The KLA has always been the armed wing of Albanian Mafia.
Its humiliating defeat at the hands of the Serbs was rather
embarrassing for the United States. NATO had to intervene.
It could not allow a $400 billion a year heroin
business to slip through its fingers.
Now that NATO has been triumphant, trade in the Balkans can again flourish.
The heroin trade, that is. It was tricky there for a while. While the Serbs
were fighting grimly to save their country from disintegration, their
opponents, the KLA, were fighting to save a $400 billion a year heroin
business. By wiping out KLA strongholds in Kosovo. Slobodan
Milosevic had inadvertently also wiped out the heroin supply network that
links Central Asia to Europe.
The KLA has always been the armed wing of this Albanian Mafia. Its
humiliating defeat at the hands of the Serbs was rather embarrassing for the
United States. It was bad enough that the KLA was so lousy at fighting.
Despite their sophisticated weaponry they could not stop 40,000 Serb regular
and paramilitary forces from throwing out, in a matter, of a few weeks,
800,000 Albanians. But at least they could pay for their weapons.
Without the heroin money, however, they would no longer even be able to do
that. NATO had to intervene. It could not allow such a lucrative business to
slip through its fingers.
The rise of the Albanian Mafia has been one of the most extraordinary
phenomena of the last 10 years. For decades, the bizarre dictatorship of
Enver Hoxha had isolated Albanians from the rest of the, world. The demise of
Communism, however, had the effect of releasing the nation's pent-up criminal
energy. Every kind of criminal scheme began to flourish. There were phony
land deals, pyramid schemes and drug trafficking. Young women were
transported to Italy to work as prostitutes. Children were sold to earn their
keep as beggars in European cities.
And, of course, there was the lucrative ferrying of illegal immigrants across
the Adriatic. Privatized state enterprises became front companies for
laundering money. Albania became the paradigm of the post-Communist state in
which former apparatchiki team up with the local Mafia to loot the people of
their assets. The Kosovar Albanians dominated much of this criminal activity.
In part, this was because they were from sophisticated, cosmopolitan
Yugoslavia that had allowed its citizens the freedom to travel. In part,
also, because they were already thoroughly experienced in heroin trafficking
from the days when the Balkan Route for narcotics went through Yugoslavia.
The Balkan Route starts at the poppy fields of Pakistan and Central Asia,
goes through Turkey and ends up in Western Europe. Yugoslavia's collapse into
civil war in the early 1990s meant that heroin traders needed to find a more
secure route. The heroin now went through Albania. Using the overland route
drugs travel from Turkey to Greece and then to
Macedonia. Albanians then transport the drugs by truck to the ports of Vlore
and Durres [in Albania]. From there it is ferried by small craft either north toward the
Dalmatian coast [Croatia] or across the Adriatic to Italy. Then it is taken to Germany
The vast Albania Diaspora ensures easy distribution. Albanians who crossed
the border into Kosovo could get Yugoslav passports. This enabled them to
travel anywhere in Europe, where they could demand political asylum as
refugees from Milosevic.
The Albanian Mafia is thought to control upwards of 70 percent of the illegal
heroin market in Germany and Switzerland. More than 800 Albanian nationals
are currently serving prison terms in Germany for heroin trafficking. The
respected Jane's Intelligence Review recently reported:
"Albania has become the crime capital of Europe. The most powerful groups in
the country are organized criminals who use Albania to grow, process, and
store a large percentage of the illegal drugs destined for Western Europe...
Albanian criminal gangs are actively supporting the war in Kosovo."
According to Germany's Federal Criminal Agency: "Ethnic Albanians are now the
most prominent group in the distribution of heroin in Western consumer
countries." The Albanian Mafia resembles the Sicilian Mafia in many ways. It
is clan-based, driven by blood feuds that go on for generations, and has a
definite geographic base from which it controls the Diaspora.
In no time the Albanians displaced the Turks in the heroin business.
Armenians and Georgians who supply the raw opium base prefer doing business
with Albanians than with Turks. Moreover, Kosovar Albanians who dominate the
Albanian Mafia used the proceeds of the heroin sales to buy arms for the
anti-Serb guerrilla war in Kosovo. Here the Central
Asians can be very helpful. Raiding armories and selling weapons is a
multibillion-dollar enterprise in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
In 1997 Interpol declared that Kosovo Albanians hold the largest share of the
heroin market in Switzerland, in Austria, in Belgium, in Germany, in Hungary,
in the Czech Republic, in Norway and in Sweden. Thanks in part to NATO, the
Balkans will soon come to resemble places like Colombia, where drug
traffickers are so powerful that they effectively
control the state. Politicians, political parties, provincial governments and
security authorities are in the pocket of drug lords. This is pretty much
already the case in Albania and Macedonia. It will be like that in Kosovo
soon. "The economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market
principles," as the Rambouillet accords put it.
For the United States the establishment of a KLA state in Kosovo is a happy
outcome. The KLA really does believe in the free market economy. What it
understands by this is the opportunity to loot and pillage a people, so
successfully accomplished in neighboring Albania. The securing of the Balkans
Route means that the KLA will always be flush with money. With this it can
take over the economy
of Macedonia and Montenegro and also finance all kinds of prostitution and
child slavery rackets in Europe. It will always be able to pay for its
weapons should it decide to restart its war against Yugoslavia.