"KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY"
Freedom Fighters or...

Truth in facts and testimonies

Reports on KLA Drug and Criminal Links

Elements informally known as the "Albanian mafia," composed largely of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, have for several years been a feature of the criminal underworld in a number of cities in Europe and North America; they have been particularly prominent in the trade in illegal narcotics. [See, for example,"The Albanian Cartel: Filling the Crime Void," Jane's Intelligence Review, November 1995.] The cities where the Albanian cartels are located are also fertile ground for fundraising for support of the Albanian cause in Kosovo. [See, for example, "Albanians in Exile Send Millions of Dollars to Support the KLA," BBC, 3/12/99.]

The reported link between drug activities and arms purchases for anti-Serb Albanian forces in Kosovo predates the formation of the KLA, and indeed, may be seen as a key resource that allowed the KLA to establish itself as a force in the first place:

"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." ["Separatists Supporting Themselves with Traffic in Narcotics," San Francisco Chronicle, 6/10/94]

At the same time, many Albanians in the diaspora have made voluntary contributions to the KLA and are offended at suggestions of drug money funding of that organization:

"Nick Ndrejaj, who retired from the real estate business, lives on a pension in Daytona Beach, Fla. But the retiree has managed to scrape up some money to send to the Kosovo Liberation Army, the rebel force that is opposing Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic. 'It's hard, but we have had to do this all our lives,' says the elderly man. Mr. Ndrejaj is one of many Albanians in America who are sending all they can spare to aid their beleaguered compatriots in central Europe. The disaster in Kosovo is uniting the minority into a major fund-raising and congressional lobbying effort. [ . . . ]

"Typical of the donors is Agim Jusufi, a building superintendent on Manhattan's West Side. Mr. Jusufi gets a weekly paycheck. He describes himself as an ordinary 'working man.' However, he has donated $5,000 to the KLA. 'It is always stressed that we should donate when we can,' he says, 'We are in a grave moment, so we are raising money.' Jusufi bridles over reports that drug money funds the KLA. There has been an Albanian organized-crime element involved in the drug trade for decades. But, he says, in this country, the money comes from hard-working immigrants. 'We have canceled checks to prove it,' he says. " ["Pulling Political and Purse Strings," Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/99]

Without access to the KLA's ledgers, it is hard to estimate what part of the group's funds might come from legitimate sources and what part from drugs. One unnamed intelligence source puts the percentage of drug money in the KLA's coffers at one-half ["Drugs Money Linked to the Kosovo Rebels," The Times (London), 3/24/99]. The following is a sample of the reports linking the KLA to funding by narcotics-smuggling crime organizations:

"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? . . . As well as diverting charitable 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. . . . 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." ["Drugs Money Linked to the Kosovo Rebels," The Times (London), 3/24/99]

"Western intelligence agencies believe the UCK [KLA] has been re-arming with the aid of money from drug-smuggling through Albania, along with donations from the Albanian diaspora in Western Europe and North America. . . . Albania has become the crime capital of Europe. The most powerful groups in the country are organized criminals who use Albania to grow, process, and store a large percentage of the illegal drugs destined for Western Europe. . . . Albania's criminal gangs are actively supporting the war in Kosovo. Many of them have family links to Albanian groups in Kosovo and support them with arms and other supplies, either out of family solidarity or solely for profit. These links mean the UCK fighters have a secure base area and reasonably good lines of communiction to the outside world. Serb troops have tried to seal the border but with little success." ["Life in the Balkan 'Tinderbox' Remains as Dangerous as Ever," Jane's Intelligence Review, 3/1/99]

"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 [i.e., Italian national police], 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 [the Yugoslav government] on the other . . . 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. . . . 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. . . . Drugs, arms, and the Koran: Could this be the murderous crime mix of the next few years?" ["Albanian Mafia, This Is How It Helps The Kosovo Guerrilla Fighters," Corriere della Sera (Milan, Italy), 10/15/98]

"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." ["Major Italian Drug Bust Breaks Kosovo Arms Trafficking," Agence France-Presse, 6/9/98]

"The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has claimed responsibility for more than 50 attacks on Serbs and Albanians loyal to the Belgrade government, but little is known about the separatist group. . . . Details of the KLA, which the United States calls a terrorist organization, are sketchy at best. Western intelligence sources believe there are no more than several hundred members under arms with military training. Serbian police estimate there are at least 2,000 well-armed men. The KLA is said to rely heavily on a huge network of informers and sympathizers, enabling it to blend easily among the population. The Western sources also believe the core of the organization consists of Albanians who fled into exile in the 1970s and based their operation in Switzerland, where its funding is gathered from all over the world. 'If the West wants to nip the KLA in the bud, all it has to do is crack down on its financial nerve center in Switzerland,' one source said. Part of the funding, this source believes, comes from the powerful Albanian mafia organizations that deal in narcotics, prostitution and arms smuggling across Europe. The KLA has admitted having training bases in northern Albania, which the Albanian government does not condone but is powerless to stop." ["Speculation Plentiful, Facts Few About Kosovo Separatist Group," Baltimore Sun, 3/6/98]

"The bulk of the financing of the UCK [KLA] seems to originate from two sources: drug-related operations and Kosovo Albanian emigres in the West. The former Yugoslavia has always been on the main European drug transit route. With the break-up of that country, the route has been somewhat modified; West-Europe-bound narcotics now enter Macedonia and Albania and are then distributed towards Western Europe through Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Croatia." [Jane's Intelligence Review, "Another Balkans Bloodbath? -- Part One," 2/1/98]

"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 . . . . 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." ["The Balkan Medellin," Jane's 3/1/95; Albanian then-president Berisha lost power in 1997 and is now a known KLA patron in northern Albania.]

USA Republican Policy Committee
Larry E. Craig, March 31, 1999

http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/kla.htm