An organised criminal network composed mainly of Albanian-speaking criminals, suspected of illegally trafficking drugs, has been dismantled with the support of Europol. 107 persons were arrested during an action day on 13 July which involved law enforcement authorities in Spain, Germany and Albania.
The criminal group is believed to have been managing cannabis plantations in Spain where they cultivated and processed the marijuana, before it was transferred to other European countries for further distribution.
On the action day, some 400 police officers on the ground carried out simultaneous raids in 42 different locations in Spain (Tarragona, Barcelona, Girona and Castellón). An additional 9 searches were carried out a few days later.
These property searches led to the following results:
- 107 individuals arrested, including Albanian, Spanish, Slovak and Greek nationals
- 51 cannabis farms uncovered
- 25 000 cannabis plants seized
- €70 000 in cash and two-high end vehicles seized
This clan-based organised crime group was hierarchically structured, with branches operating internationally. Some of its members arrested have a history of drug trafficking in different countries.
The criminals were diverting the electricity supply to illegally cultivate the plants indoors. It is estimated that the stolen electricity amounts to over €1.6 million in lost utility revenue.
Europol supported this investigation by providing tailored expertise and extensive analysis support and facilitating the exchange of information through its secure channels. On the action day, a virtual command post was set up by Europol to ensure seamless coordination between all the authorities involved. One of its experts was deployed on-the-spot to Spain to allow for crosschecks against Europol’s databases of the data gathered in the course of the action.
Three Albanian investigators were also deployed to Spain in the framework of the Project IPA2019 aimed at countering serious organised crime in the Western Balkans.
The following law enforcement authorities took part in this investigation:
- Spain: National Police (Policia Nacional), regional Catalan Police (Mossos D’esquadra)
- Germany: Customs investigation Office of Berlin-Brandenburg Zollfahndungsamt Berlin-Brandenburg
- Albania: State Police (Policia e Shtetit)
- Europol: European Serious Organised Crime Centre