Articles on KLA-Kosovo-Drugs-Mafia and FundraisingNOTE:This archive, intended as a research resource, contains copyrighted material, included herein for "fair use only."
Introduction by Benjamin C. WorksThese articles demonstrate the widely understood connection between the Kosovo Albanians, their heroin Mafia and the KLA insurrection in Kosovo of 1997-99. Articles date back to a 1985 Wall Street Journal account of Rudy Giuliani --then Federal prosecutor in NYC-- prosecuting the Kosovo Mafia. That article predates Mr. Milosevic's crackdown on the Kosovo Albanians by four years.
These articles are not yet in perfect chronological order; they start with a 1985 piece, continue with 1998-99 pieces, then add articles from the period between 1990-97. One piece, #18, by Bob Djurdjevic, is a commentary on a Washington Post piece from the vantage of an expert Serb-American skeptic of both US and Yugoslav policies, depending on the issue.
Note that I have also included an article (#15) from The Guardian dated Sept. 30, 1998, on Albanian vendetta murder as practiced today in Albania and Kosovo. Here are some real "human rights abuses" not relating to "Serb oppression."
In February 1998, when the Yugoslav police crackdown on the KLA began, the US State Department recognized the KLA as an international terrorist organization. This means, among other things, that US residents are not allowed to contribute funds, trade weapons or in any way support such organizations.
Not all fundraising is done through drugs and robberies as a recent Agence France Presse article of Feb. 20, 1999 reports.
Articles about the alliance between the KLA and Osama bin Laden are now in a companion archive "KLA-Osama" at the SIRIUS website, along with an archive "KLA-Alb-Crime."
Readers with a further interest in this subject are referred to a scholarly article:
Gus Xhudo; MEN
OF PURPOSE: THE GROWTH OF ALBANIAN CRIMINAL ACTIVITY, published
in TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME; Published by Frank Cass &
Co. Ltd. (London) and The Ridgway Center for International Security
Studies, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA to
be available through: (www.pitt.edu/~rcss/ridgway.html).
Volume 2, Spring 1996, Number 1, pp. 1-20
Giuliani and Kosovo-Alb. Drug Mafia in NYC
Crisis talks as Milan is hit by wave of killings
Albanian Mafia, This Is How It Helps The Kosovo Guerrilla Fighters
Crimes Committed In Italy Provide Funds For Kosovo Guerrillas
Albanian Gang Recaptures Boats Seized by Police
Major Italian drug bust breaks Kosovo arms trafficking
Kosovo Albanians arrested in Spain after hundreds of break-ins
Albanian Americans Funding Rebels' Cause
Albanian Discussion List
The Supply of Illicit Drugs to the United States
Unrepentant KLA Dismisses Accusations
Thousands of Albanian children in hiding to escape blood feuds
Albanian Drug Barons Find Their Way Around The War
Albanian Mafias Find New Drug Routes Around Yugoslavia
Drugs and weapons seized; murders committed in Kosovo in January- August
In Balkans, Arms For Drugs
Drugs Paying for Conflict in Europe (Separatists supporting themselves with traffic in narcotics)
Merchants of death and drugs; Porous borders, Balkan war bring epidemics of heroin smuggling, arms sales
AFP: Albanian-Americans help fund the KLA
The Wall Street Journal, Monday, September 9, 1985, pp.1,18By Anthony M. DeStefano
NEW YORK -- The informant who visited the office of U.S. Attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani last December had a chilling story to tell:
A defendant in a drug racketeering case that Mr. Giuliani was prosecuting was offering $400.000 to anyone who would kill a certain assistant U.S. attorney and a federal drug enforcement agent.
For 45 minutes Mr. Giuliani and his chief assistant, William Tendy, listened to and evaluated the tale. Five other informants later corroborated it. The threatened lawmen-assistant prosecutor Alan M. Cohen and narcotics agent Jack Delmore-were given 24-hour-a-day protection by federal marshals.
For years police and court officials in Italy have had to deal with Maffia attempts on their lives, some of which have succeeded. American gangsters have rarely dared such crimes. But certain criminal groups in the U.S. now seem less restrained. Mr. Giuliani says he has recently heard of more threats against law-enforcement officers and judges around the country than at any other time in his 15 years as a prosecutor. A number of his colleagues share that perception. Mr. Giuliani says that he himself has heen threatened.
The "Balkan Connection"The drug case that brought forth the threats Mr. Giuliani is concerned about involved the disruption of the so-called "Balkan connectlon" heroin trade conducted by among others a loosely orginised group of ethnic Albanians, centered in New York. A federal probe into this drug traffic and other posslble crimes, including the alleged plot to kill officials, is in progress. The drug investigation and the criminal activities of small group of Albanian-Americans have attracted little publicity.
Many Albanians came to the U.S. after World War II via Yugoslavia. Others before the war, came directly from Albania. A small, mountainous Balkan country, communist Albania is bordered on the west by the Adriatic Sea and on its other boundries by Yugoslavia and Greece.
Conservative and industrious, many Albanian-Americans manage real estate and run small businesses, living and working in decent obscurity. An estimated 100,000 live in the New York City area. Other Albanian communities are found in Michigan, Massachusetts and Illinois.
But the small minority of Albanians who take to crime have created new and unique problems for some law-enforcement officers around the country. Language and a code of silence have protected the Albanian-American crime factions from outside penetration. "They are real secretive" says a detective in Hamtramck, Mich., a Detroit suburb where many Albanians live. He says police have tried but failed to infiltrate Albanian gangs here.
Various CrimesAlabanian-Americans criminals, police say, are involved in everything from gun-running to counterfeiting. In New York City, a police intelligence analyst says, some ethnic Albanians living in the Bronx are involved in extortion and robbery. Federal officials believe that Albanians run gambling in certain New York ethnic clubs.
Violence within the Albanian community can be particularly brutal, whether related to orginized crime or not. In Hamtramck, an Albanian, reportedly enraged by the belief that his wife had contracted a veneral disease, shot three people at a clinic and then killed himself. In some attacks, women have been slashed with knives: crowded restaurants and bars have been raked with gunfire. "They're a wild bunch of people," says Capt. Glen McAlpine of the Shelby Township, Mich., police. During an investigation of Albanian crime in Shelby, a bomb exploded next to the police station. A police officer also was threatened, Capt. McAlpine says.
But it is drug trafficking that has gained Albanian organized crime the most notoriety. Some Albanians, according to federal Drug Enforcement Agency officials, are key traders in the "Balkan connection," the Istanbul-to-Belgrade heroin route. While less well known than the so-called Sicilian and French connections, the Balkan route in some years may move 25% to 40% of the U.S. heroin supply, official say.
Ties to TurksOnce serving only as couriers, some ethnic Albanians and Yugoslavs now are taking over more command of the traffic, says Andrew Fenrich, a DEA spokesman in New York. Federal agents say that Balkan crime groups are well suited for trafficking because of close historical and religious ties with the Turks, some of whom are sources of heroin.
DEA agents say the heroin flows from Turkey through Bulgaria and Greece into Yugoslavia. From there it can wind up in Rome, Brussels, The Hague and the U.S. Once in America, the Balkan heroin is believed by officials to be distributed by some ethnic Albanians and Turks. (Albania itself, long cut off from the most of the world by its recently deceased leader Enver Hoxha, isn't believed by the U.S. to be involved in the drug trade.)
On the surface, at least, Skender Fici seemed to be a law-abiding businessman. He ran a Staten Island travel agency, Theresa Worldwide, which made a specialty of booking trips to Yugoslavia, where many Albanlans live.
He became a specialist in handling immigration paper work, and he sponsored a local ethnic Albanian soccer team.
According to federal prosecutors and a sentencing memorandum they filed in Manhattan's Federal District Cortt, Mr. Fici's travel agency made a perfect vehicle for arranging quick trips for drug dealers and couriers working the Balkan connection. One of Mr. Fici's first shipments arrived in New York in February 1979, according to the prosecutors' memo. A kilogram of heroin was distributed in New York partly through the efforts of Xhevedet Lika, known as Joey Lik, who made his base on New York City's polyglot Lower East Side.
There, according to the sentencing memorandum, Mr. Lika sold the drug to other dealers from a social club located in the midst of Judaica shops and Chinese clothing stores.
By 1980, according to federal court testimony and the sentencing report, Mr. Lika was importing heroin as well as distributing it, traveling to Turkey and Yugoslavia to arrange shipments. He also allegedly dealt in cocaine with Xhevedet Mustafa, who disappeared in 1982. Mr. Mustafa had been a supporter, of the late, deposed Albanian monarch King Zog, who died in 1961.
Mr. Mustafa skipped out before his own federal trial on drug charges could take place in 1982. In September 1982, be reportedly led an unsuccesslul invasion of Albania aimed at restoring the monarchy. Mr. Hoxha said the invaders all were "liquidated" but Mr. Mustafa still is listed as a fugitive in federal court records.
Mr. Lika, meanwhile, was expanding his heroin business In New York with other associates, according to federal prosecutors. He had fallen out with one of his old partners, Dujo Saljanin, who in 1991 had agreed to import several kilos of heroin for Mr. Llka and others but short-weighted the delivery by a kilo. To resolve the descrepancy, a January 1981 meeting was held at a Park Avenue South restaurant Mr. Saljanin operated. Joey Lika and two other men, Mehmet Bici and Vuksan Vulaj, were present. Mr. Bici later testified in federal court that Mr. Vulaj pulled a gun and shot Mr. Saljanin.
"Mr. Lika had a gun, and he shot him, too," Mr. Bici testified. "I was there, too, and I shot him too. And then we just left, crossed the street," he testified.
Even with 13 bullet wounds, Mr. Saljanin lived a short while, long enough to talk. Mr. Vulaj was later shotgunned to death. Hampered by lack of cooperation in the Albanian community, as well as by difficultles with the Albanlan language that made electronic surveillance useless, police and federal agents worked about three years belore they broke the case in 1984.
Federal officials estimate that the group had imported more than 110 pounds of heroin with a retall or "street" value of $125 million through the Balkan connection before the ring was broken up. Federal agents believe the drugs had been sold in New York, California, Texas and Illinois.
The trail that Mr. Delmore, the DEA agent, followed led to Mr. Bici, who was then serving a sentence in a New York state prison for attempted manslaughter of his wife. Questioned by Mr. Delmore, Mr. Bici at first denied having any knowledge of drug dealing or the Saljanin murder but ultimately decided to cooperate. He was indicted along wlth Joey Llka, Mr. Llka's brother Luan, Mr. Fici and others on federal charges of drug dealing and racketeering. Luan Lika was never arrested and remains a fugitive. Mr. Bici pleaded guilty to transporting heroin and to racketeering. He was sentenced to eight years and is serving time under guard in the "prisoner witness" protection program.
The atmosphere at the trial, which began late last year, was highly charged. Early in the proceeding, Mr, Cohen, the prosecutor, mentioned that a witness claimed to have been threatened with death by Mr. Lika's father.
(Judge Vincent Broderick kept Lika family spectators seated near the back of the courtroom.)
Another witness reported that a man outside the Manhattan courthouse had threatened her. Gjon Barisha, a prospective witness, fled before the trial, after claiming that he had been fired at. He evaded federal agents for months before being arrested on a material witness warrant last month. Others who were to be called as witnesses hid out or refused to testify, prosecutor Cohen says, because they feared, as one of them put it, "a bullet in the head." Prosecutors allege that some witnesses perjured themselves at the trial.
Judge Broderick remarked during the trial that the case involved the most reckless disregard for human life that he had ever seen. The message wasn't lost on federal officials, who took the threats against them seriously.
Since World War II, there have been more than 800 revenge killings by Albanians in Yugoslavia and several in New York, according to Dushan Kosovich, a scholar who has studied Albanlan mores. Mr. Giuliani says of the threat against Mr. Cohen: "This was the most serious threat I have seen yet to an assistant U.S. attorney."
For three months from late 1984 into early 1985, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Delmore and their wives shared their homes with federal marshals acting as bodyguards. "You can't believe what it is like" says Mr. Cohen, who was guarded in court-even when he went to the men's room.
A Jury this year convicted Joey Lika and Mr. Fici on charges of racketeering conspiracy. Mr. Lika was also convicted of the more serious charge of running a criminal enterprise. To emphasize to the defendants that their opponent was the government, and not just Mr. Cohen, U S. Attorney Giuliani himself appeared in court for the sentencing in March. Mr, Lika denied in court as sentence was about to be rendered that he wanted anyone killed, and his attorney protested the government's use of evidence from unnamed informants about the alleged threats. Nevertheless, Mr. Lika was sentenced to life in prison, Mr. Fici to 80 years. They are appealing their convictions.
Mr. Giuliani refuses to discuss detalls, but he says he has learned recently that there had been an effort to fulflll an assassination contract against him and Messrs. Cohen and Delmore. "After you have been convicted," he says, "there is no rational reason to klll a prosecutor, except revenge."
While Mr. Giuliani says he now considers the threat against himself "minor," DEA agent Delmore and his famlly have moved-away from New York. Prosecutor Cohen is still investigating other drug dealers in New York but he, too, has a new residence.
Federal officials aren't sure how much lasting damage they have done to the Balkan connection. Mr. Cohen says the Lika case and others, prosecuted by local authorities, have resulted in the conviction of more than 10 Albanian-American drug traffickers, and that has got to have some impact.
Mr. Fenrich, the DEA spokesman, says that the Lika case made it clear that vendettas against law enforcers won's be tolerated.
As for Joey Llka,
prison may be the safest place for him. Because he testified about his
part in the Saljanin killing, federal agents say he now is "in the blood"
-- that is, the object of a vendetta -- with relatives of Mr. Saljanin.
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 13th January 1999, page 13Italy's Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema held crisis talks with police and local officials in Milan yesterday to try to restore order to a city that has seen nine murders so far this year.
The government has deployed an extra 800 police and 90 patrol cars to Milan as a stopgap measure to ease the "crime emergency".
Diego Masi, an Interior Ministry under-secretary, blamed the Albanian mafia, which has entered the city on a tide of illegal immigrants. An official report puts the Albanians top among foreign crime organizations. It says they concentrate on drugs and prostitution. Their lack of Western moral values allows them to settle scores with appalling coldness, often murdering people in crowded streets and bars.
Corriere della Sera (Milan) 15 October 1998Translated from Italian.
Report by Roberto Ruscica
Drugs traffickers in Italy, in Germany, in Spain, in France, and in Norway: Kosovo Albanians. The men from the Special Operations Section [ROS] of the carabinieri, under the leadership of General Mario Mori, have succeeded in neutralizing a fully fledged network of Albanian drugs traffickers. The leader of this network is a certain Gashi Agim, aged 33, originally from Pristina, the capital of the small region that is being torn apart by the struggle between on the one hand the local population, 90 percent of whom are of Albanian ethnic origin and who are calling for independence from Serbia, and [Yugoslav government] on the other... Married to an Italian girl, Gashi Agim was living in a luxurious villa just outside Milan. The owner of a chain of beauty parlors and of perfume shops in London, Gashi was arrested early this summer along with 124 drugs traffickers.
"Milan at this juncture has become a crossroads of interests for many fighting groups," a detective with the ROS explained. "These groups include also the Albanians from Kosovo who are among the most dangerous traffickers in drugs and in arms. They are determined men, violent and prepared to go to any lengths. They are capable of coming up with men and arms in a matter of hours. They have deep roots in civil society. They love luxury, fashionable clubs, and restaurants. They have an astonishing amount of ready cash at their disposal. Every night, to keep in practice, they burgle apartments and businesses, moving from one city in Lombardy to the next."
Investigations have shown that Italy is the most important base for these organizations and it is precisely in Milan that negotiations between the Kosovar bosses and those of the Tirana- based Albanian gangs take place. And Milan, again, is the theater in which exchanges with our own domestic crime bosses take place. According to detectives, the 'Ndrangheta receives and parcels out some 50 kilograms of heroin every day. And it is precisely by following this drug trail that the detectives have succeeded in discovering a fully fledged organization with ramifications throughout Europe: Groups have been identified that operate in France, in Switzerland, in Spain, in Germany, and in Norway. But the real brains behind this network are reportedly located in Italy.
The ROS officer, who is unable to reveal his identity, told me: "In Bratislava and in Budapest we have pinpointed storehouses capable of containing thousands of kilograms of heroin. Also, we recently seized a huge quantity of very pure cocaine. That means that the Albanian traffickers may well have refineries available to them and that therefore the drugs do not arrive ready prepared from Latin America. In certain East European countries the drugs traffickers can act undisturbed, and in some cases they actually enjoy the protection of the authorities and of the police forces. It is precisely for that reason," the detective concluded, "that a number of our missions have ended in real failure."
But many names, links, and operative methods have, on the other hand, been discovered. The transportation of the drugs, for example, is habitually entrusted to German organizations: cars with tanks capable of containing 20 kilograms of drugs, or long-haul trucks with "cover" loads that cross the Austrian border to reach Milan.
The war in Kosovo has partly slowed down the criminals' business because many Albanians have been forced to take care of their families. Some of them are activists in the armed movement of the KLA fighters and have gone home to fight. They feel Albanian. They are fighting to achieve annexation to Albania. And it is precisely there that at least a part of the sea of money that the Albanian drugs traffickers have amassed is reported to have ended up, to support the families and to fund both certain political personalities and the anti-Serb movement. In spring, a number of Albanian drugs traffickers actually went as far as to take part in the organization of a rally in favor of independence for Kosovo.
And quite a number of people wanted for ordinary offenses marched past the US Embassy in Rome waving their banners and handing out leaflets.
Drugs, arms, and the Koran: Could this be the murderous crime mix of the next few years? "That is the picture that one can draw on the basis of our investigations," the ROS agents maintain. "A few years ago the Milan drugs market was run by the Turks. They were unscrupulous traffickers who would go to any lengths to satisfy the 'Ndrangheta bosses. Then, in 1996, the torch passed to the Albanians without any bloodshed." They share the Islamic religion with their Turkish confreres. An unmistakable sign is the month of Ramadan: In those weeks the traffickers close down the drug market.
"That is exactly right. But the Albanians have a particularly aggressive attitude. On the basis of phone calls that we have intercepted, we have discovered that the drugs are not only a source of wealth but also a tool in the struggle to weaken Christendom."
General Mori's men
got to the Albanian drugs traffickers by following the 'Ndrangheta.
And they maintain that the headquarters of the criminal operations is
located in Calabria. Milan is apparently only an important business
center. But it is seemingly the bosses in Africo, in Plati, and in Bovalino
who order the purchase of drugs and of arms. And organized crime's arsenal
is said to be located in the Aspromonte region of Calabria: bazookas
rifles with telescopic sights, submachine-guns, hand grenades. "The
'Ndrangheta is different from other Mafia-style organizations," the
ROS agents maintain. "It has only one objective: business. And in order
to make the biggest profit it is prepared to forge alliances with anybody:
with the Moroccans, with the Egyptians, with the Turks. The Calabrian
bosses are not interested in controlling the Milanese territory. And
sure enough the Albanian gangs are free to run the prostitution racket
without any interference."
Corriere della Sera (Milan) Janury 19, 1999
By C. B.Milan -- As long as he was able, until the Milan district Anti-Mafia Directorate and the Carabinieri ROS [Special Operations Group] locked him in a solitary isolation cell, Agim Gashi -- the 35-year-old criminal boss from Pristina, king of the Milan drugs market -- supplied his brothers in Kosovo with Kalashnikov rifles, bazookas, and hand grenades. He controlled the heroin market, and at least part of the billions of lire he made from it was used to buy weapons for the "resistance" movement of the Albanian kosovo.netmunity.
Conversations monitored by ROS, on file with so-called "Operation Africa," contain recollections of his established reign. Gashi spoke in Serbo-Croat with his men and with the Turkish-route heroin suppliers. That is, the language of the Serbian "enemy," of the hated Orthodox religion. The one against which he rallied his Muslim brothers. He is known to have made a telephone call to encourage Turkish heroin suppliers during Ramadan -- a violation of religious rules for the sake of a more important cause: "to submerge Christian infidels in drugs."
With Gashi's arrest, the ethnic Albanian Kosovar clans' rule in Milan has apparently not come to an end. The old 'Ndrangheta families, the Mafia "dozens" ["decine" -- traditional groupings], and the old Egyptian "lords" depend on the new masters of the drug market, acknowledging their authority. In any case, the route is secure. From Turkey, via Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania, it reaches Germany, and from there, Italy. On board trucks or regular cars, it supplies heroin from East to West. On the return trip it has to ensure the invisibility of profits totaling billions of lire. These are needed to buy weapons in Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania for the Kosovo resistance.
Reuters 23-JAN-99VLORE, Albania, Jan 23 (Reuters) -- Albanian gang members involved in the smuggling of illegal immigrants to Italy recaptured six speedboats on Saturday after police had seized them the previous day, witnesses said. Albanian and Italian police had mounted a joint operation to bring the boats to an island off the port of Vlore on Friday night as part of efforts to stem a steady flow of migrants across the Adriatic Sea. Six men were arrested.
Angry gang-members blocked the main road along the coast on Saturday morning and, when Vlore police chief Sokol Kociu came to negotiate with them, he was roughed up and taken to Sazan island where the boats were moored.
"A group of armed smugglers blocked the main road by the coast this morning," a Vlore resident told Reuters by telephone. "The Vlore police chief tried to negotiate with them but they insulted and assaulted him." Once on Sazan, the gang members reclaimed their property and released the police chief.
Albania, Europe's poorest country, has experienced periodic violence since the collapse of communism in 1991. At least half a million weapons were looted from army barracks during months of chaos in 1997 and many outlying regions are completely lawless.
Vlore was the centre of a 1997 revolt that followed the collapse of fraudulent pyramid investment schemes, which eventually toppled the former Democratic Party government and brought to power a Socialist-led coalition.
Police, who were backed by troops, did not intervene in Saturday's standoff. The situation in the town was otherwise quiet.
Ethnic Albanians fleeing the conflict in Yugoslavia's Kosovo province, as well as Kurdish refugees, use Albania as a springboard for entering southern Italy.
Copyright 1999 Reuters
Limited.All rights reserved.
Agence France-Presse / Tue, 9 Jun 1998 14:16:15 PDTMILAN, Italy, June 9 (AFP) -- A group of Kosovo Albanians smuggling arms back to their troubled province were among 100 people arrested in a massive, countrywide anti-drug operation in Italy, police here said Tuesday.
All the 100 -- 90 of whom were arrested in Italy, the rest in other European countries -- face weapons charges related to international drug trafficking.
Anti-Mafia prosecutors in Milan, who conducted the operation with paramilitary police units, identified eight criminal structures active on an international scale.
One hundred kilos (220 pounds) of heroin and cocaine was seized in the bust across several Italian regions. Investigators said the groups used Milan as a base, with cafes, restaurants, garages and other firms acting as fronts.
The Kosovar Albanian gang allegedly used drug money to buy the weapons in Italy, which were then sent to Kosovo where a three-month conflict is pitting Serbian forces against armed ethnic Albanians seeking independence.
Another separate group of Egyptians with links to Calabrian and Albanian gangs were arrested on suspicions of laundering money through Switzerland for use by fundamentalists in Egypt.
One of the arrest warrants was issued against Assan Ashraf, an Egyptian businessman who owns a textile company in Milan and a mineral water export firm in Egypt.
He had been previously
arrested in 1996 by the Italian secret service for suspected terrorist
activities but was released three days later after diplomats intervened,
the investigators said.
Agence France-Presse (via ClariNet) / Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 13:35:21 PDTMADRID, June 16 (AFP) -- More than 50 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of membership in an international ring of robbers, Spanish police said. The arrested are suspected of having committed nearly 1,000 break-ins and robberies in apartments and companies in a number of Spanish regions and of laundering money from the robberies in Germany.
Police arrested 58 people including three suspected ringleaders in Madrid and Barcelona. German police detained another suspect in Berlin and was said to have asked for three bank accounts to be blocked. The identity of those arrested was not immediately known. The suspects face charges of forming a criminal gang, illegal residence, money laundering, drug trafficking and fraud.
Police would not
rule out that more arrests would be made as the swoop continued Tuesday
[Photo by Police,
Special to The Washington Post Tuesday, May 26, 1998; Page A12By Stacy Sullivan
BROOKLYN, N.Y.-A photograph hanging above the entrance to a Brooklyn construction company shows a young man in a white T-shirt with an AK-47 assault rifle slung across his chest and a pistol tucked into his pants.
The young man, Adrian Krasniqi, 25, was a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a group of Albanian rebels fighting for independence in Kosovo, a Serbian province whose inhabitants are 90 percent ethnic Albanian. According to his uncle, who owns the construction company here, Krasniqi was killed last October during an attack on a Serbian police position in Kosovo.
The company owner, a 32-year-old Albanian American who emigrated to the United States in 1989, has been supporting the rebel group part-time since 1994, before most of the world knew of its existence. But since his nephew's death, he said, he spends almost all his time organizing Albanian American support for the guerrilla movement, which he hopes will turn into a force capable of fighting the Yugoslav Army.
The contractor, who also is named Krasniqi but who did not want his first name used, is not alone in his quest. His fund-raising efforts in the United States, as well as those of Albania immigrants in Europe, have increased steadily over the past few months. According to diplomatic and other observers with experience in the region, the money thus assembled has helped the rebels get arms and smuggle them into Kosovo over routes through Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.
Partly as a result, the once obscure group of rural militants has become an increasingly visible guerrilla insurgency that Western diplomats fear could erupt into a war with the potential to engulf the southern Balkans.
Krasniqi said his efforts to raise money for the KLA in the United States were not very successful at first. Between 300,000 and 500,000 Albanian Americans live in the United States, clustered mainly in New York, Detroit, Chicago and Boston. But almost all supported Ibrahim Rugova, who leads a peaceful independence movement and has set up a shadow government.
After the Dayton peace accords for Bosnia were signed, however, more and more Albanians in Europe and the United States became disillusioned with Rugova's peaceful struggle and began shifting their support to the Kosovo Liberation Army. Now many of Rugova's biggest donors are supporting the KLA. Their support ranges from contributing money, to signing up volunteers to fight, to arranging shipments of humanitarian aid and weapons.
"I loved Rugova and his ideals," said Ramiz Hoti, 33, a waiter in a New York restaurant who came to the United States in 1983. "But what has it brought us? Nothing! The only way now is to fight."
Hoti, a former prisoner in Kosovo, said he has registered as a volunteer to fight with the KLA and gives the group $300 a week. His brother, Hariz Hoti, a 36-year-old construction worker from the Bronx, has already left for Kosovo to join the KLA, he added.
Supporters of the Kosovo rebels have set up a fund, "Home Land Calling," which has a bank account at People's Bank in Bridgeport, Conn. KLA supporters in Europe have set up "Home Land Calling" accounts in Sweden, Italy, Belgium and Canada. The bank names and account numbers are advertised in Albanian newspapers printed in Europe.
"There is absolutely no doubt that the fund-raising of the KLA supporters in the U.S. and Europe is funding the KLA. All the money in Kosovo, not only for the arms, but for everything, comes from abroad," said Tiho Loza, associate editor of Transitions, a monthly journal specializing in east European affairs.
KLA meetings and fund-raisers mostly take place in Albanian-run restaurants. They are emotional and well-attended events. On April 20, the KLA held a fund-raiser at Bruno's, a restaurant in midtown Manhattan where a teenager from Drenice gave an emotional speech about the deaths of his teacher and several students, who were killed in a Serbian attack on his village. More than 150 Albanians from all over the country attended the event.
Many wrote checks; others donated in cash. One young Albanian, who asked that his name be withheld for fear his contribution might hurt his private business, donated $50,000.
"Everything I've got, I'll give to these guys," said Jesse Musliu, a 45-year-old mechanic who flew in from Alaska for the event. "I'll mortgage my house again if I have to."
The once secret fund-raisers are now held openly and advertised in the weekly Albanian American newspaper Illyria, based in the Bronx. The most recent issue advertised a kick-boxing tournament in Waterbury, Conn., at an Albanian-run martial arts studio. The $10 entrance fees were earmarked for the KLA.
Krasniqi said that from $3 million to $4 million has been raised in the United States. Albanians who support the rebel army displayed receipts of money transfers of more than $500,000 to banks and individuals in Albania since December, as well as several briefcases of cash they said was bound for Albania.
According to John Russell, a Justice Department spokesman, U.S. law does not bar contributing money to an insurgent army, or fighting in one, unless that army is listed as a terrorist group by the State Department.
State Department officials pointed out, however, that any Americans caught smuggling arms into Kosovo would be violating an international arms embargo against Yugoslavia.
1998 The Washington Post Company
From: thomas coonan <tcoonan@EMAIL.UNC.EDUTo: ALBANIAN@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU
Date: 7 ???? 1998 ?. 18:50 [Albanian characters]
Albanian Discussion List
Because of recent developments on the battlefield, I believe that, of necessity, the KLA (UCK) will conduct a more guerrilla-style campaign from now on. It is nearly impossible to hold onto territory if you are fighting an enemy armed with all kinds of heavy weapons while you have mainly just light ones. But, as we learned in Vietnam, guerilla fighters can often be victorious. Serbia is so weak financially that it cannot sustain a protracted guerrilla war.
The main thing is to keep the money flowing to the KLA. Since Germany and Switzerland have cracked down (shamelessly) on KLA bank accounts there, it is imperative that people in America increase their financial support on this side. For those new, English-speaking members of the List who may not have heard, the organizatioin known as "Vendlindja therret" is collecting funds for the KLA.
Their US account number is: 0617008215. Check can be mailed to: People's Bank, 328 Shippan Ave., Stamford, CT 06902-6014. Remember, the KLA is the ONLY one standing between the Albanian population and the Serb-government killing machine!
NATIONAL NARCOTICS INTELLIGENCE CONSUMERS COMMITTEE (NNICC) THE NNICC REPORT 1996The NNICC Report is produced annually for the use of NNICC member agencies and other entities and individuals interested in this subject. Comments and queries are welcome and may be addressed to the:
Heroin was shipped from Turkey primarily to European countries and, to a much smaller extent, the United States. Bulk heroin shipments destined for European markets were transported along a combination of numerous land and sea routes collectively known as the Balkan Route. Smaller quantities destined for the United States were shipped directly, or transshipped through Europe. The Balkan Route encompasses highways running from Turkey through Greece, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, Romania, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and Hungary, to Austria, Germany, and Italy, as well as ferry routes between Greece and Italy. From Italy, heroin shipments were routed to markets elsewhere in Western Europe.
Nigerian heroin smugglers in Italy sought out U.S. servicemen based there to act as couriers bringing heroin from Turkey to Italy or distribution there and elsewhere in Europe. Seventy-five percent of the heroin seized in Europe in recent years, however, was transported by way of the Balkan Route. Significant 1996 seizures of heroin en route from Turkey to Western Europe included 190 kilograms seized in January by Turkish police from a tractor-trailer bound for Germany; 217 kilograms of heroin seized in May by Italian authorities from a truck aboard a passenger ferry that arrived in Venice, Italy, from Izmir; and 65 kilograms seized in June by German customs authorities from a truck that had arrived from Turkey by way of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Austria.
Drug trafficking organizations composed of ethnic Albanians from Serbia's Kosovo Province were considered to be second only to Turkish groups as the predominant heroin smugglers along the Balkan Route. These groups were particularly active in Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and Serbia. Kosovan traffickers were noted for their use of violence and for their involvement in international weapons trafficking. There is increasing evidence that ethnic criminals from the Balkans are engaged in criminal activities in the United States and some of that activity involves theft of licit pharmaceutical products for illicit street distribution.
Romania Libera12. Subj: Albanian Terrorists of KLA Pay Weapon in Heroin Date: 99-02-02 17:14:11 EST
July 30, 1998.
By Vladimir Alexe
The weapon traffic routesAccording to the experts, the region of Kosovo has in the last years become the real stepping stone of the weapon traffic, not only for the Balkans, but also for the entire Europe. Prishtina, Podujevo, Pec and other places are the centre of the international routes' cross-roads used by the traders. The experienced weapon traffickers consider the
Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija as the people with whom big deals can be closed. The first "channel" used by the Albanian weapon traffickers was, as understood, the Yugoslav route, the surplus of weapon from the former Yugoslav republics to be more precise. But the Albanians from Kosovo had soon formed several other secret channels for the weapon traffic, in the direction of Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Denmark.
The Slovenian border crossing "Sentilj" was proclaimed by the weapon traffickers as the "ideal border crossing". Albania provides a special channel for smuggling the weapon into Kosovo, but the traffickers consider it "risky" because of the numerous Serbian Army units stationed at the border between the two countries and the (counter) attack of the snipers or Serbian guns, well camouflaged within the zone. The latest addition to the weapon market is China, practising the "dumping" policy in this field and, for example, offers rifles for just 200 DM at the black market. Turk's Mafia and Albanian's heroin
In principle, the weapon black market in Kosovo is in stable "mobility". So, the traditional "kalashnykov" can be bought at the prices of 700 to 1700 DM (the only acceptable currency). "Papovka" costs 600-800 DM and the revolvers could be bought at 400 to 700 DM. Grenades and mines are 30 DM a piece, almost a symbolic price. In the recent years the European Union recorded the fact that the Turk's Mafia is bringing in weapon galore to Kosovo and Sandzak, through Bulgaria and Skopje (Macedonia).
The interesting matter is that the Albanian terrorists grouped into the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, pay for the weapon not only in German marks but in heroin, as well. In 1994, the European Union seated in Brussels, published a report based upon a study of drug traffic routes in Europe, identifying the well-organised Albanian traffickers from Macedonia and from Kosovo, who paid for the smuggling of weapon in heroin. The weapons provided in this matter were handed over to the Albanian terrorist groups, fighting for the separation of Kosovo from the FR of Yugoslavia. The European Union report stated: "The recent larger quantities of heroin were recorded in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Greece, and the investigation proved that these quantities come from the centers like Prishtina (Kosovo), Skopje (Macedonia) and Shkoder (Albania). The Yugoslav army storage of weapons did not go unnoticed by the Albanian traffickers from Kosovo. The Albanians-Moslems broke into the weapon storages in Raska and Novi Pazar, and took out (as in September 1997) automatic guns large quantities of explosives, tens of mortars and thousands of ammunition. Just one of these "breakings in" the quantity of weapon taken was worth about 1000 DM in the black market.
"Those in possession of the Balkans, especially Kosovo and Metohija, control the stability of the entire Europe"
The Albanian terrorism and separatism obscures the geopolitical and the strategic dimension known only by some. In the offices of the Great, the Balkans is considered to have the deciding role of the stability or instability of Europe. Within this context, Kosovo and Macedonia seem to be in possession of keys of stability in the Balkans. The date of origin of the Albanian separatist terrorism is not, as believed, recent. In 1991 in Kosovo and Metohija around 200 Albanian terrorist attacks were registered, against the police officers but against the civilians as well. Since the very beginning, among the terrorists' civilians-victims were the Albanians, too, their only guilt being their respect of law and not supporting the terrorist actions. But all the terrorist actions are not committed by the Albanians from the "Kosovo Liberation Army" and "The National Movement for Kosovo". Both terrorist organisations are positioned in Switzerland and both are considered by the experts as the main sponsors of the terrorist operations in Kosovo and Metohija. The main goal of the Albanian terrorist is not only the separation of the
Kosovo Province from the FR of Yugoslavia, but the "ethnic cleansing" particularly. Ibrahim Rugova himself, seen as a moderate and opponent of the secessionist ideas, says to Spiegel: "Kosovo will belong to those ones who will stay there", and thus discreetly creating, beside terrorism and separatism, a deceitful geopolitical and geostrategical design. It gives the control Kosovo a different dimension: the Province is the "key" of stability in the Balkans, and the Balkans are the "Key" to the stability of the entire Europe (and not only the south east Europe, as perceived).
Those ones in possession of Kosovo and Metohija, control the stability or the instability of Europe. The involvement of all the great powers in the zone (including China) not seems quite justified. To own the "key" to peace or war in the Old Continent is not a small matter. "Phantom Government" of the so-called Kosovo Republic -- still unrecognised by any state -- has its seat in Ulm near Bonn, in Germany. The leader of this phantom "republic" -- Buyar Bukoshi -- receives significant "donations", later to be deposited in the Swiss banks or secret safes. Bukoshi himself, with his family, lives in Ulm. Meaning, far away from the bloodshed in Kosovo. Contrary to the leader,
Ibrahim Rugova, who has not left the region and is looking forward to the US State Department support. In 1997, the Carnegie Foundation" invited Rugova to USA and introduced him to the public through mass media in the right way. If Bukoshi is "the Germany man", Rugova is "the American man". In practice, in the background of the bloody scene of Kosovo protagonists, the interests of one or the other great power can be discerned. The region of Kosovo being the geostrategic area of extreme importance to Europe, the "former Kosovo" could be later mentioned in other cases as well in connection with the ethnic separatism in Europe. Renowned cases.
++ END/KRAJ --from
In May 1998, Lausanne police arrested one Musa Rifat Salemani of Pozarenje village in Kosovo. His group of criminals imported as much as half a tonne of heroine into Switzerland between 1992 and 1995.
What happens to millions of Deutschmarks and Swiss franks earned by the Albanian mafia from this death trade throughout Europe?
ROUTES OF TERRORISM, NARCOTIC DRUGS AND ARMS ARE CLOSELY INTERTWINED -- BEHIND IT ALL STANDS MONEY AND POWER THAT MONEY CAN BUY
The main drug routes connecting Turkey with Western Europe go through the Balkan region. These routes have always been "busy", but not as busy as in the last couple of years. Police are well aware of the key points on the "Balkan drug route", such as Gostivar (Macedonia) and Tropoia (Albania), transit points for scores of international transport (TIR-carnet) trucks. In Kumanovo, just beside the motorway, there is a barracks housing a state-of the art heroin processing facility. The necessary inputs come from a factory near the border with Greece that was built by the Germans. The main headquarters of drug dealers is a trendy spot -- Grand Hotel in Skopje (Macedonia).
However, Albania is the biggest Balkan money laundering and illicit drugs centre. The pyramid schemes, which triggered the bloody political riots in Albania in 1997, were, in fact, a front to channel in the drug money legally (State Department Report). a political mess in that country has made it possible for the drug mafia to develop the business on an unprecedented scale. Last year alone, about 200 kilos of pure heroin entered Albania. The Albanian drug mafia is in close contact with many Albanian expatriates throughout Europe and the United States, precisely through the Kosovo Albanian drug mafia. Indeed, Kosovo is the seat of one of the most powerful drug cartels in the world -- the Camilla drug cartel which is responsible for drug dealing across Western Europe. A huge chunk of the proceeds of the drug business goes to Kosovo to meet the needs of the "Kosovo Liberation Army" ("KLA") terrorist organization, namely to buy weapons for them.
According to police sources, the Albanians of Kosovo and Metohija hold sway over 80 per cent of drug (heroin) trade in Europe. At least half the countries of Europe have a network of individual drug dealers connected to the suppliers in Kosovo. The largest quantities of heroin confiscated in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Greece come in via Skopje (Macedonia), Shkoder (Albania) and Prishtina (Kosovo). Several groups of Kosovo Albanians work together with Turkish Kurds and jointly acquire drugs coming to Turkey from Afghanistan. This involves huge amounts of this deadly powder from which dealers reap millions of Deutschmarks.
[The] Albanian mafia is one of the most powerful drug mafias worldwide, primarily thanks to its clan-like organization and an infinite brutality of its members that ensures an absolute unity. Fear makes the tissue of this lethal organism. Terrible fear ensures silence and an unquestionable loyalty in the mafia ranks. Albanian mafia members live modestly and in awe. Only the top bosses live in grand style. Where does all that money go? The Albanian mafia spends the bulk of its drug money in Italy on arms intended for Albanian and Kurdish separatists. According to European criminal police authorities, the money earned from heroin in Western Europe is transferred to Kosovo, notably to Veliki Trnovac, a place considered to be the drug peddling centre. Heads of Kosovo dealer groups are all men coming from the same area and directly working for the terrorist Kosovo National Front, whose armed wing is
"KLA". They use the heroin money and the "laundered" money to fund "KLA" terrorist actions and the separatist Albanian parties in Kosovo.
Kosovo rebels unlikely to co-operate with probe by Canadian war-crimes prosecutor
THE GLOBE AND MAIL, Monday, November 9, 1998 International News; p. A14Tom Walker
Special to The Globe and Mail
The Kosovo Liberation Army does not consider itself guilty of war crimes, and is unlikely to co-operate with the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, sources in the rebel group say.
The issue of bringing to justice those responsible for the hundreds of deaths in the fractious Serbian province this year stalled last week when Yugoslav authorities in Belgrade barred the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Canada's Louise Arbour, from visiting Kosovo. The KLA warned over the weekend that it, too, is equally unlikely to help Ms. Arbour and her investigators.
Sources in the rebel group, who asked not to be identified, have admitted that many of the KLA's victims -- both Serb and ethnic Albanians deemed loyal to Belgrade -- endured brutal deaths. One fighter said that two Serb police officers captured in the western village of Glogane were executed by being dragged behind cars, and that bodies of Yugoslav army soldiers were gratuitously mutilated.
Although the ethnic Albanians generally encourage international involvement in the Kosovo crisis, the KLA sources said there was little point in trying to bring the often ill-disciplined local command structure of the KLA to heel. "In a way I think what we did was helpful -- it made the Serbs think again before repeating their massacres," said one man, who described how the police officers' bodies were decapitated as they were dragged behind cars driven by young rebels "in some sort of show" organized by a village rebel chief.
"It's not something the KLA favours and not something that is usually done," he said. "But you must understand that these policemen had a long history of physically mistreating local people. People involved in conflicts like this know the risks they run."
Belgrade has argued that Kosovo is an internal crisis, not a war, so there is no reason for Ms. Arbour and her investigators to become involved. Observers suspect that behind the refusal to let the Hague team in (and one of the reasons international sanctions against Yugoslavia remain) is a fear that senior police and army personnel could face indictments, and that even Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic might be vulnerable.
U.S. war-crimes envoy David Scheffer criticized the visa decision, which also bars the tribunal's president, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, from travelling to Kosovo. "In the UN Security Council, there is unanimous consent of all its members that investigators have full authority to do their job in Kosovo," Mr. Scheffer noted Saturday.
So far, Belgrade has only allowed a team of Finnish forensic experts to examine grave sites in Kosovo. One of Serbia's senior forensic pathologists, however, has publicly advocated that international teams be allowed to investigate all deaths in Kosovo, and the evidence they gather be sent to The Hague.
"I'll continue to ask for experts to come," said Zoran Stankovic, senior pathologist at Belgrade's military hospital and Yugoslavia's only UN-accredited forensic scientist.
Mr. Stankovic accused the Serbian media of grossly distorting some incidents where Serbs have been killed, but also said authorities had failed to bring home the brutality of the KLA and its methods to the foreign press.
* * * *
The Guardian 30th September 1998; Main Section page 15Vengeance of the most direct kind is making a comeback in the wild north of Albania, Owen Bowcott in Shkoder reports
GJIN Mekshi is a school teacher and a man of "good reputation". His flat is decorated with icons of the Virgin Mary. His calling involves reconciling vendettas and bloodfeuds.
In a cramped fifth floor flat looking out on Albania's semi-lawless northern mountains, he deplores the spread of violence and the lack of respect for traditional codes of behaviour.
As a leading member of the Shkoder-based Committee for Blood Reconciliation, he works within a moral framework devised by a tribal chieftain excommunicated for his "most un-Christian code".
The 15th century kanun (code) of Lek Dukagjini which regulates revenge killings to preserve the honour of the clan, or fis has been revived in northern Albania since the demise of communism. Up to 6,000 children are said to be in hiding from blood feuds.
But the code's harsh justice is no longer being respected. "The kanun is a good way for resolving arguments, but not in the way most people interpret it as always ending in killings,'! Mr Mekshi explains.
"The code doesn't allow women to be killed, but there have been cases in Tropoje [on the Kosovo border] this year where women have been forced into hiding by death threats.
"In some families there are no men left. So far no women have been killed."
Modern reproductions of the kanun are on sale in the Tirana's kiosks. Its author is thought to be Lek Dukagjin, Lord of Dagmo and Zadrima, who fought the Turks until 1472, then fled to Italy. His intention was to limit the cycles of bloodletting among the mountain tribps which sometimes destroyed entire communities by enabling a council of tribal elders to arrange a besa, or truce once honour had been obtained.
Enver Hoxha's regime suppressed it. But the privatisation of land, which reopened ancient disputes, and the breakdown of law and order last year, when Albania's armouries were looted, have encouraged direct retribution.
"Since the committee was set up in 1991 we have resolved 365 cases in Albania and 38 feuds abroad," Mr Mekshi records. "One feud has been running for more than 80 years.
"Sometimes the vendettas start through killings or land disputes but they also begin with a fight over a drink or a car accident. Usually it's a killing for a killing, a beating for a beating. The kanun doesn't specify how killings should be carried out, but if you mutilate a victim's face, attack him from behind or kill him after you gave your word not to, the bad blood comes back to you.
"Within the first 24 hours you may kill anyone from the clan to which the person who carried out the initial killing belonged-but not a woman. After that you can kill a member of the family. After a year, it must be only the murderer or whoever lives in his house."
The Committee of Blood Reconciliation has 3,000 members in Albania and is pressing the government to accept its arbitrations as part of the legal process.
"I have a good reputation
and my father was a man of good reputation, too," says Mr Mekshi. "I
am approached to arrange truces by those who are in hiding and dare
not go out during the day. When we agree a deal, we sanctify the arrangement
with a procession led by the local priest."
The Guardian (London) November 1, 1994THE GUARDIAN FOREIGN PAGE; Pg. 12
The Yugoslavian conflict disrupted the heroin trade all too briefly, reports Yigal Chazan in Belgrade
DRUG trafficking across the Balkans, disrupted by the Yugoslavian conflict, is making a comeback. Albanian mafia barons are carving out a new route to western Europe bypassing the peninsula's war zones, according to United Nations narcotics experts.
With its source in Turkey and the Caucasus, the channel runs the length of the southern Balkans, via Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania. The drugs are then shipped to Italy, the gateway to Albanian -controlled heroin markets in Switzerland and Germany.
"We are talking about a new route between the Black Sea and the Adriatic coast," said Bernard Frahi, of the UN's drug control programme, set up to help governments crack down on the trade.
European police chiefs fear the conduit will strengthen Kosovo Albanian drug syndicates, among the most powerful on the continent, whose tentacles have stretched to the east coast of the United States.
Kosovars -- Albanians from the Serbian province of Kosovo -- dominate the Albanian narcotics trade in Europe. Doors are opened because they are regarded as political refugees fleeing Serbian repression, and Albanian communities in Germany and Switzerland provide perfect cover.
From their base in Veliki Trnovac in southern Serbia, dubbed the "Medellin of the Balkans", Albanian mafia chiefs oversee their European drug operation.
Balkan governments are struggling to staunch the flow of heroin, marijuana and raw opium along the emerging conduit. Over the past year, Macedonian police have seized millions of pounds worth of drugs and arrested scores of couriers.
Increasingly, Macedonia's anti-drug force has sought the co-operation of its Italian counterparts. A 10-month joint operation ended in May with the seizure of 42 kg of heroin in Skopje. Nevertheless, the authorities there admit they are a long way from smashing the network.
In Albania, a chronic lack of anti-trafficking expertise has given the smugglers a free rein. "Albania is now a priority for us," said Mr Frahi, whose agency plans to offer Tirana technical assistance.
Before Yugoslavia's descent into bloodshed, heroin was funnelled from Turkey via Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia to western Europe. The violent break-up of the federation shut the traditional Balkan route.
Other channels quickly proliferated through eastern Europe. According to the UN, drugs were routed through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
But anti-trafficking measures have been stepped up in eastern Europe in the past two years. Just 6.4 kg of narcotics were seized by Hungarian police in 1990, but by this August the figure had risen to 1,300 kg.
According to a senior official of the Macedonian interior ministry: "The Albanian mafia found that now it's not so easy to smuggle through eastern Europe and are now switching back to the Balkans."
The UN blockade of Serbia to the north and, more recently, the Greek embargo against Macedonia to the south have been gifts to the smugglers, who have taken advantage of the increased truck traffic from the Black Sea to the Adriatic coast which must now cross the southern Balkans, east to west.
Tirana admits that smugglers are active, but denies Albania sits astride the new Balkan route.
"We can't deny there's some drug trafficking but it's not of the dimensions that are being suggested," said Genc Pollo, the presidential spokesman, in Tirana.
Most of the drugs seized in Macedonia come from Turkey, according to the state police. Opium base from the Golden Crescent -- Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan -- has traditionally been refined into pure heroin in Turkey for the western European market.
But the Albanian mafia is also being fed by the rapidly expanding Caucasian heroin industry, which has flourished in an environment of political instability and corruption, according to the Paris -based Observatoire Geopolitique Des Drogues (OGD) which monitors drug smuggling worldwide.
Albanians have two main advantages: Georgian and Armenian mafias are hostile to their Turkish counterparts, and xenophobia towards Turks in Germany is such that they are automatically suspected of trafficking, say OGD officials.
In Switzerland, the Albanian mafia has already supplanted the Turkish syndicates.
"We have enormous
problems with Kosovars and Albanians," said Bernard Soldini, the deputy
head of the Lausanne anti-drug force. "Seventy per cent of the heroin
coming to Switzerland comes through the Albanian route."
BBC Summary of World BroadcastsMay 15, 1992, Friday
Yugoslav News Agency in English 1145 gmt 11 May 92
Belgrade, 11th May
--The Federal police uncovered 12 kg of heroin in a truck with Turkish
licence plates parked close to Belgrade's Hotel National, Belgrade daily
'Politika' said on Monday [11th May] . The black market value of the
shipment exceeds DM 1.8m, 'Politika' said. The names of the four persons
captured in the truck are being kept secret in the interest of the investigation,
but it is certain, 'Politika' said, that two of them are ethnic Albanians
from Serbia's southern Kosovo province and the others from Belgrade.
According to the paper, everything started a few months ago when Becir
Kadriju of Podujevo (Kosovo) was caught at the Bulgarian-Yugoslav border
while attempting to smuggle a kilogram of heroin in his car. This revealed
an entire drug smuggling chain which, operating under the protection
of the powerful Albanian narco-mafia, sent shipments to Western Europe
via Kosovo and the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia and Slovenia.
weapons for the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are paid for by the funds
obtained abroad by the Albanian narco-mafia...
PHOENIX -- The November 15-21, 1993 WASHINGTON POST national weekly edition contained a revealing story filed by a WP reporter from Amsterdam entitled "The Balkan Heroin." The story traces the drug trails which lead through Kosovo, the southern Serbian province which is populated 90% by ethnic Albanians.
"According to Pierre Duc, head of the anti-drug force in Lausanne, Switzerland, ethnic Albanians from the Serbian province of Kosovo have captured up to 70 percent of the heroin market in Switzerland. About 2,000 Albanians from Kosovo are being held in Swiss jails on charges of arms and drug smuggling," writes William Drozdiak.
The WP story provides a detailed map of heroin drug routes, which originate in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, and lead through Turkey into Kosovo.
Editorial Comment. What's particularly interesting to us about this WP story is that the Albanian drug weapons trafficking is not a recent phenomenon. The Serbian President Milosevic told this writer in a January 1990 meeting at his office in Belgrade, for example, that Kosovo was a major part of the drug trade into Western Europe, and that the Serbian police had been capturing large quantities of smuggled drugs and arms. Yet, instead of exposing such criminal activities to the public, the Western politicians who have been visiting Kosovo (in 1990), such as Senators Bob Dole or Dennis DeConcini, for example, only complained publicly about the alleged human rights violations against ethnic Albanians. Why did they stay mum on drug trafficking by the Kosovo Albanians? Why did the WP choose to write about an old news story -- NOW?
The WP story quotes the Swiss anti-drug official as saying that the Kosovo clans had sold heroin and bought Kalashnikov assault rifles and the Uzi submachine guns over the past three years. "We know that a lot of money is now leaving Switzerland for the former Yugoslavia," Duc says. "But we don't know exactly who is getting it, or where the weapons have ended up. These Albanians in jail rarely talk with us and seem to be a part of the disciplined mafia."
In view of these remarks, isn't it interesting that the WP editors chose to headline the story "The Balkan Heroin," rather than "The Albanian Kosovo Heroin," or "The Albanian Kosovo Mafia," as might have been more appropriate by the copy?
We've also found it amusing that the WP calls Ibrahim Rugova, a Kosovo Albanian separatist leader, a "pacifist." Yet, in the same paragraph, the WP story points out that the Hungarian police have recently intercepted trucks full of small arms that experts believe were bound for Kosovo.
Editorial comment. And all this arms and drug smuggling is happening at a time of the world's tightest U.N. sanctions? Mr. Fuerth, would you care to explain where on your priority list for import approvals the Kalashnikovs and heroin rank? Are they above or below aspirin, for example? We already suspect that they are above bread and below cigarettes. You see, we've just learned that the U.N. Sanctions Committee has just approved a large quantity of cigarettes for import into Serbia.
Meanwhile, poison and death aren't just the commodities in demand in the Balkans. The WP story reported that, the glut of drugs in Western Europe "is raising fears among police and social workers about a generation of addicts becoming victims of.. a United Nations of drug smugglers involved in the trade into Europe."
Anybody still wondering why even our friends in Western Europe resent
our pro-Muslim, pro-Albanian foreign policy?
The Christian Science Monitor / October 20, 1994, Thursday ; Pg. 6Yigal Chazan, Special to The Christian Science Monitor
DISRUPTED by the Yugoslav conflict, drug trafficking across the Balkans is making a comeback as Albanian mafia barons carve out a new smuggling route to Western Europe, bypassing the peninsula's war zones, according to United Nations and other narcotics experts.
Before Yugoslavia's descent into war, heroin was funneled from Turkey via Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia to Western Europe. Yugoslavia's turbulent fragmentation shut that traditional Balkan route.
Other channels quickly proliferated through Eastern Europe, exploiting lax controls and desperate cash needs. According to the UN, the main conduit now runs through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
Antitrafficking measures along this route have been stepped up, pressuring the traffickers to change their route. For example, just 14 pounds of hard drugs were seized by Hungarian police in 1990, but by August this year, the figure had risen to 1,302 pounds.
International drug-control organizations are again honing in on this area in an effort to stanch the flow of drugs through eastern Europe.
According to the East European office of the Brussels-based Customs Cooperation Council -- an international customs authority -- a quarter of the heroin sold in West Europe passes through East Europe. It says just 10 percent of the drug destined for West European markets is seized. In 1993, police in East Europe seized 5,000 pounds of heroin, 4,000 pounds of cocaine, and 50,000 pounds of cannabis.
With its supply in Turkey and the Caucasus, the channel now runs the length of the southern Balkans, via Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania. The drugs are then shipped to Italy, the gateway to Albanian-controlled heroin markets in Switzerland and Germany, according to Observatoire Geopolitique Des Drogues (OGD), which monitors drug smuggling worldwide in Paris.
Crackdown on traffickers
The tougher measures are one of the main reasons for the development of the new drugs artery, according to a senior Macedonian Interior Ministry official.
''The Albanian mafia found that now it's not so easy to smuggle through Eastern Europe and are now switching back to the Balkans,'' says Bernard Frahi, of the UN Drug Control Program in Vienna, set up to help governments crack down on trafficking.
The UN blockade of Serbia to the north and, more recently, Greece's embargo against Macedonia to the south, has been a gift to the smugglers. They have taken advantage of the upsurge in truck traffic from the Black Sea to the Adriatic coast.
And UN narcotics experts say a lack of antidrug legislation, poorly equipped police forces, a cash-based economy, and weak banking regulations create optimum conditions for traffickers.
Tirana admits that smugglers are active, but refutes that Albania sits astride the new Balkan route. ''We can't deny there's some drug trafficking, but it's not of the dimensions that are being suggested,'' says Genz Pollo, presidential spokesman in Tirana.
But European police chiefs fear the conduit will strengthen Kosovo Albanian drug syndicates -- some of the most powerful on the continent -- whose tentacles have stretched as far as the East coast of the United States, UN drug agents say.
Kosovars, Albanians from the Serbian province of Kosovo, dominate the Albanian narcotics trade in Europe. Doors are opened because they are regarded as political refugees fleeing Serbian repression, and existing Albanian communities in Germany and Switzerland provide perfect cover, according to the ODG.
The Medellin of the BalkansFrom their base in Veliki Trnovac in southern Serbia, dubbed the ''Medellin of the Balkans,'' Albanian mafia chiefs oversee their European drug operation and are suspected of masterminding the new Balkan route.
Balkan governments are struggling to staunch the flow of drugs along the emerging conduit. Over the past year, Macedonian police have seized millions of dollars worth of drugs and arrested scores of couriers.
Increasingly, Macedonia's antidrug force has sought the cooperation of its Italian counterparts. A 10-month-old joint operation ended in May with the seizure of 93 pounds of heroin in Skopje, Macedonia's capital. Nevertheless, the authorities there admit they're a long way from smashing the network.
In Albania, a chronic lack of antitrafficking expertise combined with an apparent ignorance of the Balkan pipeline has effectively given the smugglers a free rein.
''Albania is now a priority for us,'' says Mr. Frahi, whose agency plans to offer Tirana technical assistance to combat the drug scourge.
Most of the drugs seized in Macedonia come from Turkey according to state police officials. Opium base from the Golden Crescent -- Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan -- has traditionally been refined into pure heroin in Turkey for the Western European market.
from two main advantages: Georgian and Armenian mafias are hostile to
their Turkish counterparts, and xenophobia towards Turks in Germany
is such that they are automatically suspected of trafficking, OGD officials
August 5, 1995
Two kilogrammes of pure heroin detained by Czech police Two kilogrammes of highly pure heroin worth 2,000,000 crowns (about $80,000) were detained by National Anti-Drug Centre policemen on Tuesday, director of the centre Jiri Komorous told CTK today.
According to experts six kilogrammes of the so-called street heroin could have been produced from this amount by consumers.
Two men -- a Czech courier (23) and an Albanian from Kosovo, Serbia, (36), the organiser of the deal -- were detained, Komorous said. The police action was the result of a long-term operation by the Czech, German and Swiss police. Other men were arrested in Germany and Switzerland in connection with the case.
The Albanian was detained by the police in Prague's Merlyn bar whose owners, Komorous said, were members of the Kosovo-Albanian crime group. Albanians from Kosovo have managed to turn the Czech Republic into one of the goal stations of trade in heroin and flooded the whole republic with this drug.
Since 1993 the Czech,
German and Swiss anti-Drug Centre has arrested already 102 members of
this mafia, Komorous said.
Defense & Foreign Affairs' Strategic PolicyAugust 31, 1994
SECTION: FEATURE REPORTS; Pg. 1
Reliable sources indicate that Albanian nationals and locations are increasingly being involved in the international heroin trade. Much of the heroin is being traded for arms. Italian police led an operation, codenamed Macedonia, on May 18, 1994, seizing 49kg of heron, uncovering a local mafia-Albanian connection. The trade is being focused around Albanians in Albania itself, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM) and the Kosovo province of Yugoslavia.
A significant number of drug dealers have been arrested in recent months in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Greece. Most were Albanians from Skopje, (Macedonia), Pristina (Serbia, Yugoslavia), and Shkoder (Albania). Two key towns of the present drug route are situated on the border between Macedonia and Serbia. They are Vratnica on the Macedonian side of the border and Blastica on the Serbian side. The residents of both towns are predominantly Albanian. In FYRM, the main heroin route is the town of Gostivar; in Albania itself, it is Tropoia. Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy has the name of the company whose trucks are used for international transport of the heroin.
On the outskirts of Mumanovo, FYRM, a barracks beside the highway houses a modern heroin processing plant, sources said. Precursors are supplied by another plant in FYRM, somewhere on the border with Greece; the plant was built with German help.
Top floors of the Skopje Grand Hotel are, according to the sources, all booked by those involved in one way or another with the drug or arms trade. Meanwhile, Albanians living in Switzerland, Germany and the US are slowly pushing Turks out of the business. Much of this is because the Caucasus heroin trade is in the hands of Georgians and Armenians who do not want to deal with the Turks. They do, however, accept Albanians as the middlemen and agree to be paid in arms which are controlled by the Albanians. In Germany, the Albanians have been largely using expatriate Croatians as their dealers. The Turks, meanwhile, are getting most of the blame for the drug trafficking.
In Georgia, local traffickers are well-connected with the authorities. One very senior minister was reported to Defense & Foreign Affairs as being "one of the bosses" of the trade. The minister in question has his own police, known locally as "centurions" and nicknamed the "Gucci boys". Now, the port of Sukhumi, Georgia, is taking over from Batumi, Georgia, as the main heroin transshipment port. The drugs come mostly from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Leaders in the trade are Kosovo Albanians. The port of Batumi is controlled by Adjara, collaborating with Turks. This was formerly the main port for the transshipment of the heroin cargoes, until the rise of Sukhumi, from whence drugs are ferried to the Balkans and other European destinations.
In and around Shkoder, the paramilitary organisations of the Albanian drug and weapons dealers are equipped with more sophisticated weapons than the Albanian Army. At present, the Albanian Government seems to be ignoring the rise of the drug and arms phenomenon, largely because it supports broader Albanian strategic objectives with regard to Yugoslavia, but there is some concern that the drug operators will soon -- if they do not already -- pose a problem similar to that which has plagued Colombia. The drug-arms traffic, coupled with international support for the expatriate Albanian groups in Kosovo and other parts of the former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, is seen /by the Albanian leadership as the means to achieving a "greater Albania". In the absence of a coherent domestic political and economic plan to transform Albania, geographic expansion is seen by many Albanians as the key to their future.
US officials are
aware of the trade but reportedly ignore it because many of the weapons
traded are going to anti-Serbian groups and the heroin is going to European
markets, not the US. Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy
has, however, been receiving reports that some US nationals are becoming
involved in the trade in Albania and Macedonia.
BBC Summary of World BroadcastsOctober 14, 1991, Monday
SOURCE: Yugoslav News Agency in Serbo-Croat 1323 gmt 9 Oct 91
Yugoslav News Agency in English 1807 gmt 10 Oct 91
Pristina, 9th October During the first eight months of this year members of the special militia units of the [Serbian] Ministry of Internal Affairs [MUP] in Kosovo and Metohija uncovered and seized 13.5 kg of heroin, 854 pistols, 482 rifles, four automatic weapons and the same number of carbines, 12 bombs and about 11,400 rounds of ammunition of assorted calibres.
According to Obrad Stevanovic, commander of the HQ of special Serbian MUP militia units, it is mainly members of Albanian nationality who indulge in drug and weapon smuggling and the assets acquired in this way are used to finance separatist activity.
According to information
by the special units' HQ, the number of murders among the Albanians
for blood feud reasons has recently gone up. During the first eight
months last year 69 murders for blood feud reasons were committed; during
the comparable period this year there were 97 such murders. (Tanjug
in Serbo-Croat 1323 gmt 9 Oct 91)
The International Herald Tribune, Paris, June 6, 1994By Barry James
Albanian groups in Macedonia and Kosovo province in Serbia are trading heroin for large quantities of weapons for use in a brewing conflict in Kosovo, according to a report to be published monday by a Paris-based narcotics-monitoring group.
In recent months, significant quantities of heroin have been seized in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Greece from traffickers based in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, as well as the Macedonian capital, Skopje, and the northern Albanian town of Skodra, the report said.
Italian policemen recently dismantled a major Italian-Macedonian connection, seizing 40 kilograms of heroin shipped via the Balkans, it said.
It said Albanian traffickers were supplied with heroin and weapons by Mafia-like groups in Georgia and Armenia. The Albanians then pay for the supplies by reselling the heroin in the west. The report said the Albanian dealers also traded directly with Russian soldiers for weapons in exchange for heroin.
The report was drawn up by the "Observatire Geopolitique Des Drogues", which said it conducted an investigation lasting nearly a year. The organization carries out research on behalf of the European Commission in Brussels, as well as publishing and an annual survey of the narcotics trade.
Albanian Muslims from a restive minority in independent Macedonia but make up the bulk of the population in Kosovo. In Kosovo, the Albanians are repressed by the Serbian army and Serbian nationalists and have been out off from most economic activities. Nevertheless, the report said, many families survive with funds euphemistically described as "Swiss."
Kosovo, on the southern frontier of Serbia, is a potential flash point because of conflicting Serbian and Albanian nationalism and religion. Although in the minority, the Serbs consider the province part of Greater Serbia. The drug report said that a large influx of weapons "is fueling geopolitical hopes and fears," and adding to the power of Albanian Mafia Godfathers. Albanian leaders, it added, "are inherently in favour of an uprising in Kosovo."
In Macedonia, about 2,000 U.S. troops are stationed under United Nations mandate.
In western Europe, particularly in Germany, the Albanian traffickers compete with Turkish criminals, the report said. They are not so well known to the police and have forged close links with Georgians and Armenians, who distrust the Turks.
Abkhazi separatists in northern Georgia have set up yet another connection for arms and narcotics traffic toward the Balkans, according to the monitoring organization.
The report said
Albanian mafiosi, who wear expensive suits and who travel ostentatiously
in mercedes cars accompanied by bodyguards, have taken over a floor
of one of Skopje's best hotels. It said a suspected heroin refinery
was in operation near the town of Kumanovo in Macedonia.
The Independent (London)December 10, 1993, Friday
INTERNATIONAL NEWS PAGE; Page 14
After yesterday's disclosures in the 'Independent' on Europe's heroin trade, Robert Block and Leonard Doyle examine links with arms smuggling
BYLINE: ROBERT BLOCK and LEONARD DOYLE
WEAPONS are pouring into the Balkans despite an arms embargo, which the international community doggedly maintains in the belief that it will prevent the Bosnian war from spreading to other flashpoints in the region.
Some of the weapons are paid for by wealthy expatriates in North America and Australia. Others are bankrolled with the profits of the heroin trade to Western Europe. More often, sympathetic governments, including Iran, fund the purchase of arms.
Some heavy weapons get through the Nato screen to the Balkans, but the trafficking is mostly in machine-guns, automatic rifles, mortars, grenades and explosives.
As in most of the 30 present conflicts in the world, light weapons are the cause of most military and civilian casualties, according to Aaron Karp, an expert in the way weapons reach insurgent groups. He calculates that it costs about $ 75m ( pounds 51m) a year to equip a militia army of 10,000 troops with light arms.
Serbia is almost immune to the arms embargo and, says Jane's Defence Weekly, has completely reconstructed its formidable defence industry.
To get sophisticated equipment, such as the eight Hind helicopters the Bosnian army recently acquired, requires state sponsorship, arms experts say, in this case probably Iran. Another Bosnian arms deal linked to Iran surfaced with the seizure earlier this year of a Panamanian-flagged ship with surface-to-surface missiles, 25,000 machine-guns and 7 million rounds of ammunition. The previous year, after a CIA tipoff, an Iranian Boeing 747 at Zagreb airport was found to be carrying thousands of machine-guns and 40 Iranian volunteers.
The trend towards the use of drug profits to buy weapons for the Balkans -- for present use or stockpiling for future conflicts -- first came to light in 1991 when the Swiss police uncovered a large network of Albanians from the Serbian province of Kosovo buying semi- automatic weapons in Berne and Basle with proceeds of heroin sold in Switzerland.
Albanians now control up to 70 per cent of the Swiss heroin market and there are more than 2,000 Albanians from Kosovo in the country's jails on drugs- and arms-smuggling charges. Bearing the brunt of Serbian aggression, and desperately poor, Kosovo's Albanian clans have turned to heroin smuggling to finance weapons deals, according to European police sources. Recently eight Albanians, including a Macedonian deputy defence minister of Albanian origin, were arrested for smuggling arms into Macedonia, sparking fears of the Bosnian war spreading.
Macedonia's Foreign Minister, Ljubomir Frekovski, has described four channels through which arms flow -- two routes across Bulgaria for weapons bound for Bosnia and Croatia, one through Thessaloniki in Greece and another through Albania.
''It is easier to buy a modern machine-gun in the Balkans today than a Toblerone chocolate bar,'' one expert noted.
Despite the three-year-old arms embargo on all six republics of the former Yugoslavia, arms -- even large weapons such as tanks, fighter planes and helicopters -- have made their way to Bosnia and Croatia from a variety of sources. These include East European arsenals, Islamic countries, the Italian Mafia and Russian mobsters.
Most of the arms flowing to the Balkans originate in the bulging inventories of the old Warsaw Pact. ''But by the time they arrive at their destinations they are usually covered with the fingerprints of criminals,'' said Daniel Nelson of Old Dominion University in Norfolk Virginia, who has published a study of the arms trade to former Yugoslavia. He says Russian and other East European mafias are the middlemen in the trade.
Investigators in Florence, Italy, last summer began prosecuting 43 people on charges of smuggling weapons to and from East Europe, Belgium and former Yugoslavia. They point to the Mafia's growing links to criminal groups in arms-rich but cash-poor East European countries.
United Nations sources say the Bosnian army has taken delivery of at least eight former Warsaw Pact helicopters over the last six months. The helicopters, based in Zenica, are used to ferry arms, soldiers and the wounded.
By far the biggest
beneficiary of the illict arms trade has been Croatia. Zagreb now boasts
at least 16 Russian MI-17 utility helicopters that it did not possess
before the war, and in the past few months, the HVO has suddenly started
flying its own helicopter missions in western Herzegovina.
Jane's Intelligence Review / February 1, 1995SECTION: EUROPE; Vol. 7; No. 2; Pg. 68
BYLINE: Marko Milivojevic
IntroductionThe Albanian-dominated region of western Macedonia accounts for a disproportionate share of the Macedonia's (FYROM) shrinking GDP. This situation has strengthened Albanophobic sentiments among the ethnic Macedonian majority, especially as a great deal of revenue is thought to derive from Albanian narco-terrorism as well as associated gun-running and cross-border smuggling to and from Albania, Bulgaria and the Kosovo province of Serbia. Although its extent and forms remain in dispute, this rising Albanian economic power is helping to turn the Balkans into a hub of criminality.
Albanian Narco-TerrorismPreviously transported to Western Europe through former Yugoslavia, heroin from Turkey, the Transcaucasus and points further east is now being increasingly routed to Italy via the Black Sea, Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia. This is a development that has strengthened the Albanian mafia which is now thought to control 70 per cent of the illegal heroin market in Germany and Switzerland. Closely allied to the powerful Sicilian mafia, the Albanian associates have also greatly benefitted from the presence of large numbers of mainly Kosovar Albanians in a number of West European countries; Switzerland alone now has over 100000 ethnic Albanian residents. As well as providing a perfect cover for Albanian criminals, this diaspora is also a useful source of income for racketeers.
Socially organized in extended families bound together in clan alliances, Kosovar Albanians dominate the Albanian mafia in the southern Balkans. Other than Kosovo, the Albanian mafia is also active in northern Albania and western Macedonia. In this context, the so-called 'Balkan Medellin' is made up of a number of geographically connected border towns, namely Veliki Trnovac and Blastica in Serbia, Vratnica in Macedonia, and Gostivar in Albania. Further afield, the Albanian mafia also has a strong presence in: Pristina, the capital of Kosovo; Skopje, the capital of Macedonia; Shkoder, the second largest city in Albania and its northern provincial capital; and Durres, Albania's main port and maritime link to nearby Italy across the Adriatic Sea.
As for heroin processing locally, the Albanian mafia now reportedly runs at least two secret facilities in Macedonia, which is also the key regional transportation crossroads for the trans-shipment of heroin from Bulgaria to Albania. Heroin shipments are thought to be mostly moved overland by a number of seemingly legitimate international trucking and freight-forwarding companies in Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia.
High-level corruption, widespread local poverty, a tradition of cross-border smuggling and poor policing throughout the region have all aided the recent rise of the Albanian mafia. In Macedonia, local drug-trafficking is now out of control, a fact which no doubt explains why the Macedonian police have recently turned to Italy for assistance in this area of law enforcement. In this context, the Italian national police mounted a major 10-month joint operation with their Macedonian counterparts in Skopje in 1993-94. Codenamed 'Macedonia', this operation reportedly involved intensive surveillance of known Kosovar Albanian drug-traffickers in the Macedonian capital. Here, a joint Italian-Macedonian police swoop resulted in the seizure of 42 kg of pure heroin in May 1994. In terms of the quantity of heroin now routinely transiting Macedonia, however, the Skopje seizure was insignificant. Operationally, larger seizures of such controlled substances are ultimately dependent on co-operation from the police in nearby Serbia and Albania. To date, they have proved remarkably unhelpful.
If left unchecked, this growing Albanian narco-terrorism could lead to a Colombian syndrome in the southern Balkans, or the emergence of a situation in which the Albanian mafia becomes powerful enough to control one or more states in the region. In practical terms, this will involve either Albania or Macedonia, or both. Politically, this is now being done by channelling growing foreign exchange (forex) profits from narco-terrorism into local governments and political parties. In Albania, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) led by President Sali Berisha is now widely suspected of tacitly tolerating and even directly profiting from drug-trafficking for wider politico-economic reasons, namely the financing of secessionist political parties and other groupings in Kosovo and Macedonia.
In Macedonia, the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) and other ethnic Albanian political parties, such as the ultra-nationalistic National Democratic Party (NDP), are almost certainly in receipt of laundered Albanian forex profits from narco-terrorism. These have also been reportedly used for the bribing of corrupt Macedonian government officials and police. More generally, Kosovo and western Macedonia are both suspiciously well endowed in forex. This can only realistically have come from criminal enterprises, given the widespread poverty of these two connected areas in the Yugoslav period.
A similar state of affairs exists in nearby Albania, which is not as poor in forex as its government likes to pretend. In all three cases, this criminally generated forex is often disguised as emigree remittances; these totalled over US$500 million in Albania alone in 1993. If Kosovo and Macedonia are included, then total Albanian forex from narco-terrorism going into the southern Balkans in 1993 could have been as high as US$1 billion. Other than buying the Albanian mafia political protection and influence, and a certain spurious popular legitimacy for its alleged patriotism, this laundered drug money is now being increasingly used in an associated activity, namely gun-running among the region's ethnic Albanians.
Balkan Arms BazaarBizarre even by the murky standards of the Balkans, the recent trial in Skopje of 10 ethnic Albanians charged with 'conspiracy to form military formations' revealed the extent of illegal gun-running at the highest levels in Macedonia. Politically, what made this trial significant was the public standing of some of its defendants. In this context, the then Macedonian interior minister, Ljubomir Frckovski, ordered the arrest in late 1993 of two leading members of the PDP, which was in government in Skopje. The two alleged high-level gun-runners were Midhat Emini, the then president of the PDP, and Husein Haskaj, the then deputy defence minister in the government of Premier Branko Crvenkovski. Given the immense political implications of these arrests and the trial that followed on from them in 1994, Frckovski could only have acted in the way that he did for the most compelling of reasons.
All of this meant that top PDP leaders were then involved in the illegal importation of armaments purchased in Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia and the West. These activities must have involved the local Albanian mafia, which is itself heavily armed with sophisticated weaponry purchased with the profits from narco-terrorism. This may have indicated that the PDP and the NDP were tiring of parliamentary politics in Skopje and preparing other options to advance their cause, namely an armed uprising of some sort. In the case of the main ethnic Albanian political party in Macedonia, the PDP, this interpretation was later given added credence when its formally relatively moderate leadership was ousted by a radical ultra-nationalist faction in a palace revolution orchestrated by the DP government in Albania. Significantly, this development took place just after the public trial of the two top PDP leaders charged with illegal gun-running.
Currently led by two noted ultra-nationalists, Abdurahman Haliti and Medhuh Thaci, the PDP can thus no longer be regarded as a purely constitutional party. In practice, it is also a secret party-militia, tainted with Albanian narco-terrorist connections. This is even more true of the NDP which is now close to becoming a terrorist organization. In addition, both these parties are now also directly controlled by nearby Albania where the SHIK secret police is known to be heavily implicated in both working with the Albanian mafia and cross-border gun-running into Macedonia and Kosovo. For all these reasons, the PDP and the NDP may eventually be formally proscribed by the Skopje government.
Despite its recent poor performance in the October 1994 elections (see article on pp 64-67), the VMRO-DPMNE aims to profit from such worsening inter-ethnic tensions in the future. Already, it is openly advocating the use of repressive and violent options against the ethnic Albanian minority. In this context, the VMRO-DPMNE is itself suspected of secretly arming its ultra-nationalistic membership with the assistance of influential VMRO irredentist forces in nearby Bulgaria. Sofia has a notorious reputation for selling armaments to anybody who can pay for them, including virtually all the parties in the ongoing civil war in the former Yugoslavia.
Regional Sanctions BreakingEffectively trapped between two stronger anti-Macedonian states, namely Serbia and Greece, Macedonia has effectively been compelled to break the trade embargo imposed by the UN against rump Yugoslavia in 1992. In the case of Serbia, Macedonia was closely bound to it economically during the Yugoslav period. Breaking all these economic links, as demanded by the UN Security Council, has proved impossible in practice.
Initially tolerated by the international community, the Macedonian sanctions-breaking has recently reached significant levels, particularly after the UN lifted some of its non-economic sanctions against rump Yugoslavia in 1994. For all practical purposes, there is no longer even the pretence of Macedonian compliance with the UN's sanctions regime against rump Yugoslavia. Other than Greece, Albania and Bulgaria also reportedly make extensive use of Macedonia for their own sanctions-breaking activities in relation to rump Yugoslavia. Economically, it is now an open secret in Skopje that Macedonia would have completely collapsed long ago had it attempted to avoid such regional sanctions-busting.
In this context, matters became critical for Macedonia when Greece, in a move clearly closely co-ordinated with Serbia, imposed an economic blockade against the country in March 1994. This immediately cut off Macedonia from the Greek port of Thessaloniki, thereby increasing its economic dependence on Serbia. The only alternative link to the outside world, via nearby Albania and Bulgaria, was also uncertain. In the case of Albania, this was mainly due to a worsening of relations between Skopje and Tirane over the issue of the ethnic Albanians in western Macedonia.
As regards Bulgaria, there were also political problems, notably those pertaining to Sofia's ambivalent recognition of Macedonia as a separate Macedonian state but not as the homeland of a separate Macedonian nation distinct from Bulgaria. In addition, the main east-west communications routes to Albania and Bulgaria are very poorly developed, thereby limiting the amount of freight traffic they can handle.
Politically, this illegal Greco-Serbian economic pressure against Macedonia has resulted in a more conciliatory stance by the Skopje government towards Athens and Belgrade. Officials in these capitals would like to see Macedonia reincorporated into a third and Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. Domestically, such a scenario is now being made more probable by local socio-economic collapse and the worsening conflict between the ethnic Macedonian majority and the ethnic Albanian minority population in western Macedonia. Longer term, this could conceivably lead to local participation in a proposed regional anti-Albanian and anti-Muslim 'Orthodox Alliance' between Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia. Already openly advocated by VMRO-DPMNE, such a scenario would become more probable if Macedonia descends into an inter-ethnic civil war or outright partition furthered by its stronger and hostile neighbours.
Marko Milivojevic is member of the Research Unit in South East European Studies at the University of Bradford, UK.
GRAPHIC: Photograph 1, UN soldiers patrol a queue of vehicles which are waiting to be checked for embargoed goods prior to entering Serbia from Macedonia.; (Photograph 2, AP)
* * * *
The San Francisco Chronicle / JUNE 10, 1994, FRIDAY, FINAL EDITION
Separatists supporting themselves with traffic in narcoticsBy Frank Viviano, Chronicle Staff Writer
Narcotics smuggling has become a prime source of financing for civil wars already under way -- or rapidly brewing -- in southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, according to a report issued here this week.
The report, by the Paris-based Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues, or Geopolitical Observatory of Drugs, identifies belligerents in the former Yugoslav republics and Turkey as key players in the region's accelerating drugs-for-arms traffic.
Albanian nationalists in ethnically tense Macedonia and the Serbian province of Kosovo have built a vast heroin network, leading from the opium fields of Pakistan to black-market arms dealers in Switzerland, which transports up to $2 billion worth of the drug annually into the heart of Europe, the report says.
More than 500 Kosovo or Macedonian Albanians are in prison in Switzerland for drug- or arms-trafficking offenses, and more than 1,000 others are under indictment.
The arms are reportedly stockpiled in Kosovo for eventual use against the Serbian government in Belgrade, which imposed a violent crackdown on Albanian autonomy advocates in the province five years ago.
For its part, Belgrade is also believed to have engineered arms purchases for Serb rebels in Bosnia -- sidestepping the U.N. embargo against the rump Yugoslavia -- with the payoffs it receives for laundering the profits of Western European drug rings.
Law enforcement authorities in Western Europe have become increasingly concerned about the trend, which has helped boost growing illicit drug sales in such countries as Germany and Austria.
''The Serbs have financed a part of the war in ex-Yugoslavia thanks to counterfeiting, and also through the laundering of drug money deposited in more than 200 private banks or currency exchange offices,'' German secret services coordinator Bernd Schmid Bauer declared earlier this year, after an extensive inquiry into the sources of narcotics entering Germany.
Bauer estimated that $1.5 billion in drug profits annually is being laundered in Serbia.
Vienna Police Commissioner M. Gunter Bogl has gone even further than Bauer, publicly charging after an official visit to Holland that ''the drug syndicates in Rotterdam and Amsterdam are playing a dominant role in the financing of the war.''
Their profits, he said, ''are filling a war chest that is managed in ex-Yugoslavia by members of the Italian and Russian Mafias,'' he said.
In southeastern Turkey, Kurdish rebels have similarly financed their uprising against the central government in Ankara through drug operations, investigators say.
''The growth of (drug) production and trafficking in Turkey also has its origins in a bloody war -- with more than 10,000 dead since 1984,'' the report notes.
Last year, the Turkish authorities seized 30 tons of hashish and 2.2 tons of processed heroin in the country, nearly double the figure for 1992.
In Turkey and the former Yugoslav republics alike, the report suggests, the failure of the United States and Western European governments to aid suppressed minority groups -- such as the Kurds and the Kosovo Albanians -- has exacerbated the drug problem.
These groups ''have been obliged to find other means of financing themselves. Drug money is one means,'' the report concludes.
The Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues, which compiles research from 80 countries, is regarded as Europe's most authoritative monitor of the international drug economy. Although it operates independently of government agencies, its efforts are conducted in partnership with several national police agencies and underwritten by grants from the European Union in Brussels.
Times Newspapers Limited, October 18, 1994
Copyright 1994 Times
The Times / October 18, 1994, TuesdayFrom Tim Judah in Belgrade
FROM the lawless shores of the Black Sea to the placid waters of Lake Geneva, the ''Albanian connection'' is rapidly establishing itself as a key new drugs-smuggling route into Western Europe.
Crime syndicates from Kosovo, the southern Serbian province with an overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian population, have already taken control of 70 per cent of the Swiss heroin market, and police sources across Europe say Albanian gangs are now second only to Turks in controlling the Balkan routes.
Albanian mafia bosses have been able to take advantage of large communities of their compatriots in Switzerland and Germany whom they exploit as couriers. Increasingly these Kosovo drug barons are using Albania as a drug route. According to the Paris drugs watchdog Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues (ODG), they are also using Albanians from Albania by giving them false Yugoslav passports. With these they can apply for asylum in Germany or Switzerland, saying they are fleeing Serb repression in Kosovo. Before 1991, much of the heroin from the ''golden crescent'' countries of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan reached Europe via Turkey and then across Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. The war cut this route and diverted it northwards. The Albanian mafias are establishing a new route across Albania and Macedonia, where there is a large ethnic Albanian population.
A senior source in the Macedonian Interior Ministry confirmed that a new route is emerging. In 1993 and the first nine months of this year, the Macedonian police arrested 189 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, on charges related to drugs trafficking. A big network was also broken up with the help of the Italian police.
The ODG believes that drug trafficking by Albanian mafias is directly related to the smuggling of arms for an uprising in Kosovo. There appears to be little supplementary evidence to support this claim, however. Genc Pollo, spokesman for President Berisha of Albania, accuses the ODG of fabrication and exaggeration. He does not deny that there is drugs trafficking across his country but says: ''The problem is under control.''
* * * *
Merchants of death and drugs; Porous borders, Balkan war bring epidemics of heroin smuggling, arms sales
The Washington Post/Houston Chronicle / November 14, 1993, Sunday, 2 STAR EditionWILLIAM DROZDIAK; Washington Post
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- More porous borders in Eastern Europe and the war in Yugoslavia's former republics have spawned an epidemic of drug smuggling through a half-dozen new routes that are conveying record amounts of heroin to West European markets, according to U.S. and European investigators.
The alarming rise in heroin traffic has coincided with a jump in clandestine weapons sales in Europe that officials fear may sustain and possibly expand the Balkan wars. ''Merchants of death and merchants of drugs go hand in hand, and never has it been more true than now,'' a senior European drug intelligence officer said.
The heroin influx is reflected in plummeting street prices here in Amsterdam, which has long served as a major drug distribution point because of its accessibility and tolerant culture. Police say heroin that cost as much as $ 100 a gram a couple of years ago is now being sold for as little as $ 25 a gram.
The glut of hard drugs is raising fears among police and social workers about a generation of addicts becoming victims of what Werner Keuth, head of Austria's central narcotics division, calls ''a United Nations of drug smugglers involved in the trade into Europe. ''
Powerful Turkish clans that controlled Europe's heroin market now find their turf being invaded by Russian and East European mafias. These include Serb, Croat and Albanian criminals who are seeking a slice of the action and are also sending money -- and in some cases weapons -- back to the Balkan war zone, police officials say.
According to Pierre Duc, head of the anti-drug force in Lausanne, Switzerland, ethnic Albanians from the Serbian province of Kosovo have captured up to 70 percent of the heroin market in Switzerland. About 2,000 Albanians from Kosovo are being held in Swiss jails on charges of arms and drug smuggling. ''The situation has gotten out of control,'' Duc said.
When war broke out in the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia two years ago, Western drug agents hoped the conflict might shatter the Balkan smuggling route that funneled heroin from the ''Golden Crescent'' -- parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran -- to markets in Western Europe.
For years, Turkish dealers refined opium base from fertile poppy fields in the Golden Crescent and delivered purified heroin into Western Europe on trucks plying the E5 highway through Yugoslavia. Breaking the Belgrade link, officials believed, could dry up overland supplies and force the Turks to take more vulnerable routes.
Far from constricting the flow of hard drugs, however, wars in Croatia and later Bosnia have caused new channels to proliferate, mainly because of lax controls and desperate cash needs in Eastern and Central Europe. ''It's the black side of open borders and political change,'' Keuth said.
Lausanne's Duc said Kosovo clans have sold heroin and bought Kalashnikov assault rifles and Uzi submachine guns in Switzerland over the past three years. He said Swiss police have staunched the weapons purchases but not drug profiteering by the Albanians.
''We know a lot of money is now leaving Switzerland for the former Yugoslavia,'' Duc said. ''But we don't know exactly who is getting it, or where the weapons have ended up. These Albanians in jail rarely talk with us and seem to be part of a very disciplined mafia. ''
Duc said a few prisoners have spoken of buying arms "for patriotic reasons'' to defend their people in Kosovo.
Ibrahim Rugova, the pacifist leader of Kosovo's Albanian majority, says he wants to find a political solution to the province's problems that would avoid another Balkan war. But European specialists fear the guns acquired by the Kosovo mafia may foreshadow guerrilla warfare. Hungarian police have recently intercepted trucks full of small arms that experts believe were bound for Kosovo.
Alain Labrousse, director of a Paris-based research group that monitors global drug trafficking, said the Albanians have enlisted assistance from Serbs in neighboring villages along the Kosovo frontier to help with their smuggling operations. "It reminds me of the Lebanese civil war, when Shiites and Sunnis and Maronites were all fighting each other but continued to cooperate in drug traffic. It shows again that money is more important than war and ethnic hatred. ''
Investigators say the heroin is shipped from Turkey into Albanian ports, then overland to small Albanian-populated villages in Serbia such as Veliki Trnovac.
The Albanian connection, however, is just one of several pipelines bringing heroin to the West.
Richard Weijenburg, deputy chief of international narcotics control in the Netherlands, said ''80 to 85 percent'' of the heroin seized comes from the Balkan route, now fragmented into at least six known "major canals'' leading to Western markets.
"A big part of the problem is (the) rise of the Slavic mafias and the lack of law enforcement in the East,'' Weijenburg said. "Police are not appreciated there because of their role in past communist regimes, and their salaries are so low that they are easily tempted by corruption. So the drugs can move freely through those countries. ''
level of cooperation among international police forces has resulted
in a number of major drug seizures. Just last week, Amsterdam police
seized a record 650 pounds of heroin hidden in a truck, and captured
a dozen suspected big-time Turkish smugglers.
"Drug trafficking in Europe is growing. It was realized no country could defeat it on its own. The only way to stop it is to work together," Joem Kristensen, U.N. Drug Control Program (UNDCP) senior program manager, told reporters.
In its first phase the project will include Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania, which lie on a drug trafficking route for smuggling heroin and hashish from southwest Asia, particularly Afghanistan, to Western Europe, Kristensen said.
Some 80 percent of drugs supplied to Europe originate in Afghanistan and are mostly smuggled along this route, he said.
Kristensen said the three-year project could later include other countries in the region, such as Turkey and Yugoslavia.
Kristensen said the war in former Yugoslavia had forced traffickers to find alternatives to the more direct route through Turkey, Bulgaria and former Yugoslavia, such as the route via Romania.
"The peace that followed the war in Yugoslavia re-established the old routes, but previous one still continue to exist, so there are now more smuggling groups, more routes, and maybe the challenge we are now facing is bigger," he said.
"The situation has now become more difficult and we have to undertake new opportunities to fight drug trafficking."
The project will offer police and customs officials in the three Balkan states advanced training in profiling techniques and provide them with modern drug detection equipment and drug-sniffing dogs.
The project also provides for setting up sophisticated criminal data analysis systems to aid police investigations.
Two thirds of the project's budget will come from the European Commission while the remainder is expected from UNDCP donors.
According to UNDCP data, an average of more than a tonne of heroin and over 10 tonnes of hashish are seized along the Balkan route each year.
lies between Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania, seized 220
lbs (100 kg) of heroin last year, compared to 688 lbs (312 kg) in 1997,
figures collated by the country's Chief Customs Directorate showed.
( (c) 1999 Reuters)
Chronicles (A Magazine of American Culture) December 1998by Srdja Trifkovic
KOSOVO ALBANIANS have been well supplied with arms and money. Some of the support has come from Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East, and some from the extensive heroin trade controlled by Albanians. More recently, as Germany's Social Democrats and their Green coalition partners prepared to take over the reins of government in Bonn, evidence came to light that German secret services have been instrumental for years in helping the Albanian separatist movement in Kosovo.
While the government of ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl had officially backed the Western policy of seeking a negotiated solution (before that policy gave way to yet another wave of "bomb-the-Serbs" euphoria), the Bonn government was undermining that policy on the ground. Behind the scenes, German civil and military intelligence services have been involved in training and equipping the Kosovo rebels for years. Their objective was to foment armed rebellion against Serbia and thus strengthen Germany' s autonomous sphere of influence in the Balkans, where Bonn has conducted a remarkably active policy -- quite independently of its European partners -- ever since Yugoslavia started breaking up almost a decade ago.
Plus ca change, plus la meme chose. Germany's policy in the region traditionally has been anti-Serb; it remains so today, no less than in 1914 or 1941. In December 1991, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, then-foreign minister of the Federal Republic, insisted on what the rest of the European Union subsequently came to regard as the "mistaken and premature" (in the words of Lord Carrington) recognition of Croatia. It is also noteworthy that the self-proclaimed government of the Republic of Kosovo is based in Germany, where approximately 400,000 Kosovo Albanians now live.
According to a report from Paris by Roger Faligot, published in the "European" (September 21-27), Germany's role in arming the Kosovo militants has led to a serious rift between the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German intelligence service, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Faligot quotes French diplomatic sources and General Pierre-Marie Gallois, a specialist in geopolitics, who maintains that some decision-making circles in Germany wish to destabilize the Serbs regardless of the consequences for regional stability: "The Kosovo crisis has initiated a rift between Germany and the United States. Washington realized that pushing the Kosovo Albanians towards a military confrontation with Milosevic, as the Germans wanted to do, would have a boomerang effect on the Balkans. The United States put pressure on Germany to stop supporting the KLA behind the scenes, as did the other European countries such as Britain and France."
The founding of the KLA, the armed wing of the Albanian separatist movement in Kosovo, coincided with the appointment of Hansjoerg Geiger as the new head of the BND in 1996. One of the first operational decisions was to set up in Tirana one of the largest BND regional stations. BND operatives collaborated closely with the top brass of the Shik, the Albanian secret service and the successor to the notorious communist Sigurimi. The BND men were in charge of selecting recruits for the KLA command structure from among tens of thousands of Kosovo Albanians living in Albania. Meanwhile, the BND Rome bureau provided political intelligence back-up, including recruitment work in Trieste and Bari, two of the principal entry points into Italy for Albanians.
The German Militaerabschirmdienst (MAD), the intelligence arm of the military, and special commando units such as the Kommandos Spezialkraefte (KSK) were involved in training and the provision of uniforms and communications equipment. Reporters covering Kosovo were surprised to find some KLA fighters clad in current issue Bundeswehr combat jackets with identifiable German insignia. The training was subsidized through an Albanian foundation know as "The Fatherland's Call," with branches in Duesseldorf, Bonn, Stockholm, Bern, and other European capitals.
These findings were corroborated in a recent German television documentary program, Monitor (September 24). The network's team of investigators, Jo Angerer and Volker Happe, have unearthed a wealth of data proving the link between the KLA and German intelligence services. The report opened with a shipment of arms seized as they were being smuggled into Kosovo from Albania, including high-tech Armbrust anti-tank grenade launchers. "They were developed by the Germany company MBB for the Bundeswehr, and built in Singapore under German license," the report stated, adding that Albanian rebels were also using radio communications and military monitoring equipment of German origin.
Monitor confirmed that immediately after the communist regime in Tirana collapsed, the BND resident in Tirana was involved in "several illegal arms supplies" which had been arranged by MAD headquarters in Cologne. A former MAD official said that the arms supplies were ordered "by the very top" and that the operation is still treated as strictly confidential. According to a written statement by another informer involved in this operation, "In 1990 and 1991, the MAD supplied electronic and optical monitoring devices and other equipment such as radios to the Albanian intelligence service. The monitoring equipment came from the former East German ministry for state security -- the Bundeswehr took it over after unification -- and from MAD supplies. MAD officials trained Albanian intelligence service personnel in Tirana to use this equipment."
Contrary to the expected denials from the Federal Defense Ministry, BND and MAD sources confirm that members of the Bundeswehr's school for communications in Bad Ems visited the Albanian capital Tirana on several occasions, as did member of the MAD in Cologne, to arrange deliveries and training.
All of this is against
the law -- both international law, and Germany's domestic legislation
regulating its intelligence agencies, according to Dr. Erich Schmidt-Eenboom,
a Munich-based expert on intelligence-related questions. It remains
to be seen whether the new coalition in Bonn will be less adventurous
in its Balkan policy and more inclined to observe the law of nations
and to pursue consensus- building within Europe.
Reuters 14-FEB-99PRISTINA, Serbia, Feb 14 (Reuters) -- Separatist guerrillas in Kosovo lie beyond the easy reach of NATO, making it hard for the West to threaten military consequences if the insurgents reject an autonomy deal on offer in peace talks.
That's the assessment of western diplomats posted in Kosovo, who worry about the imbalance between threats to bomb Yugoslavia if the Serbian side scuttles the peace deal and the lack of an equivalent stick to punish ethnic Albanian intransigence.
"There's an asymmetry in the talks because so much more direct military pressure can be brought to bear on Belgrade to force them to make the deal the West wants," a Western diplomat, who asked not to be named, told Reuters in Kosovo on Sunday.
"The Serbian side has joined-up forces and a military infrastructure that NATO can bomb with devastating effect."
"The KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) is everywhere and nowhere, like any guerrilla force. To attack them you have to attack the civilian population of which they are a part. The Serbs did that and killed a lot of civilians. NATO won't make that mistake."
The Kosovo peace talks in Rambouillet, southwest of Paris, entered their second week on Sunday without agreement.
NATO sabres are being rattled to get Belgrade's attention, as has happened before with the former Yugoslavia this decade.
But what good would NATO's military might be if the ethnic Albanians, rather than the Serbs, say "no" at Rambouillet?
What could the West threaten if the KLA refuses to disarm and settle for autonomy, rather than independence, as the peace deal requires of them?
A U.S. official said on Saturday in France that if ethnic Albanians dragged their feet they would be told the international community is no longer interested in their problem. That was code for warning them not to expect the West to intervene to save them from Serbian security forces again.
Asked how Western leaders could sustain such a position in the face of television pictures of slaughtered civilians, one senior American official said last month:
"We'll just ignore them (the pictures). The 'CNN factor' is over-rated. It's only when we respond to the pictures that there's a consequence to them. We create the CNN factor, not CNN or the public or the warring parties."
The official spoke on January 12. Three days later 45 ethnic Albanians were shot dead in the village of Racak in what was immediately described by the ranking international diplomat in Kosovo -- an American -- as a massacre by Serbian forces.
Television pictures of that alleged massacre produced such an uproar in the United States and Europe that days later Western officials ordered Serbians and ethnic Albanians to Rambouillet at the point of a NATO gun.
The KLA does have pressure points, but they have proved elusive in the past.
Using NATO troops to seal the border between Kosovo and neighbouring Albania, over which the guerrillas receive shipments of men, arms and ammunition, has been much discussed.
But NATO operations in the rugged, lawless mountains of northern Albania would be expensive, difficult and treacherous, involving interdiction of not just KLA cadres but of the spectacularly violent criminal gangs who supply them.
What is more, analysts and observers on the ground report that the KLA is getting more and more of its weaponry from black market sources inside Serbia, making cross-border shipments less important than they were even six months ago.
Since ethnic Albanians make up 90 per cent of Kosovo's two million people there is no shortage of manpower. The challenge has been training and equipping fighters, not importing them.
Western officials also discuss freezing and even seizing the bank accounts through which the ethnic Albanian diaspora funnel money to the KLA. That would be but a temporary inconvenience since most donations are collected in hard currencies in cash.
Copyright 1999 Reuters
Limited.All rights reserved.
NEW YORK, Feb 20 (AFP) -- Date: Sat, 20 Feb 99 10:07:25 ESTNEW YORK, Feb 20 (AFP) -- Two hundred Albanian men file into a Brooklyn restaurant, throwing money as they enter at tables manned by men in traditional white dome Balkan caps. They take a seat in the ballroom-turned auditorium. They aren't here to eat. They are here to meet Dina, a soldier with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
The KLA has grown from villagers toting hunting rifles to a sizable armed force, with the help of volunteer donations, in large part raised by New York's Albanian community.
"What do they expect?," Izet, Tafilaj asks. After losing his aunt, uncle and nephew in the fighting, the 40-year-old sold his real estate business in New Jersey and is leaving for Kosovo to help refugees. "If they won't help us, at least let us help ourselves," he said.
The lights go down, and the men bow their heads. A minute of silence is followed by a video presentation. The butchered mother and child lying between a pair of leveled homes bring home the
reality of Kosovo, the Yugoslav province quickly eclipsing Bosnia as the Balkan's most violent human catastrophe.
Speakers are interrupted every few minutes by the young men breaking out in chant and punching their arms in unison. "Ooh Che Ke. Ooh Che Ke" (UCK is the Albanian acronym for KLA)
Dina takes the stand. "The time is now," he yells. "Ooh Che Ke. Ooh Che Ke," "Let's finish the war, then talk politics."
After three hours of chanting, the room is cleared for a party being held later that day. Five men remain at one of the tables, each counting a pile of bills. The total is just over 30,000 dollars.
Manager Agron Qosja thinks it's a small sum, compared to other meetings, which he holds often.
"We all have an obligation to do all we can," he says evoking a favorite Albanian saying. "Luga Luga e ben lumin." (Spoon by spoon you build a lake.)
The KLA's guerrilla movement has flourished among these blue-collar workers, who make up nearly two-thirds of the country's 400,000 Albanian-Americans. Many are recent immigrants, with the strongest family ties to Kosovo.
For years they supported elected president of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova. But after a well-publicized massacre last March left over 80 people dead in the town of Drenecia, Rugova's credibility among many Albanian-Americans took a dive, and the group Homeland is Calling was officially formed to coordinate fundraising for the army.
Chapters of Homeland in Europe and throughout the world seek to furnish the KLA with the means to gain independence for Kosovo. "We raise money here," Florin Krasniqi, 34, says. "They fight over there. That's how we get rid of the Serbs."
The comptroller of KLA's New York donations, Florin started in October 1997 to raise money for the KLA after the murder of his cousin Adrian, the ninth member of this family killed by Serb forces.
He has made over 20 trips to Kosovo in the past year, providing KLA soldiers with a steady stream of money, radios, night vision equipment and bullet-proof vests: all, he says, ordered from a catalogue on the open market.
While Homeland's estimate of 10 million dollars raised over the past year seems exaggerated to increase the KLA's perception of power (military experts believe it is closer to half that), the fund and equipment coming from the United States are taken seriously by military analysts.
According to Paul Beaver of Jane's Defence Weekly, a leading publication on the military industry, the funds pouring in from around the world are making a difference.
"They have upgraded the war," says Beaver. "It makes a tremendous difference against the Serbian army."
Florin expresses mild amusement that the US government is watching his comings and goings. But he finds the system laughably lax enough to continue unnerved. "They think we are just a bunch of crazy Albanians," he acknowledges. "But I told (US envoy Richard) Holbrooke, if you want to go 10 years, we will. Too much blood has been spilled. We are never going to live side by side with Serbs. Period."
* * * *
CTK (Prague) 11 March 1999;PRAGUE, March 11, 1999 (CTK) -- Prague police have succeeded in arresting a man alleged to be one of the top bosses of the Kosovo Albanian drug mafia Princ Dobros [Prince Dobroshi], 35, representatives of Czech and Norwegian police said today.
The man was arrested outside the Hilton hotel in Prague on February 23 by a rapid reaction unit of the Czech police. His arrest was the culmination of an operation of two years called Cage, in which Czech police cooperated with Swedish, Danish and especially Norwegian police. During the operation 42 members of the gang led by Dobros were arrested by police in various countries in Scandinavia and Western Europe. On the same day Dobros's aide was caught by police in a Prague flat. Dobros's gang was apparently entrusted with the operation of the so called northern branch of the Balkan route, by which drugs were smuggled from the Balkans, through the Czech Republic, and to the Scandinavian countries.
Drugs Squad chief Jiri Komorous said police had evidence that Dobros had bought weapons from the proceeds. He said there was no proof that the weapons, which included rocket systems, were bound for Kosovo. Police are convinced that Dobros's gang was one of the biggest Kosovar Albanian drugs gangs in Europe. Ninety percent of the heroin bound for Scandinavia travelled via the Czech Republic, said Komorous. Dobros was sentenced to 14 years in prison by a Norwegian court in 1994. He managed to escape in January 1997, however, by bribing one of the guards. He then fled to Croatia, where he underwent plastic surgery to disguise himself.
Dobros was seized
by a Czech Police rapid deployment squad on the afternoon of February
23 as his car was waiting at a set of traffic lights in front of Prague's
Hotel Hilton. Komorous claimed his officers had acted so quickly that
Dobros was in handcuffs before the lights had changed. Dobros's right-hand
man Limani Murati was arrested at his Prague 4 flat on the same day.
Police seized a machine-gun, a Chinese rifle and a pistol. Dobros will
be extradited to Norway to serve the remainder of his sentence. The
Czech authorities have still to decide whether Murati will be extradited
to Norway or tried in the Czech Republic.
From Radio B 92, March 12, 1999; Rugova Met with Kosovo-Albanian Mafia boss"The leader of the Kosovo's Albanian's Ibrahim Rugova, met in December last year, during his visit to Prague, with the boss of the Kosovo-Albanian narco-mafia Prince Dobroshi, who was arrested at the end of the last month in that city [Prague], claims the respectable Czech daily today 'Lidove Novini' (LN), reports FoNet [independent news agency from Belgrade].
Rugova met Dobroshi during the banquet that followed after he received the award for peace from the Czech foundation 'A Man in Need', LN learned from a member of the BIS (Security & Intelligence Agency), who asked his name not to be mentioned. Rugova's secretary of protocol, Adnan Merovci, claims, on the other hand, that his boss during his stay in Prague did not meet any of the Kosovo Albanians who live in Prague.
'Celebration', as he says, 'was attended by several Albanians who we did not know and who we have never met', he added. When this statement was presented to LN's sources, they kept their previous position that 'Rugova really spent time talking to Dobroshi'.
`Celebration,' organized by the Fond close to Czech TV's 'A Man in Need", was sponsored by, reminds LN, the Fund for the Development of the Civic Society, with financial aid from the European Union. People who organized the event did not know that the Mafia boss would take part in that conference. The daily also claims that according to the anonymous sources from the BIS, that the weapons that Dobroshi bought from the heroin money went to Kosovo and into the hands of the illegal KLA.
---end of the translation
The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 15, 1999
Refugees are cutting into the Mafia turf.By Jeffrey Fleishman INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
MILAN, Italy -- Agim Gashi left his family's crime business in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, in 1992 and ended up in this fashion mecca, where police say he became a boss in prostitution and heroin rings stretching from the ports of Albania to the poppy fields of Turkey.
He is one of hundreds of Balkan bad guys -- mainly ethnic Albanians -- reportedly moving onto turf long controlled by the Italian Mafia. Most of Gashi's illicit profits fueled criminal enterprises across Europe. But some, according to Western drug-enforcement agencies, were siphoned off to buy night-vision glasses, Kalashnikovs and bullet-proof vests for the Kosovo Liberation Army's war against Yugoslav troops.
Gashi's crook-and-patriot tale will unfold this month in a Milan courtroom. He is charged with conspiracy and trafficking in hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of heroin. Italian authorities say Gashi -- arrested last fall in an international bust -- represents Milan's newest scourge: well-armed and ruthless Albanian thugs.
"The Albanian criminals were special from the beginning," said Francesca
Marcelli, an organized-crime investigator for the Italian government. "When they started appearing here in 1993, they were much different than other immigrants. They have strong motivations and are very violent.
Some of them actually pulled machine guns on the son of an Italian Mafioso.
"To do that in Italy is unbelievable."
It is that kind of tenacity, according to Italian officials, that allowed Albanians to wrest a slice of the heroin-trafficking network in Europe from the Turks and Kurds. It has also gained them respect among the stronger Italian Mafia gangs, who now collaborate with Albanians on everything from numbers running to smuggling refugees.
Crime in Milan is daily punctuated by the big and small deeds of Albanian gangs. Police recently broke up a child-slavery ring run from an abandoned warehouse. Crime bosses had bought 20 children for $1,000 each from their parents in Albania. The children, according to police, were hustled onto rubber rafts and whisked to Italy, where they were beaten and forced to work petty street scams, turning over earnings to their masters.
"It's unrefined criminality and it's brutal," said Massimo Mazza, a Milan police commander.
The Albanian criminals prowling Milan have their roots in Albania and the neighboring Yugoslav province of Kosovo. They are poor places with few opportunities, and for generations, men left their families to work across Europe and send money home. Many of the one million-strong diaspora found jobs such as bricklayers, waiters and laborers. Others dabbled in stolen cars, petty thievery and prostitution.
The tenor grew more desperate in the early 1990s as communism collapsed and the region spiraled into lawlessness. In 1997, Albania, the poorest country in Europe, erupted into nationwide riots over failed pyramid schemes that bankrupted most families. Thousands of citizens stormed police stations and looted one million guns. The ensuing chaos fed Albania's criminal gangs. They were already expanding across the continent while at home the corrupt regime of President Sali Berisha permitted drug trafficking to flourish.
In neighboring Yugoslavia, ethnic Albanian crime families were also looking to widen their drug, prostitution and weapons-smuggling rings. Some clans, including Gashi's, dispatched their lieutenants to countries such as Italy, Germany and Slovakia. Their criminal endeavors, according to Italian police and prosecutors, would eventually intersect with activities of the KLA, whose guerrillas have fought since 1998 for independence for Kosovo's 1.8 million ethnic Albanians.
Police say some Albanian crime clans, although primarily motivated by personal greed, also funneled money and supplies to the rebels.
"When the war started in Kosovo, we noticed that some of the Kosovar crime gangs in Italy, who were only interested in drug trafficking, suddenly became interested in running weapons," said Carlo De Donno, a major with the special Carabinieri undercover police forces.
De Donno's unit headed a two-year investigation, including extensive wiretaps, on a heroin-smuggling network that led to the arrest of Gashi and 124 other Albanians, Italians, Germans, Tunisians, Spaniards and Turks over several days last fall.
"Turkish [drug] trafficking groups are using Albanians, Yugoslavs and elements of criminal groups from Kosovo to sell and distribute their heroin," according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office in Rome. "These groups are believed to be a part of the financial arm of the [KLA's] war against Serbia. These Kosovars are financing their war through drug trafficking activities, weapons trafficking and the trafficking of other illegal goods as well as contributions of their countrymen working abroad."
But war was years away on Jan. 22, 1992.
That is when Gashi, whose clan in Pristina, Kosovo, ran a drug-running business fronted by beauty salons and real estate offices, arrived in Italy. He married an Italian woman and settled in Bisceglie, a neighborhood controlled by the Calabria Mafia on the outskirts of Milan. Other Albanians eventually followed, many crossing the Adriatic Sea in rubber rafts with kilos of marijuana wrapped in plastic. They joined a population of about 100,000 illegal immigrants entering northern Italy in recent years from Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans.
"What really impressed us was Gashi's rapport with the Ndrangheta [ the Calabria Mafia ] ," De Donno said. "He was a foreigner, but he stayed on very good terms with them. Gashi began buying drugs, and his market widened. He was much like the Turkish criminals who moved into Milan in the 1980s."
But Gashi did not limit himself to Italy, according to police and prosecutors. He opened a beauty salon in London to launder money and had interests in Hungary, Germany and Norway, said De Donno, adding that authorities from each of these countries cooperated in his investigation. As Gashi was expanding his enterprises in the mid-1990s, other Albanian names began appearing on Milan's police blotters.
Two of them were Kosovar brothers Adem and Avni Igrhista, who in 1995 began a shipping business with the cover of importing nuts and cotton T-shirts from Turkey.
"Hidden inside their imported crates were packets of heroin," said Marcelli, the Italian investigator. "This case showed us that the Albanians were becoming stronger. For example, the brothers used Italians as their runners to pick up the crates at Leonardo da Vinci Airport [ in Rome ] . Before, it was the Albanians who were the runners."
Authorities say Gashi controlled Milan's most powerful Albanian gang and stayed connected to Ekrem Gashi, another relative of the Gashi clan in Kosovo. Ekrem, who ran drugs throughout the Balkans, was murdered two weeks ago when several men brandishing Kalashnikovs sprayed his Mercedes with bullets in front of a Pristina cafe. Police say the murder was ordered by a rival clan.
Special undercover police forces and court records say Agim Gashi was part of a network that operated like this: Albanians acquired heroin and cocaine from clans inside Turkey. The cache would move west to the capitals of Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary. From there it was dispersed into smaller amounts and sent across Europe by couriers -- mostly Germans driving BMWs and Mercedeses.
"Every day cars with 10 to 15 kilos [ 22 to 33 pounds ] of heroin would cross the border into Italy," De Donno said. Much of the heroin fell under the domain of the Ndrangheta and other Italian gangs. Cooperation between small Albanian gangs and the powerful Italian Mafia has run smoothly, but some investigators say the Albanians' penchant for control may upset things.
"What we're seeing now," said Maurizio Romanelli, an anti-Mafia prosecutor, "is North Africans and other immigrants selling heroin on the street for Albanian bosses. It shows a hierarchy is developing among the immigrants."
The Albanians have been fighting among themselves over the last two years for larger shares of the drug and prostitution markets. In August 1997, Albanian boss Naim Zyberi was killed execution-style.
Zyberi, who ran drug and extortion rackets in the Albanian capital, Tirana, had come to Milan to get a stake in the heroin trade.
"He tried to impose his rules, but the clans opposed him, so he tried to find his own gang," homicide detective Nicola Lupidi said. "He then went to another Albanian group and stole 50 million lire [ $28,100 ] The group came after him, and there was a shoot-out. Zyberi was shot in the leg and taken to a hospital. Days later, two hit men were sent from Albania and they finished him off in his hospital bed."
"It was amazing," investigator Marcelli said. "Like something out of a Scorsese movie."
By the spring of last year, however, the battles among the Albanian clans cooled when they united behind -- and took advantage of -- the KLA's war against the Serb forces in Yugoslavia. When the war began 13 months ago, many KLA rebels carried only single-shot rifles. They are armed today with everything from satellite phones to antitank weapons.
"When the war started, these feuding clans came together," De Donno said. "They became unified. All they ever talked about was weapons and money. They were very interested in night-vision glasses and bulletproof vests. All the things you'd need to fight a guerrilla war. . . . Some of them were even motivated by patriotism."
Gashi was sending money and materials back to Kosovo for other endeavors, too.
"He built a big villa in Pristina," De Donno said. "All the marble and stone was imported directly from Italy."
© 1998 Philadelphia
The Times of London
March 24 1999
FROM ROGER BOYES AND ESKE WRIGHT IN BONN
THE Kosovo Liberation Army, which has won the support of the West for its guerrilla struggle against the heavy armour of the Serbs, is a Marxist-led force funded by dubious sources, including drug money.
That is the judgment of senior police officers across Europe. An investigation by The Times has established that police forces in three Western European countries, together with Europol, the European police authority, are separately investigating growing evidence that drug money is funding the KLA's leap from obscurity to power.
The financing of the Kosovo guerrilla war poses critical questions and it sorely tests claims to an "ethical" foreign policy. Should the West back a guerrilla army that appears to be partly financed by organised crime? Could the KLA's need for funds be fuelling the heroin trade across Europe?
The KLA has become an essential component of the Kosovo peace agreement; without it, there would be no equal negotiating partner for the Belgrade Government.
In military terms, it is in no sense equal to the Serb forces. But it has grown from a theoretical notion to an often successful, very mobile and very visible guerrilla grouping in a remarkably short time.
Much of the money funding the KLA is believed to come from legitimate sources - raised by the People's Movement of Kosovo, which is the political wing of the resistance movement. There are about 500,000 Kosovan Albanians in Western Europe who send money back home because it funds healthcare for their cousins. However, some of this cash is believed to be siphoned off for the military.
As well as diverting charit-able donations from exiled Kosovans, some of the KLA money is thought to come from drug dealing.
Sweden is investigating suspicions of a KLA drug connection. "We have intelligence leading us to believe that there could be a connection between drug money and the Kosovo Liberation Army," said Walter Kege, head of the drug enforcement unit in the Swedish police intelligence service.
Supporting intelligence has come from other states. "We have yet to find direct evidence, but our experience tells us that the channels for trading hard drugs are also used for weapons," said one Swiss police commander.
An official in the Bavarian Interior Ministry also told The Times of a recent fundraising meeting involving some 200 Kosovans in southern Germany. "At the end of the session they raised DM100,000 [about £40,000]."
This represents a huge sum for ordinary Kosovans and fuels speculation that apparently legitimate fundraising activities are used to launder dirty money.
One Western intelligence report quoted by Berliner Zeitung says that DM900 million has reached Kosovo since the guerrillas began operations and half the sum is said to be illegal drug money.
In particular, European countries are investigating the Albanian connection: whether Kosovan Albanians living primarily in Germany and Switzerland are creaming off the profits from inner-city heroin dealing and sending the cash to the KLA.
Albania - which plays a key role in channelling money to the Kosovans - is at the hub of Europe's drug trade. An intelligence report which was prepared by Germany's Federal Criminal Agency concluded: "Ethnic Albanians are now the most prominent group in the distribution of heroin in Western consumer countries."
Europol, which is based in The Hague, is preparing a report for European interior and justice ministers on a connection between the KLA and Albanian drug gangs.
Police in the Czech Republic recently tracked down a Kosovo Albanian drug dealer named Doboshi who had escaped from a Norwegian prison where he was serving 12 years for heroin trading. A raid on Doboshi's apartment turned up documents linking him with arms purchases for the KLA.
Police sources in Germany have made plain their suspicions: the sudden ascendancy of Kosovan Albanians in the heroin trade in Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavia coincides with the sudden growth of the KLA from a ragamuffin peasants' army two years ago to a 30,000-strong force equipped with grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons and AK47s.
By Jerry Seper, The Washington Times
May 3, 1999, Pg. 1
The Kosovo Liberation Army, which the Clinton administration has embraced and some members of Congress want to arm as part of the NATO bombing campaign, is a terrorist organization that has financed much of its war effort with profits from the sale of heroin.
Recently obtained intelligence documents show that drug agents in five countries, including the United States, believe the KLA has aligned itself with an extensive organized crime network centered in Albania that smuggles heroin and some cocaine to buyers throughout Western Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States.
The documents tie members of the Albanian Mafia to a drug smuggling cartel based in Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina. The cartel is manned by ethic Albanians who are members of the Kosovo National Front, whose armed wing is the KLA. The documents show it is one of the most powerful heroin smuggling organizations in the world, with much of its profits being diverted to the KLA to buy weapons.
The clandestine movement of drugs over a collection of land and sea routes from Turkey through Bulgaria, Greece and Yugoslavia to Western Europe and elsewhere is so frequent and massive that intelligence officials have dubbed the circuit the "Balkan Route." Mr. Clinton has committed air power and is considering the use of ground troops to support the Kosovo rebels against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Last week, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, called on the United States to arm the KLA so ethnic Albanians in Kosovo could defend themselves against the Serbs.
Mr. McConnell and Mr. Lieberman introduced a bill that would provide $25 million to equip 10,000 men or 10 battalions with small arms and anti-tank weapons for up to 18 months. In 1998, the U.S. State Department listed the KLA -- formally known as the Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves, or UCK -- as an international terrorist organization, saying it had bankrolled its operations with proceeds from the international heroin trade and from loans from known terrorists like Osama bin Laden.
"They were terrorists in 1998 and now, because of politics, they're freedom fighters," said one top drug official who asked not to be identified.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in a recent report, said the heroin is smuggled along the Balkan Route in cars, trucks and boats initially to Austria, Germany and Italy, where it is routed to eager buyers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Great Britain. Some of the white powder, the DEA report said, finds its way to the United States.
The DEA report, prepared for the National Narcotics Intelligence Consumer's Committee (NNICC), said a majority of the heroin seized in Europe is transported over the Balkan Route. It said drug smuggling organizations composed of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians were considered "second only to Turkish gangs as the predominant heroin smugglers along the Balkan Route." The NNICC is a coalition of federal agencies involved in the war on drugs.
"Kosovo traffickers were noted for their use of violence and for their involvement in international weapons trafficking," the DEA report said.
A separate DEA document, written last month by U.S. drug agents in Austria, said that while the war in the former Yugoslavia had reduced the drug flow to Western Europe along the Balkan Route, new land routes have opened across Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The report said, however, the diversion appeared to be only temporary. The DEA estimated that between four and six metric tons of heroin leaves each month from Turkey bound for Western Europe, the bulk of it traveling over the Balkan Route.
A second high-ranking U.S. drug official, who also requested anonymity, said government and police corruption in Kosovo, along with widespread poverty throughout the region, had contributed to an increase in heroin trafficking by the KLA and other ethnic Albanians. The official said drug smuggling is "out of control" and little is being done by neighboring states to get a handle on it. "This is the definition of the wild, wild West," said the official. "The bombing has slowed it down, but has not brought it to a halt. And, eventually, it will pick up where it left off." The heroin trade along the Balkan Route has been of concern to several countries:
*The Greek representative of Interpol reported in 1998 that Kosovo's ethnic Albanians were "the primary sources of supply for cocaine and heroin in that country."
*Intelligence officials in France said in a recent report the KLA was among several organizations in southern Europe that had built a vast drug-smuggling network. France's Geopolitical Observatory of Drugs said in the report that the KLA was a key player in the rapidly expanding drugs-for-arms business and helped transport $2 billion worth of drugs annually into Western Europe.
*German drug agents have estimated that $1.5 billion in drug profits is laundered annually by Kosovo smugglers, through as many as 200 private banks or currency-exchange offices. They noted in a recent report that ethnic Albanians had established one of the most prominent drug smuggling organizations in Europe.
Jane's Intelligence Review estimated in March that drug sales could have netted the KLA profits in the "high tens of millions of dollars." The highly regarded British-based journal noted at the time that the KLA had rearmed itself for a spring offensive with the aid of drug money, along with donations from Albanians in Western Europe and the United States.
Several leading intelligence officials said the KLA has, in part, financed its purchase of AK-47s, semiautomatic rifles, shotguns, handguns, grenade launchers, ammunition, artillery shells, explosives, detonators and anti-personnel mines through drug profits -- cash laundered through banks in Italy, Germany and Switzerland. They also said KLA rebels have paid for weapons using the heroin itself as currency. The profits, according to the officials, also have been used to purchase anti-aircraft and anti-armor rockets, along with electronic surveillance equipment.
The London Telegraph, May 5, 1999
THE secret support network across Europe and America providing help to the Kosovo Liberation Army is being investigated by MI6 and other intelligence agencies after allegations that organised crime plays a central role.
Most of the investigation work has been focused on Switzerland where the KLA is known to have set up a complex network of accounts to channel funds raised from the Albanian and Kosovar diaspora. Some accounts have been found to breach Swiss banking standards and have been closed down.
Support comes from shadowy groups known mainly by their acronyms. The KLA is supported by the LPK and LNCK but challenged by the LDK and tolerated by the LBD, formed out of the LDS. Each group has a clear interest in the future of Kosovo and there is intense rivalry as they try to build large fighting funds to help to pay for the political battle that will follow the war.
It is not known whether links with organised crime were proven and some accounts were found to be legal. The investigations have forced the KLA to be even more cunning in concealing its financial trail.
The investigations were launched after repeated accusations, mainly from Belgrade, that the KLA was funded largely by organised crime including drugs trafficking and the smuggling of non-Europeans into the EU. Belgrade repeatedly said the KLA was a terrorist organisation with similarities to the IRA, which has criminal backers.
The West's attitude is equivocal. State Department spokesmen are holding back from giving absolute backing to the KLA. Current investigations will go a long way to establishing whether the KLA is a genuine, popular freedom fighting group or a front for criminals.
Since Albania's Cold War isolation ended in 1991, the country's large and rapidly growing diaspora has begun to challenge the Sicilian Mafia for control of large-scale crime in the West. While it is true that Albanian criminals are proliferating in some parts of the West, the connection between them and the KLA is not so clear, notwithstanding Belgrade's propaganda.
What the Western agencies, including the Secret Intelligence Service, have found is a sophisticated network of accounts and companies set up to process funds that the KLA says were raised legally as voluntary contributions from supporters in the ethnic Albanian diaspora. Western investigators first had to distinguish between funds raised for the KLA and funds raised for rival Kosovo support groups.
The KLA's precursor was a secretive party known as the Popular Movement for Kosovo (LPK) set up in Germany after the 1982 assassination of three Kosovar Albanians in Bonn. The LPK was known to have Marxist-Leninist pretences in the early days but those are believed to have been diluted since the armed struggle began on a large scale last year with the KLA appearing in uniform in Kosovo.
The KLA's main rival was the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the party of Ibrahim Rugova, which stood on a ticket of peaceful, Gandhi-style, non co-operation in Kosovo. The LDK is more politically sophisticated and in 1992 it organised what it called free and fair elections in Kosovo, still subject to strict Serb control, and elected a government which was forced to operate in exile in western Europe. Kosovars were encouraged to provide funds for the LDK through voluntary donations.
The KLA soon learnt the same trick and letters went round to the Kosovar diaspora asking for funds. Some of the methods of persuasion were believed to be erring on the strong side.
The London Times;
July 24 1999
FROM EVE-ANN PRENTICE IN BELGRADE
THE Kosovo conflict has turned the province into a magnet for many of the world's notorious drug barons, according to a director of the International Narcotics Enforcement Officers' Association.
More than 40 per cent of the heroin reaching Western Europe comes through the Serb province because of a lack of border controls, says Marko Nicovic.
"Kosovo is now the Colombia of Europe. There is no border between Kosovo and Albania or between Macedonia and Kosovo," he said yesterday. "For the Turkish, Russian, Italian and Albanian mafias," Kosovo really had become a paradise.
Mr Nicovic is a former Belgrade police chief and drug squad detective who worked for years in co-operation with police in Britain and the US. He says he began to notice Albanian gangs dealing in drugs in the mid-1980s.
Heroin trafficking increased, he says, after Yugoslavia lost its membership of Interpol with the imposition of international sanctions in 1993. "Our police had great expertise and experience with this," Mr Nicovic says. The Kosovo conflict has left the province without police or customs controls and "Kfor soldiers are not criminal investigators".
Mr Nicovic said drugs were being brought into Kosovo from Asia and Turkey, then taken on to Western Europe by road and sea by drug barons from Italy and Albania.
Mr Nicovic says many Kosovo Albanians have bought harbourside sites in Albania in the past few years. Much of the heroin shipped from there to small ports in southeastern Italy are run by Italian Mafiosi. Other favourite routes are by road, north through Serbia to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Germany, he says.
The former Yugoslav drugs squad chief says the Albanian drugs and arms mafia is particularly hard to penetrate. Albanians have strong family ties and it is hard to find informers. "They have a brotherhood which gives them a far greater ability to form a mafia than even the Sicilians."
Mr Nicovic says hundreds of pounds of heroin are being stored in the village of Veliki Trnovac, near Gnjiliane, in the southeast of Kosovo, and Djakovica in the west. "The criminals have found the one country between Asia and Europe which is not a member of Interpol," he says.
"This is a cancer area for Europe as Western Europe will very soon discover. As each day passes the Albanian mafia becomes richer and more powerful."