ReportageHeroin trade joins terrorists, organised crime figures, experts sayOrganised criminals and terrorist organisations are profiting from the heroin trade route in the region.
Police co-operation breaks major drug-trafficking network 04/11/2013
A four-year police investigation comes to an end, bringing more than 70 arrests on drug charges.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 04/11/13
Kosovo police conducted three searches for suspects and drugs as part of an international police operation. [AFP]
Police and prosecutors from Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Italy concluded a four-year operation recently with the arrests of seven suspects in Albania and two in Italy on charges of drug trafficking and other related crimes, bringing the total number of arrests in the investigation to 71.
Police seized 600 kilograms of heroin and 500 kilograms of marijuana in the 117 searches conducted during the operation.
"The operation focused on a Kosovo/Albanian organised crime group who were involved in trafficking large quantities of heroin from Albania to Italy, via Kosovo and BiH," Europol said in a statement.
Europol said the operation was part of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) for the Western Balkans that seeks to promote international teamwork to bring down organised crime groups threatening EU security.
Europol said organised crime networks that traffic heroin from Afghanistan to EU countries threaten security by turning the EU into a drug destination.
Experts said police co-operation throughout the investigation resulted in securing the evidence needed to prosecute the Kosovo criminal network's activities.
"Under conditions of organised crime turning regional it is necessary to regionalise and internationalise the fight against it," Xhavit Shala, professor at Luarasi University in Tirana, Albania, told SETimes.
BiH police said there is a need to continue the EMPACT approach particularly because organised crime groups increasingly co-operate themselves.
"This action is one more proof that police agencies in the region co-operate well," Gojko Vasic, chief of the Republika Srpska police department in BiH, told SETimes.
The Balkan police forces have sent a message they are determined to jointly confront organised crime, which has turned into a powerful trans-national organisation, said Ramadan Ilazi, executive director of the Kosovo Peace Institute in Pristina.
"This operation showed the power of organised crime in the region is not only a threat to the Balkan states' security and wellbeing, but is also a risk for the EU," Ilazi told SETimes.