Police in five European countries yesterday carried out a massive strike against a gang of Albanian drugs traffickers, making 67 arrests, 55 of them in Belgium. “This investigation targeted an Albanian criminal organisation involved in multiple crimes, including the large-scale traffic in cannabis, cocaine, prostitution, human trafficking and money laundering,” a spokesperson for the federal prosecutor’s office explained.
A total of about 650 police officers in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy and the United Kingdom took part in the raids on dozens of addresses, in coordination with the authorities in Serbia. The action comes soon after the prosecutor’s office in Mons reported that Albanian Mafia-style gangs represent a growing criminal threat, particularly with heavy investment in growing cannabis. According to VRT News raids took place yesterday at Mons itself, at Herstal, Soumagne and Juprelle in the region of Liege, and at Tarcienne near Charleroi.
House searches also took place in Aalst, Affligem and Genk in Flanders, and in Brussels. In all, 17 cannabis plantations were discovered, and police seized more than 8,000 plants, as well as 200g of cocaine, computers, phones, documents, cash and six luxury cars. Of the 55 arrests made in Belgium, 15 were kept in custody, to be investigated by the Office for Foreigners on suspicion of being in the country illegally,
“These are Albanian clans from the south of Albania, some of whom have been in Belgium for years,” the federal police said. “They also work closely with criminals in Albania, on drugs traffic, prostitution and the manufacture of false documents for their confederates.”
“They operated with a team of pickers,” Christian Henry, prosecutor for Tournai-Mons, told De Standaard. “These ladies, who came from Bulgaria, were housed in the area of Eindhoven. When required, they came at night to Belgium to pick the plants.”
The case is being organised by Henry’s office, and the suspects charged from other locations will face the court in Mons, where the investigation started last year. The wave of searches this week began on Wednesday morning at 06.00, and continued on Thursday and Friday before finally being made public, the delay helping to prevent other targets being warned.