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[Prishtina-l] Drug wars: Kosovo's new battleDardan Blaku dardan at prishtina.com
Fri Apr 14 11:57:30 EDT 2000
Nuk eshte hera e pare qe botohen artikuj te tille. Sa di une, artikujt e ketij lloji jane pjelle e Serbise. Mirepo diteve te fundit edhe disa gazeta me renome po i botojne... Thursday, April 13, 2000 Drug wars: Kosovo's new battle Kosovo Albanians control 40% of Europe's heroin. If they now return home, there is little the UN can do Patrick Graham National Post The Associated Press Police arrest a man suspected of being a member of a criminal gang in Kosovo.: (Photo ran in all editions except Toronto.) PRISTINA, Yugoslavia - Kosovo is a gangster's paradise. With few police, no effective judicial system and lots of guns, the internationally administered province is increasingly seen by European leaders as a base for organized crime, especially drug smuggling. Kosovo lies in the middle of the Balkan Route, a web of smuggling roads leading from Turkey and over which $400-billion (US) of heroin is moved into western Europe every year. Now there are growing fears the province could provide an important transit point. "We need riot police for crowd control, forensic experts to solve crimes and specialized units to fight drug trafficking and organized crime," Javier Solana, the European Union's representative for foreign and security policy, told European leaders in February. But the 2,500 United Nations police sent to the province are less than half that requested by Bernard Kouchner, the UN mission chief. KFOR soldiers, for their part, are likely to put as much effort into policing as their cohorts in Bosnia, which is not much. Bosnia is one of Europe's major conduits for drugs, arms, stolen cars and prostitution, despite a large international military presence. "Generals do not want to turn their troops into cops," an official at NATO headquarters said. "Especially, they don't want to get their troops shot pursuing black marketeers." The chaos created by 10 years of war in the Balkans has been a bonanza for the Kosovo Albanians, who control 40% of Europe's heroin trade -- their profits are thought to have helped fund last year's war. If they were to return home, there would be little the cash-starved and understaffed UN mission could do to control the movement of drugs and guns. "All of a sudden, there was a drastic void in Kosovo after the war," said Bruce Lloy, an RCMP officer and chief press spokesman with the UN police in Pristina. "I would have moved in too." Two to six tonnes of heroin are thought to move along the Balkan route every month, providing 80% of Europe's heroin supply. The drug originates in Taleban-controlled Afghanistan, Iran and eastern Turkey, from where it flows to western Turkey. From there it moves through Bulgaria, west to Albania via Macedonia and Kosovo or north through central Europe. The entire journey takes a week to 10 days. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says that by 1998, Kosovo Albanians had become the second most important group on the Balkan route, after the Turkish mafia. "Kosovo Albanians make the perfect mafia -- even better than the Sicilians," said Marko Nicovic, vice-president of the New York-based International Narcotics Enforcement Agency. "They are a small ethnic group made up of clans or families that have very close to family relations. The brotherhood, or Fic, is impenetrable by outsiders. It is difficult to find translators to work with police and impossible to get an informer or agent inside the organizations." The Kosovo Albanian heroin dealers are typically made up of groups of fewer than 100 members of an extended family. Mr. Nicovic, former chief of the Belgrade narcotics squad, said they are ideally situated to benefit from the trade because, facing discrimination at home over the past few decades, members of the same families have settled in both Turkey and western Europe, at either end of the Balkan route. Since the mid-1980s, these connections have allowed them to begin taking over the heroin trade, especially in Switzerland and Scandinavia. According to Interpol, Albanian speakers accounted for 14% of those arrested for heroin smuggling in 1997. While the average quantity of the drug found on smugglers was two grams, ethnic Albanians were carrying an average of 120 g. Last month, officials from the Czech Republic, Sweden, Norway and Denmark met to discuss stamping out the heroin trade between Southern Europe and European Union countries which they believe is controlled by a dozen Kosovo Albanian families. Although there is no evidence the Kosovo Liberation Army was directly involved in drug dealing, the British-based International Police Review reported it had become dependent on the mafia families, "which gives the criminals an influence over an armed force, almost 30,000 strong, which is likely to dominate post-war Kosovo." But the question facing UN police on the ground in Kosovo is whether the heroin trade through the province -- interrupted by last year's war -- has reappeared in large quantities. "I don't believe that's true," said Barry Graham, a UN officer working with Pristina's regional intelligence unit. "There are Kosovar Albanians dealing drugs in Switzerland and the Czech Republic, but their links with Kosovo are only family associations. I don't believe that Kosovo is providing a significant amount of heroin to Europe. What officials are saying is that 40% of the heroin is provided by Kosovar Albanians -- but the heroin does not come from Kosovo." While he acknowledged heroin is coming into the province, the amount only supplies local needs, he said. Cocaine is also being brought in to satisfy the demands of the large numbers of international workers gathered for the humanitarian effort. "We are not seeing any intelligence that anybody is making large amounts of money here," he said. Mr. Graham argues that the established routes through Bulgaria and Albania are so successful the smugglers have no need to make use of the route through Kosovo. "Why would they change it to Kosovo and risk going through new international borders as well as random security checks by over 40,000 KFOR soldiers? Because the borders are now monitored, they have to use the mountain passes and the quantities are limited to two or three kilograms." Until last year, smugglers bribed their way past Yugoslav border guards into Kosovo, then moved north into Serbia. The war disrupted this route and the new international border guards are not so easily corrupted, he said. In Belgrade, there is no longer the large supply of heroin coming from Kosovo that there was a few years ago. "All the connections between Serbs and Albanians has stopped," a heroin dealer in Belgrade told the National Post. "Only people without character would have dealt with Albanians during the war." A middleman along the Balkan route, the 24-year-old dealer sells a kilogram in Belgrade for 20,000 German marks ($14,200), a quarter of the price in Italy. However, he said he did expect the route from Kosovo to reopen. UN police say they are monitoring the dozen or so low-level dealers in Pristina, but with the court system virtually non-existent there is little they can do to stop them. "If a guy is caught with 40 to 50 grams, he wouldn't be prosecuted," said Mr. Graham. He added that he is much more concerned by the large numbers of guns coming into the country from Albania, a growing arsenal for the KLA, which was to have been decomissioned last year. "Large trucks are being used to smuggle weapons and drugs from the Albanian port of Dures. Small amounts of cocaine, heroin and pot are hidden in the cab but weapons are the main item." The flow of weapons out of the Balkans may be as great a threat to European security as the heroin trade.
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