Its name is Kompania Bello, and for years it’s been one of the most ruthless and innovative drug trafficking networks in the world. According to international law enforcement officials, it’s no longer in existence.
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, police across 10 countries quietly fanned out and swooped in to bust the underground organisation in what is being described as the biggest takedown of an Albanian-led criminal ring in history.
Authorities arrested 20 men and seized four tonnes of cocaine and nearly €5.5mn (£5.2mn) in cash, said a press release issued on Thursday.
The suspects face charges of murder and international drug trafficking, according to prosecutors. EuroJust, the Netherlands-based federation of international prosecutors, said the raids “resulted in the complete takedown” of the criminal syndicate, which is part of an increasingly global narcotics-trafficking business.
The raids were part of a five-year investigation into the Albanian mafia begun by Italian authorities. They follow the arrests of scores of others in recent weeks, including in the UK and Latin America. The busts have spanned the globe. Among those arrested on Tuesday was Denis Matoshi, detained by police in Dubai, which accused him of smuggling drugs through European seaports.
Albanian media reported that five others were arrested in four cities of the western Balkan nation of three million people. Video posted online by EuroJust showed police in full body armour storming into an apartment at night and escorting a handcuffed suspect into a police station. Law enforcement officials wearing surgical masks coordinated activities at the organisation’s headquarters in The Hague.
In another segment, police remove tightly wrapped bundles of what appear to be drugs from behind the dashboard of a motor vehicle. Albania has emerged as a global hub of narcotics trafficking. Heroin from South Asia and cocaine from Latin America are smuggled into the tiny country or Montenegro to the north through seaports or land routes and then taken by boat to Italy for distribution across the continent. Kompania Bello’s leader – a 40-year-old Albanian in Ecuador – cut out the middlemen.
He oversaw the entire process of drug distribution, brokering deals with producers across the world to obtain narcotics while his deputies oversaw dealers on the streets distributing them. The network used sophisticated encrypted messaging systems to place orders and built secret compartments in vehicles to move drugs across borders.
Kompania Bello moved money using the Chinese fei ch’ien networks used by labourers to send remittances. Police and prosecutors from Italy, the U.K., the Netherlands, Hungary, Greece, Romania, Germany, Spain, Albania and the Arabian Peninsula emirate of Dubai participated in Tuesday’s raids.