Une enquête de Balkan Insight montre comment un Albanais dirigeait cette « fédération criminelle sophistiquée » depuis sa cellule de prison en Équateur.
‘Undisputed Capo’: The Albanian Behind a Cocaine Pipeline to Europe
From a prison cell in Ecuador, Dritan Rexhepi coordinated a sophisticated ‘transnational crime federation’ of Albanian drug traffickers, controlling the flow of cocaine from South America to Europe, from departure to distribution.
Former police officer Arben Frasheri recalls interrogating Dritan Rexhepi in 2006 in the Albanian port of Durres, when the door to the holding cell was left open during a break in questioning.
Reports say Rexhepi walked into the corridor and told the officer on guard, “They’re finished with me.” He was allowed to leave. “Dritan Rexhepi benefitted from negligence,” recalled Frasheri, “and left the police premises.”
It was a costly lapse, giving rise to a career in which Rexhepi, now 40 years old, built an international crime syndicate that has funneled hundreds of millions of euros worth of cocaine from South America to Europe, even as Rexhepi has sat in a prison cell in Ecuador since 2014.
Fourteen years later, in September 2020, the police came knocking, arresting 20 suspects in coordinated raids in 10 countries in Europe and the Middle East to dismantle the Albanian crime syndicate, ‘Kompania Bello’.
According to Europol, the European Union’s police agency, cocaine importers have traditionally worked separately from the wholesalers and gangs distributing the drug, but Kompania Bello “ditched the model and controlled the whole chain.”
The operation to bring it down, codenamed ‘Los Blancos’, followed a five-year investigation led by Italian prosecutors in Florence and is considered, according to Europol, “the biggest of its kind ever against Albanian-speaking organised crime.”
According to court documents obtained by BIRN, Italian prosecutors have identified Rexhepi, 40, as “the undisputed ‘capo’” of Kompania Bello, with access to “endless quantities of cocaine”.
Describing Kompania Bello as “a union of criminal operators,” an Albanian prosecutor involved in the Los Blancos operation told BIRN:
“It certainly poses a threat to public order and security in Albania as we’re dealing with a union of operators with huge criminal and economic potential.”