This week, the documentary series on Euronews Albania ‘Unpublished’, continued its investigations on businesses involved in the import-export of exotic fruits, which are being used by lords of the cocaine drug trade in Latin America with the final destination being countries in the European Union.
In the past 10 years, the number of banana imports has almost doubled, where out of 17 thousand tons in 2010, import has reached 31 thousand tons in 2020. This increase in imports also coincides with an increase in new companies that are involved in the import of exotic fruits from Latin America. This is one of the proliferating ways that is being used by those aiming to turn Albania into a transit center for the transport of cocaine to the west. With the exception of one case, all police operations for the capture of cocaine traffic took place in the ports. This is where law-enforcement authorities are only able to catch the transporter, not the one that places the order of the delivery. According to authorities, this happens because of several reasons.
“It’s not a guarantee that we’ll find cocaine in that part of the cargo or in another part. The information we receive could be partial, which means we might doubt it. There have been many cases in the past, where we have searched companies or other cargos and we haven’t seen any results. Decisions are made after the judgement of the prosecutors and directed by our investigation teams. So, we shouldn’t have any prejudice because we all want to get to the big names, no one wants to catch collaborative elements of the second or third tier,” – stated the chief of the Narcotics Sector of DPPSH, Rezar Velmishi for Unpublished on Euronews Albania.
This significant increase in the import of bananas as well as the establishment of companies that import them has taken place during the past 3 years. The foundation of new subjects in QKR is conducted immediately after the capture of cargos transporting cocaine. This was also the case of the company “Massabi Fruits”.
“Massabi Fruits”, administered by citizens Erion Peti and Klajdi Xibraku was founded on February 28th 2018, which means three weeks after the largest cargo was ever captured in the country, 613 kg of cocaine, ordered by the company led by Arber Cekaj.
One day after the inauguration of Massabi Fruits, on March 21st 2020, another banana company was founded, called Exoalmax, owned by citizen Selim Cekaj, the father of Arber Cekaj. He was arrested on April 1st of this year, after 49 kg of cocaine were found in the cargo of bananas ordered by his company. These are only a couple of companies that opened in the last 3 years, but there are dozens more.
These import-export companies of bananas follow an itinerary for the transport of cocaine and Unpublished followed in their footsteps.
The dispatch of the cargo is made possible through big ships from the ‘Simon Bolivar’ port in Ecuador, and their destination is the three key ports in Europe like the port of Gioia in Calabria; the Port of Piraeus in Greece and the Port of Valletta in Malta. The procedure continues with the unloading of the containers into smaller ships, in order to continue towards the next destination, the port of Durres. Therefore, the itinerary followed by the cocaine shipment is Ecuador- Calabria – Piraeus – Valletta – Durres.
This criminal activity brings in a lot of income, which is later invested into businesses and this is what makes the investigations for money laundering that more complicated.
“Such a serious criminal activity, pertaining to such a large amount of narcotic substances that require great spending, but which also gather a great amount of income; this large amount of dirty money will certainly be invested somewhere. This is where crime changes its nature, from the country harvesting weed, to the country trafficking heroin and cocaine, we enter the territory of white-collar crime. Crime transforms into a business and under these conditions, the investigation of money laundering becomes that much tougher,” said former prosecutor Besnik Muci, for Euronews Albania’s documentary series Unpublished.
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