations against Albanian organized crime are not new to police around the world. In addition to cooperation with Latin American cartels, Albanians operate in the United States, Australia, Britain and most European countries. Back in the 90s of the last century, Albanian criminal clans became one of the most prominent forces in the criminal world: they took control of the "Balkan route", through which up to 80 percent of heroin produced in Afghanistan reached Europe. Over the years, they managed to establish contacts with organized crime throughout the world, including the Italian mafia in new York. They have been able to infiltrate a variety of illegal businesses, including prostitution, human trafficking and smuggling of human organs, weapons and stolen vehicles. But drugs remain their top priority.

As is the case with totalitarian systems, the brutal Communist system of Enver Khoja, collapsed, buried under a country's economy. Total corruption, "wild" capitalism with financial pyramids, the war in Kosovo — all this in the 90s led the population to poverty, from which many hurried to escape. Those who remained saw another way out: the industry of banned substances. From "European North Korea" — so the past of his state was described by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers EDI Rama — Albania began to rapidly turn into "European Colombia".

The war is over, the welfare of the Albanians has grown — now Tyrant like a Mediterranean resort, which it could be: new skyscrapers and shopping centers, expensive cars and nightlife in clubs. In 2009, the country was admitted to NATO. Thanks to low taxes, foreign (mainly Italian) business is thriving. But not every European investor is ready to invest their money in the economy of Albania. After all, the growth of well-being in the "white papers" is almost absent: behind the external gloss there is huge money and long hands of drug dealers, whose influence has penetrated deep into Albanian state institutions.
To illustrate this, perhaps, one example is enough: during the police special operation in 2014, about 102 tons of marijuana intended for export were destroyed, and more than 507 thousand cannabis seedlings that did not have time to harvest. The total cost of the destroyed was estimated at 6.5 billion euros — more than 60 percent of the GDP of the Republic of Albania.

The charges were then brought against more than 1,900 people — but a couple of years later it turned out that such a large-scale operation could not seriously harm Europe's largest marijuana industry. In recent years, the number of plantations has been growing rapidly. They appear in sparsely populated areas near mountain villages, where residents have no prospects of finding higher-paying jobs.

A decent salary — up to 20 euros per day — they are guaranteed super profits from the sale of the drug: according to the "BBC", a kilogram of marijuana in Albania is 100-200 euros, and in Italy will go for fifteen hundred. These same profits help drug producers to evade responsibility: at least 20 percent of the received goes to bribes to the police. Law enforcement officers, as usual, bribed at all levels at once, and often personally immersed in the process of illegal earnings, so police raids mainly lead to the detention of performers — peasants growing plants. Their bosses manage to escape over and over again. Hundreds of police officers are involved under articles about bribes, but it doesn't help to cope with all-pervasive corruption.

Cocaine cyclone
The rotten system, unable to find and punish the leaders of organized criminal groups, has created a sense of impunity for drug lords — and it is not surprising that in the pursuit of profit they have moved from harmless marijuana to a much more expensive and dangerous drug. Since the early 2010s, the Albanian mafia has become a major player in the European cocaine market. To do this, the Albanians have established links with producers in Latin America. Their goods in large quantities flowed to the Albanian intermediaries in the ports of Belgium and Holland, and in the Republic itself. In 2018, the police confiscated in the port of Durres a batch of bananas from Colombia, where 613 kilograms of cocaine were hidden. Such a large catch is a rare success for local drug police: even with the help of foreign colleagues, they manage to intercept, according to various estimates, from 5 to 10 percent of the supply of banned substances.

The first Albanians — those who were at the origin of the current drug trade — arrived in Germany, Italy and Greece as refugees fleeing the war. Now drug couriers enjoy the privilege of visa-free entry to the EU received in 2010. As told The Independent the former Albanian strongman Jemal Gjunkshi, criminals use not only to inflatable boats with motors, but small planes, aviette: according to him, every day in Italy secret routes flies to 10 loaded with drugs "maize". Having entered the cocaine market only a few years ago, the Albanians have changed the rules of the global game on it. According to VICE, thanks to the Albanians in most European countries, the drug has become more affordable and cleaner in recent years.

In a large family
The flow of banned substances through Albania would not have been so powerful without what any — not only illegal — business is built on. Local criminal clans have strong and extensive ties. Among themselves Albanian criminal families connects Eve — a set of laws written in the XV century. The Communists tried to get rid of it, as well as religion, but the vast majority of the population quickly returned to the mosque and continued to live by the ancient and strict rules. They firmly established the powerlessness of women, and the principle of "an eye for an eye" is at the forefront: retribution is the sacred duty of the Albanian Highlander. Following the principles of the Eve, the Albanians are drawn into a long history of blood feud, sometimes feuding because of the strife of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

Despite the common values, the Albanian mafia is not a single structure, but a complex of several dozen organizations. There are two large opposing branches: Albanian and Kosovo. From the very beginning, both had ties to Italian Mafiosi — so strong that one of the Kosovo groups even declared itself part of the "Sacra Crown of UNITA", an Italian conglomerate of about 50 mafia clans, and was called "Sacra Crown of Kosovar". Cooperation with Italians in drug trafficking has helped Albanians to channel drug money to Finance what they thought was the right thing to do. From 1996 to 1999, the Kosovo liberation Army, in whose ranks Islamists from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan fought, received about $ 250 million from drug traffickers. Tentacles of criminal contacts of natives of Albania stretched across the Atlantic: in the US they launder money Gambino, one of the famous "five families" of new York, and build partnerships with the "Angels of Hell" — biker group involved in drug trafficking. They always take cocaine from Latin American cartels for international deals.

Brothers in corruption
With colleagues from overseas drug States Albanian bandits have in common not only a profession: in both cases, the success of their activities depends on how well-established ties with the authorities of the groups of the country.And with this, local criminals are even better than in Latin America: the government is involved in illegal business at the highest levels. Thus, the current President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, was accused of having earned more than 4 million Deutsche marks on the smuggling of drugs, weapons and human organs. It was not possible to confirm the charges, and Tachi is still in charge of the state.

Officials on the other side of the border with the self-proclaimed Republic also do not disdain dirty money. Saimir Tahiri, who headed the Albanian interior Ministry from 2013 to 2017, was convicted of links with a group that transported marijuana and weapons to Italy. After the start of the investigation, he resigned, and became a Minister Fatmir GAFI, which two months later had to resign — his half-brother Agron received a 7 year jail term for drug smuggling. His direct connection with the Affairs of his brother, however, is not proved.Another scandal was the verdict of Hermal Hodge — the grandson of the dictator-Communist turned out to be an accomplice in the case of smuggling 120 kilograms of cocaine.

Drug Lord socialist
But perhaps best of all, the depth of the criminal ties of the Albanian state is illustrated by the example of Clement Balili, who is called "Albanian Escobar". He became rich in the 90s — according to the official version, thanks to the business in the field of transport, entertainment and security. His real business began to surface only in recent years.

Over the past ten years, Balili has built a network of luxury hotels on the Adriatic coast. In 2014, he became Director of the regional transport Department of Saranda, a resort town known as one of the country's major drug ports. He was seen at parties with major officials, on a yacht at the Deputy head of the Albanian police, the ribbon at the opening of his next hotel was cut personally by the President of Albania Ilir Meta, and the party "Socialist movement for integration" repeatedly thanked him for his generous donations.

Greek police for many years knew that the tycoon — not a harmless businessman, and the head of the international drug Empire with a turnover of a billion dollars.

 In 2016, Greek law enforcement officers with the support of the American drug enforcement Administration (DEA) detained 12 members of his gang with a batch of marijuana weighing 700 kilograms. Evidence of his involvement was found enough: a warrant was issued for the arrest of Balili, but the Albanian police did not accept him, citing the fact that they do not know where the entrepreneur is.

Over the next few years, the untouchable drug Lord rode freely through the streets of the country, and the security forces again and again stated that they could not find him. Only in January 2019, after this situation repeatedly angered the American Ambassador and other representatives of the world community, Balili was in court. However, like Pablo Escobar in his time, he surrendered to the authorities on his own terms: the plans to turn himself in to the interior Ministry warned his lawyers. Despite the fact that the Albanian authorities have filed his arrest as a serious step in the fight against drug dealers, the naked eye can see how the court really wanted to achieve justice. The billionaire was not extradited to Greece — then the amendments to the Albanian Constitution adopted last year played into the hands. Moreover, the judges agreed to the defence proposal and conducted a shortened trial. As a result, Balili said very little about his connections with the highest state officials and received 10 years in prison, after which his lawyers immediately filed an appeal. It is not clear how his case will end — but Albania has already seen examples of how large criminals were cleared of charges and convictions.

Drug policy in Albanian
Before his arrest, Clement Balili was actively reaching for power. The friendly socialist party even made his nephew mayor of Delvina, a small town in the South of the country. It would be strange if he did not try to take control of state institutions — after all, so do all his competitors. "We have incredible structural problems-corruption, — said Rudin Hajdari, the leader of the parliamentary opposition — "money dictates all decisions in our country, and this money goes from the drug cartels — as individual politicians and all political parties»

Her words are probably true. Studies funded by the European Union have shown that cocaine money is involved in elections across the country so much that the real influence of gangs is much more important than the influence of parties. According to researchers, in Albania it is almost impossible to successfully engage in politics without dealing with organized crime. In 2019, it turned out that more than one in five citizens of the country was offered money or services in exchange for a vote for a certain candidate.

The people and the President, against all drug dealers
This state of Affairs order tired of the population, already 10 years waiting for accession to the EU. A survey conducted by the Gallup Institute in 2018 showed that the percentage of citizens who dream of emigration in Albania is one of the highest in the world — more than the Albanians, their country dream to leave only the inhabitants of Haiti, Liberia and Sierra Leone. According to a 2019 survey, 85 percent of young people in the Republic are dissatisfied with the government's actions.
In the spring of this year, the situation escalated to the limit: the opposition left the Parliament and entered into a tough confrontation with Prime Minister Rama, who six years ago took office, promising to overcome corruption and drug trafficking. In may, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets: they threw bottles and stones at police officers, burned fires and even threw Molotov cocktails at the Prime Minister's office. The main demand of the demonstrators is the resignation of the government and re-elections. Rama and the ruling party did not meet the opposition and its supporters, for which the opposition media began to threaten the authorities with civil war. The President of the Republic, Ilir Meta, who previously headed the "Socialist movement for integration", tried to take a step towards reconciliation: he proposed to cancel the next municipal elections. The Parliament, in response, adopted a resolution, where the decision of the President was recognized unconstitutional and exceeding his authority, and June 30, elections were held.They were boycotted by all supporters of the opposition, accusing the Prime Minister's party of returning the country to the Communist past — in the end, the turnout was 21.6 percent, and in most areas the ruling socialists won a landslide victory. The Prime Minister called this result "a victory for European Albania".

The victory may be Pyrrhic: in autumn the European Union will decide the fate of Albania. Ten years ago, the country was full of hope to join the bloc — and now the European Commission is thinking about how to even take away from the Albanians visa-free entry into the EU: the Old World, apparently, is not ready to put up with Colombia in the center of Europe.

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