An anti-drug crackdown in the town of Elbasan, Albania, has resulted in 45 detentions. A further seven suspects remain at large.
According to police, the arrests are the result of only the first phase of a larger operation. The 45 individuals arrested are predominantly accused of drug trafficking and distribution.
Media reports indicate that the arrested individuals were sent to the capital city of Tirana by bus.
The head of Elbasan Police, Ilir Proda, told reporters that police had been pursuing the case for some three months.
“It became possible to identify 52 citizens involved in criminal activity in the criminal offences of ‘trafficking in narcotics’, ‘production and sale of narcotics, individually and in cooperation with each other’, divided into several criminal groups,” said Proda.
Previously labelled Albania’s “crime capital,” the town of Elbasan fell into poverty in the 1990s after the fall of the communist regime, leading to the bankruptcy of nearly all heavy industry- the source of the majority of work in the town.
Crime groups flourished as a result.
According to reports, dozens of murders have been linked to gang conflict for control of territory, or for the control of lucrative international drug trafficking operations.
Crime prevention in Albania remains relatively underdeveloped. Despite the existence of legislation and law enforcement mechanisms, anti-drug crackdown and prevention mechanisms are ineffective and largely fail to engage with citizens in preventing criminal activity from happening in the first place.
Moreover, low salaries, inadequate resources, limited equipment and high staff turnover means that the response of Albanian law enforcement to organized crime is often delayed and inadequate. Investigations and prosecutions often fail to target senior members of criminal organisations.
Last year, six officials and the administrator of a waste treatment plant were arrested on corruption charges in relation to a controversial waste treatment plant in the town of Elbasan.
Alqi Bllako, a former state official and current member of parliament for Albania’s ruling Socialist Party, was also linked to the case.
Bllako was the Chief Executive Officer of the National Water Supply and Sewage Agency between February 2019 and March 2021, and allegedly received a bribe valued at 5 million leks (more than 120,000 euros). The bribe was purportedly in the form of a salary paid to his father by a firm that had been awarded the contract to build incinerators at the Elbasan waste treatment plant.
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