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The Albania ongoing drug tragedy: 4.5 tons of drugs seized, prosecutors seek arrest of ex-minister

Prosecutors seek arrest of former interior minister Saimir Tahiri. | Youtube snapshot

Some 4.5 tons of cannabis sativa were seized by Albanian police in a village in Vlora, a coastal city in southern Albania, authorities announced Thursday.

“The police operation began late Wednesday when about 100 police officers of Tirana special unit, prosecutors of the General Prosecution Office, officers of the Delta Force and Vlora anti-drugs unit went to Babica Vogel village in Vlora,” Rebani Jaupi, a senior police officer told reporters.

Authorities also informed that they arrested three people as directly involved in drug cultivation and trafficking.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor-general’s office said in a statement Thursday that the "considerable" haul followed a yearlong investigation and was related to the recent arrest of drug traffickers in Italy.

Albanian authorities have this year made a series of seizures of cannabis in remote areas along the coast or on speedboats. Prime Minister Edi Rama has pledged to get Albania off the list of cannabis-producing countries by the end of this year.

Albania, a small country in southeastern Europe, has become the epicenter of the European drugs trade, especially marijuana. This should come as no surprise. With its extensive coastline along the Adriatic, this region of the Balkans has long been the trailhead for illicit goods, weapons and drugs hiking into the heart of Europe.

Inside Albania, even some officials have been involved with this illegal act. Albanian prosecutors asked parliament on Thursday 19th of October to remove the immunity of former interior minister Saimir Tahiri to allow them to investigate him on corruption and drug trafficking charges, the prosecution said.

Albanian gangs have been active in different countries in terms of drug smuggling and trade. For instance, in the UK, the National Crime Agency has said it is increasingly concerned about violent Albanian criminal gangs, which have considerable control over the illegal cocaine market.

In its annual assessment of organized crime, the NCA warned that Albanian gangs have “established a high-profile influence within UK organised crime”. Their main focus is the often violent trade in trafficking cocaine to London, the report noted.