For the past 15 years the Balkan Peninsula has been in the world headlines often for the worst of reasons. Wars, conflicts and embargoes went hand in hand with the developments in the Balkans. As most of the conflicts of the past have been resolved, there is a common feeling amongst the South Eastern European public, that peace and prosperity will eventually prevail.
The main threat to the Balkans nowadays is the existence of well organized criminal groups that, to an extent, are an integral part of the world wide "Crime Syndicates" that largely control the narcotics trade in our Europe. The infamous Balkan drugs route (1) is the main path by which narcotics and specifically heroin are smuggled to European countries. It is actually a network of contrabands, corrupted public officials and war lords that make sure that the heroin produced in Afghanistan is smoothly transferred to the European addicts.
According to the Council of Foreign affairs (2), Afghanistan has almost tripled its heroin production and in 2005 alone 32,000 acres were reserved for poppy cultivation, out of 12,000 acres in 2004. This fact illustrates the total failure by the NATO Forces in that country to create the necessary framework for the reconstruction process. As far as the ramifications for the Balkans are concerned, the increased profits by criminal gangs have boasted them with tremendous riches and political influence.
This is old news to readers of Stop Islamic Conquest.
There are mainly two organized ethnic groups that deal most of the arrangements concerning the organized crime in the Balkans: The Albanian mafia (3) and the Turkish crime syndicates (4). Since the collapse of the Communist rule in Albania, various indigenous gangs have taken over the most profitable commerce, drugs.
A leading French criminologist Xavier Raufer (5) has extensively dealt with the issue of the Albanian mafia. He considers the Albanians as the only true "Mafia" in the Balkans due to the peculiar social structure of their society in the Northern parts of the country "The land of the Gheghi".
As an isolated society with very firm beliefs in issues of honor and manhood pride coupled with severe social problems and a culture of vendetta the Albanian north has transformed itself into the epicenter of the huge international crime network. Various reports (6) indicate that roughly 70-80% of the heroin distributed in European is under Albanian control, a whopping percentage for a nation of just 6 million people. These Albanian crime chief control the 3 Balkan routs for drug smuggling through their "Soldiers" and "Capos" along the way and protecting shipments from police and official interruption.
Again, much of this is old news for my readers. It is certainly worth reviewing, though, and some of the details are quite impressive and shocking, despite our familiarity with them.
Ethnic Albanians have emigrated to other countries throughout Europe, and there play a key role in the movement of heroin, which is produced from poppies in Afghanistan; this heroin helps fund Islamic terrorists and their backers.
Albania is also a major producer of Cannabis (7), which is mainly exported to neighboring Greece and Turkey. The narcotics traded is placed along the trafficking and illegal immigrant smuggling (8) operations that have seen the Albanians gaining the fame as the most powerful and dangerous criminal group in South Eastern Europe. The revenues from prostitution in Greece alone run at around 7.5 billion USD (9), a large portion of that being controlled by Albanian criminal groups.
Trafficking of women from Albania is one of the main ways to establish a "War chest" for the organized crime, in order to invest that wealth into the drugs trade. In essence, the first stage for every growth-oriented organized crime unit is to establish a prostitution ring, make large amounts of cash by slaving unsuspecting women and then invest the cash in the drugs trade by constructing the expensive logistics bases, fake companies, and pay corrupted officials. So when looking into the different aspects of organized criminal activity, it is important to look for the interconnectivity of all aspects of criminal activity because each one leads into another. The interconnectivity between drug activities is what makes the differences between organized crime and a spooky wanton criminality.
We have addressed the slave-running and human-trafficking before here, specifically in the context of the Balkans.
It is interesting to hear that if the kidnapping and sexual exploitation of women, particularly in the Balkans, could be effectively dealt with, then many of the other problems would be less severe. The terrorists we face need money to operate; a major source of that money is trafficking of narcotics, especially to Europe; organized crime rings that are involved in that trafficking get their start by trafficking and exploiting women. Consequently, patronizing the sex-worker ring not only provides the market that enslaves women, but it helps fund terrorism. Political leaders that make no attempt to deal with prostitution are just as guilty of aiding and abetting terrorists as are those who do not try to deal with the narcotics trade.
Recently however, a hybrid criminal form (10) has emerged: organized crime activities and terrorism. The Albanian groups that are mostly active in the North of the country have been associated with the preparations of the UCK (KLA) guerilla forces in the late 90’s, as well as, with their arming and training (11). The troubling 90’s in South Eastern Europe saw the convergence of the drugs trade along with the formation of radical Islamic groups and the pervasion of corruption in the upper echelons on the countries involved. In the Albanian case the past decade it is assumed that the country is facing a virtual take over of its institution by the organized crime that in its turn has been linked with international terrorism, with Al Qaeda leading the onslaught (12).
Make no mistake about it: it is the same Al Qaeda that is killing our troops and innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is the same Al Qaeda that has committed numerous terrorist strikes worldwide resulting in the deaths of many thousands of innocent civilians -- it is this Al Qaeda that is benefiting from the exploitation of women in the sex slave industry.
Prostitution is by no means a victimless crime, and even if you have nothing to do with prostitutes, you might still be the next victim.
The main role of the Albanian Mafia in the narcotics trade is the one of wholesale distributor of Afghan heroine. Along the Balkan route and especially the one passing through Southern Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia; the Albanians import heroin and then dispense it to Italy, or Bosnia- Croatia to Austria and Central Europe. After 1999 and the consequent Albanian dominance in Kosovo, Pristina has become the unquestionable narcotics capital of Europe (13). A traditionally provisional city in the midst of the Balkans is nowadays the epicenter of all drugs deal of an area encompassing Central Europe, Balkans, and Middle East. The lack of law coupled with the existence of a society reluctant to pursue organized crime, has created a "black hole" in the centre of the Balkans that primarily lives on criminal activities and the remittances of the Kosovo-Albanian Diaspora (14). The latter is strategically located in countries such as Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Denmark and dominates the European heroin trade (15). Despite the fact that Albanians are relatively newcomers to the European organized crime scene-Like the old-timers Sicilians, Corsicans and Irish- they have already taken over the entire European heroin market and make large advances in the sectors of trafficking, racketeering, arms smuggling and illegal gambling.
And the Bush Administration seeks to formalize this "black hole" by ensuring it gains independence from Serbia, in violation of all applicable international law.
The infamous Albanian mafia is a formidable criminal network, but the existence of another one, influential as well, should be added in order to examine the whole spectrum of drugs trade in the Balkans. The Turkish crime syndicates are the undisputable partners of the Albanians. It would not be possible for the Albanians to become distributors in the first place if they weren't able to acquire their good from the East, and that is where the role of the Turks begins.
Turkey is a country strategically located between the East and the West. Apart from its importance in political and military level, it is also an integral part of the international narcotics smuggling. It would just be very hard for heroin to travel from Central Asia to Europe without being able to trespass Turkey, the only Asian country bordering with Europe.
This helps bring into focus the Sibel Edmonds case. Edmonds came across material while working as a translator with the FBI indicating that highly-placed US government officials were being bribed by Turkish organized crime interests.
Turkish organized crime plays a key role in this whole matter; if dealt with effectively, significant damage could be done to the flow of money to Al Qaeda, yet, instead of investigating this and dealing with this, the Bush Administration has engaged in a very deliberate attempt, well-addressed at this blog, to keep Edmonds from discussing any aspect of this case, even going so far as to declare her date of birth and educational background to be a state secret.
Turkey's traditional drug of production is opium and the official Turkey has been producing it for medicinal purposes. In the early 70’s international pressure –Mostly from Nixon administration in the USA- obliged Turkey to enforce stricter rules for opium production in 1974. Up until then heroin was produced in Turkey as an opium derivative and quantities were sold to the West with the assistance of the Sicilian (17) and Corsican mafias (18). The heroin to be sold was transported with ships to Sicily, and then to Marseilles were the Corsicans had created labs for the fabrication of the commercial product. From then onwards it was transferred to New York and other US ports where the American-Italian mafia would assure its allocation in the end-users.
The forceful USA administration at that time declared a war against narcotics and obliged the Turks to seek other sources of the lucrative opium. Soon enough Turkish operational production bases were established in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. The war in the former during the 80's, as well as, the resurge of the Kurdish guerilla fighting after 1984 (19) and the Iraq-Iranian war (20) in the same period created a convergence of political, criminal and military operations based in heroin trade. Events such as the Iran-Contra (21) scandal illuminate how far the heroin trade has penetrated the higher echelons of the world's decision making process and how it interacts with the international affairs. The destruction of Beirut during the 80's also destroyed the city's ubiquitous reputation as the prime port for narcotics trade and this role was transferred by Istanbul.
If the heroin trade played a role in international affairs during Iran-Contra, why should we suppose that it has not continued to do so?
In particular, were events in Lebanon manipulated in part by international narcotics traffickers, so as to destroy Lebanon and favor Turkey as a transshipment point?
Many have expressed concern that the Bush Administration's war in Iraq had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. We now know this to be the case; not only were the accusations based on intelligence that was cooked up, but Valerie Plame was outed by the Bush Administration because her husband exposed the lies. Is it not logical that the war in Iraq might be driven in part by the corrupt elements that have been in Washington for years and who have been affiliated with international narcotics trafficking? Might the heroin trade be the real beneficiary of the war in Iraq? Might Turkish military forces be operating against Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq right now as part of a fight to control the flow of narcotics from Afghanistan to the West?
The situation after the end of the Cold War in 1989, found the Turks financially strong from their trade in the previous decades and also ready enough to pursue stronger ties with the countries of Central Asia, an aim vividly supported by the USA administrations.
The appearance of the Albanians and the civil wars in former Yugoslavia provided ample of human resources in the Balkans eager in getting involved in the drugs trade so as to gain capital to achieve their political aims.
By then, Europe was already a hosted to a considerable Turkish minority, especially Germany (22), and individuals from those Turkish communities were used to act as local retail agents for the heroin distribution in Europe.
We know from other sources that heroin is moved in official Turkish government, especially military, vehicles and helicopters, and that it is moved throughout Western Europe by officials of the Turkish government who hold diplomatic credentials.
In 1996 the Susurluk accident (23) revealed to Turkey the extent where the drug lords have penetrated the upper crust of the society and they were able to conduct their businesses untouched by the law. Even the spouse of the then Turkish Prime Minister Tancu Tsiller (24) has been widely accused for close interactions with notable underworld figures. Furthermore the accusations that the Turkish security forces were conducting drugs trade in South Eastern Turkey (25) were in relation to the civil strife in that region because of the Kurdish fight and that presents once more that politics and criminal groups seem to go hand in hand.
If you are not familiar with the terms "Susurluk" and the "Turkish Deep State", Google them and see what comes up.
The modus opperandi of the Turkish organized crime in drugs trade follows the role of the coordinator and distributor. Large amounts of heroin shipments enter Turkey each month and then delivered through the Balkan route mostly, to all over Europe (26). It has to be noted that the country with the largest Turkish community-Germany- is being used also as a redistribution centre. That means that when heroin reaches Germany, it is being handed out from there to the other major European markets, especially UK and Scandinavia. Some of the strongest "Capos" of the Turkish syndicates reside in Germany and generally speaking this country has become the centre of gravity for the Turkish drug barons that are in charge of the European drug terrain (27).
It should also be noted that the heroin is no longer refined in Turkey, as it was years ago. Now it is refined on the spot in Afghanistan. The heroin trade has grown quite comfortable there under the watchful eyes of Western governments. Why?
The alliance of Turkish and Albanian crime groups (28) can also be explained by the cultural, religious and ethnic links –a large percentage of Turks in western Turkey have Albanian ancestry. Additionally, there is a tradition of the Albanian clans to join and serve other ethnic groups with similar, clans organization. This is also true with the Albanian drug gangs in the USA (29) where for decades the Albanian crime syndicates operated under the aegis and influence of the much stronger American-Sicilian crime corporations of New York where a large ethnic Albanian community exists.
A recent article in Balkanalysis revealed interesting facts for the interrelation between American domestic politics, the role of the Turkish lobby and the American foreign policy (30). It is beyond any reasonable doubt that, in the case of the Balkans, the West has dramatically failed to check the narcotics flow. Despite the fact that thousands of troops, intelligence officers and police are based in the Balkans, assigned by NATO and the EU, there has been no real confrontation with the realities of criminal syndicate pervasion in the Balkans. On the contrary, in the areas where the Western presence is more powerful like in Pristina, it is exactly the stronghold areas of the mafias and their collaborators (31).
That last sentence is a very damning statement. Just by itself, it seems to confirm not only what Sibel Edmonds has claimed, but even the very worst extrapolations thereof.
It is more than certain that if Western societies along with their partners in the Balkans; cannot control the narcotics trade their incompetence will certainly spill over to the overall antiterrorist security framework that they are trying to enforce. The Hybrid forms that modern crime is currently experiencing will most certainly ensure the continuous flow of capital to terrorist enterprises along with the recruitment of loyal assistants and the corruption of public officials in sensitive sectors of the public sectors. The initiatives (32) by the heads of state of the Balkans to curb on organized crime should give the opportunity for further decisive measures. Balkans have already being developed as Europe's soft underbelly-Not quite as Churchill imagined- and one of the top priorities of the EU has to be the unquestionable joint effort to "close down" the Balkan route, achieving thus a real advance against terrorism in a worldwide level.
The "corruption of public officials" is the first task at hand, and Washington, DC, is the place to start. This problem is deeply-rooted in the neocon Bush Administration, but the Clintonites of the last decade were certainly involved.
Until we clean up Washington, our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot possibly win and are fighting and dying for nothing, because those who call the shots from offices in the relative safety of the Pentagon and the State Department will be undercutting our troops' efforts at every turn, helping their narcotics-trafficking Eurasian friends who, in turn, are in bed with Al Qaeda.
(1) Report by Interpol on heroin trade
(2) Analysis by the Council of Foreign Affairs on international heroin trade
(3) Article by the BBC on the Albanian Mafia
(4) Paper on the Library of Congress on Turkish organized crime groups
(5) The website of the Criminologist Xavier Raufer
(6) Report by the Washington Quarterly on organized crime in the Balkans
(7) Briefing by the Europol on Albanian narcotics production
(8) Analysis by the CEMES Institute on Balkan trafficking
(9) Paper on the connection between Albanian organized crime and illegal prostitution by the Sisyphe organization
(10) Press release by the UN office in Vienna on Albanian organized criminal networks
(11) Research by Xavier Raufer on relations between UCK and drugs trade
(12) Article on the Albanian organized crime by the Decani organization
(13) Article on organized crime in Kosovo by the Balkan Peace service
(14) Wikipedia article on Albanian Diaspora
(15) An independent Analyst from Scotland researching on Albanian Mafia
(16) The history of opium trade by Wikipedia
(17) FBI briefing on the narcotics trade
(18) Reference source on the narcotics and organized crime activities
(19) A paper by the Federation of American Scientists on Turkish-Kurdish conflict
(20) Information source on the Iran-Iraq war
(21) Article on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Turkish narcotics connection
(22) A report by a German media source on Turkish organized crime
(23) Article on the “Susurluk accident” –Turkish organized crime
(24) Reference source on the relation between high Turkish public officials and organized crime
(25) Report by Monde-Diplomat organization on the drugs trade in Turkey
(26) Paper relating to Turkish role in narcotics distribution in Europe by the –Centre of drugs research, University of Amsterdam-
(27) Paper presenting activities of Turkish organized group activities in Europe by the –Centre of drugs research, University of Amsterdam-
(28) Article on the converge of Turkish and Albanian organized crime syndicates by the Centre for European Reform
(29) Report by the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Albanian organized crime groups
(30) Article by Balkanalysis presenting the far-reaching influence of the Turkish organized Groups
(31) Article on the organized crime activities in Pristina by the organization –Save Kosovo-
(32) Press release by the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in relation to the joint Balkan declaration against organized crime.