Spanish authorities have dismantled an Albanian criminal group that trafficked cocaine from Latin America across Europe, showcasing the increasing importance of Albanian crime rings to the transatlantic drug trade.

Seventeen people belonging to an organization known as “Clan Farruku” were arrested in raids across Spain, according to an April 14 press release from Spanish police. The group appeared to mostly be comprised of an Albanian family living in Madrid and the southern tourist region of Costa del Sol. They were related to the group’s leader Kreshnik Budlla Farruku, a well-known Albanian drug trafficker who was not arrested during this operation and is still on the run.

SEE ALSO: Albanian Drug Traffickers Jockey for Position in Ecuador

While Clan Farruku has been known to Spanish authorities since 2008, the investigation accelerated after the authorities learned of a possible drug shipment linked to the group in September 2021 which was eventually seized in January 2022. This seizure of 2 tons of cocaine hidden in a container of frozen fish sent from Guayaquil, Ecuador, to Algeciras, Spain provided concrete evidence of the group’s connections to Ecuador.

Since the start of the operation in September 2021, a total of nearly 10 tons of cocaine seized in Italy, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Spain have been connected to the Albanian group. Additionally, Clan Farruku was likely involved in a different kind of drug deal, known as kilo-for-kilo. A shipment of 10 tons of Moroccan hashish seized in Portugal was allegedly going to be sent to Latin America to be swapped for the same quantity of cocaine.

This type of agreement is not uncommon for this group, according to Pavla Holcová, regional editor for Central Europe for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), who has been following the group for several years.

InSight Crime Analysis

Clan Farruku appears to have been one of the most well-structured Albanian operations discovered to date, with members exercising influence on key parts of the cocaine pipeline in multiple Latin American and European countries. This shows that even though some of their compatriots have been establishing influence in Latin America for well over a decade, Albanian drug traffickers are becoming more organized.

“They have infrastructure in Spain, in the Netherlands, and in the Belgian port of Antwerp,” Holcová told InSight Crime.

SEE ALSO: Enduring Italians, Ambitious Albanians – How Cocaine is Changing Europe’s Criminal Landscape

The group is also present in Ecuador, a hotspot for envoys for Albanian criminal groups. Ergys Dashi, whom Spanish police confirmed had been a broker for Clan Farruku, was murdered in a Guayaquil restaurant in February 2022, shortly after the cocaine seizure at the port of Algeciras.

Dashi’s case is an example of how such brokers work, according to Holcová. While he was an important strategic asset to the Farruku network, he was not part of its core group, she explained, adding that the group likely has a number of similar envoys currently in Ecuador and neighboring Peru.

“In the last one or two years, Peru has seen an increase in the activities by Albanian groups,” she said.

And Clan Farruku is not alone. Another notorious Albanian trafficker, Dritan Rexhepi, was arrested in Ecuador in 2015 and sentenced to 13 years in prison for seeking to arrange cocaine deals to Europe. However, he appears to have been released from his jail in Guayaquil in early 2022 and has not been seen since.

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