EXCLUSIVE Albanian narcos bringing cocaine misery from Ecuador to the streets of Britain: Investigation lays bare how mafia from tiny Balkan country has seized control of transatlantic smuggling routes to flood cities like Brighton with drugs



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Albanian gangsters have ruthlessly seized control of the supply of cocaine in South America to flood Britain’s streets with record amounts of the drug, a Daily Mail investigation today reveals.

The global tentacles of blood-thirsty mafia kingpins from the Balkans now extend from ‘narco state’ Ecuador to cities and towns across the UK.

Details of the chilling development are revealed in our new two-part investigation into the trail of destruction left by Britain’s insatiable demand for cocaine – which is fuelling bloodshed abroad.

Our probe, and an accompanying documentary for The Mail+ and MailOnline, ‘ALBANIAN NARCOS: Bullets, Bloodshed & Britain’, lays bare the true cost of the UK’s cocaine epidemic both here and in Ecuador – a small, impoverished country 6,000 miles away.

The UK’s cocaine market is said to be worth a staggering £2billion with an estimated 976,000 users while the annual number of cocaine-related deaths has increased seven-fold in a decade, and now stands at 840.

In Brighton, in the shadow of the elegant Regency terraces ­lining the seafront, middle-class Britons can easily source the drug

In Brighton, in the shadow of the elegant Regency terraces ­lining the seafront, middle-class Britons can easily source the drug

Stephen Wright travelled to Guayaquil in Ecuador to investigate the drug gangs

Stephen Wright travelled to Guayaquil in Ecuador to investigate the drug gangs

Research by the National Crime Agency has shown that Albanian-organised crime groups control the cocaine market across the main city and suburban areas of the UK (with the exception of Merseyside, where local gangsters remain in charge).

Now those same drug barons have got an iron grip on the distribution of cocaine from Ecuador, where they have been involved in a bloody battle with local cartels for supremacy in the lucrative international cocaine trade.

In the first part of our investigation today, we expose how Albanian drug lords now control the supply of cocaine in the popular seaside resort of Brighton and Hove on Britain’s south coast, where according to a survey one in five people are said to have taken the substance.

According to sources, a mysterious underworld figure from Albania known only by a single initial is said to be one of the criminal masterminds in charge of a network of drug dealers supplying cocaine to middle-class professionals, commuters and students.

Earlier this week it emerged that global cocaine production has reached record levels as demand rebounds following Covid lockdowns.

A new report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said coca cultivation rose by 35 per cent between 2020 and 2021, and the largest markets were in Europe and North America.

The UK powder cocaine market here is worth a staggering £2billion

The UK powder cocaine market here is worth a staggering £2billion

Last month a leading Ecuadorian congressman revealed how the menace of the Albanian Mafia has infected his country ‘through violence, bribery and front companies, to build a million-dollar illegal business that consists of buying cocaine at a lower price in Latin America and market it in Europe’.

Fernando Villavicencio, president of the congressional oversight committee, said around 4,000 Albanians live in Ecuador.

He added: ‘Drug trafficking, corruption and other forms of organized crime have contaminated a large part of the blood system of the Ecuadorian State, of the political class and its parties, of its institution of justice, of the financial system and have even penetrated the forces of order themselves responsible for fighting organized crime.

‘The penetration, expansion and growth of organised crime could only take place thanks to the collusion and complicity of political power. Today, the fragile institutional framework and its contemptible democracy are at serious risk.’

Cocaine smuggled from Ecuador to the UK is typically hidden on container ships and enter via the ports of Rotterdam or Antwerp, which has also seen a huge rise in drug-related gangland crime.

As revealed in our documentary on The Mail+ and MailOnline, parts of Ecuador have been turned into the ‘Wild West’ as Albanian drug barons and South American cartels fight each other.

'Brighton is a party town,¿ says a resident. ¿I know of people from all walks of life who are on cocaine.'

‘Brighton is a party town,’ says one resident. ‘People from all walks of life are on cocaine.’

With exclusive on-the-record briefings from police chiefs, interior ministry officials, customs bosses and senior military figures, as well as unprecedented access to confidential intelligence reports, our investigation gives the terrifying inside story on how cocaine is being smuggled into the UK from South America.

During nearly a month in Ecuador, Mail journalists were invited on anti-narcotics operations and witnessed two fishermen being arrested trying to smuggle $20 million (£16.4 million) worth of cocaine off the coast of Ecuador.

In part two of our investigation, an Ecuadorian gangster breaks the Mafia code of silence to reveal how his mob is working with Albanian narcos to smuggle tonnes of cocaine to the UK and Europe. In an extraordinary encounter, he reveals how he carried out his first murderous attack aged 14.

We also reveal the untold story of one of Albania’s most notorious narcos, who has been controversially released early from a prison in Ecuador.

Dritan Rexhepi is nicknamed the ‘king of escapes’ for having escaped from prisons in Belgium and Albania; and the ‘king of cocaine’ for his ‘success’ in getting cocaine into Europe.

He now appears set to exploit a legal loophole to avoid extradition to Europe, where is he wanted for a series of gangland crimes including murder.

Rexhepi, who has featured on a Scotland Yard ‘Most Wanted’ list, is typical of many Albanian narcos based in Ecuador who, by side-lining traditional middlemen, negotiate directly with the producers of cocaine in South America and command the entire supply chain of the drug from South America to Europe – in particular the UK.

Senior British law enforcement sources believe people traffickers bringing Albanian migrants across the Channel are working with compatriot drugs lords to provide foot soldiers to supply cocaine on the UK streets.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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