Criminal Albanian gangs ready to resort to “serious violence” have “considerable control” over the drug trafficking market in the UK, a National Crime Agency (NCA) report has revealed.
The gangs, which use London as their primary hub but are established across the whole of the UK, have been found to have a particular influence on the cocaine market.
NCA deputy director general Matthew Horne, told the BBC: “It’s very much a group that’s small in number but big in impact.
“We have seen an emergence of violence, particularly around enforcing the drug trade, in this group.”
The NCA report stated that staff corruption at ports and airports was a “key vulnerability”, making it easier to smuggle in drugs and bring in illegal immigrants.
The report also warned that “criminals from the Balkans are increasingly expanding their network of influence, forming direct relationships with cocaine suppliers in Latin America”.
While only 0.8 per cent of crimes in the UK were committed by Albanians, the NCA report said their readiness to use serious violence was particularly troubling.
The report stated the Albanian gangs were often involved in both drug and people trafficking.
Horne said: “Criminal networks are diversifying and it is not uncommon to find the same groups involved in trafficking people or illicit commodities, using the same methods or infrastructure.”
Albanians are reported to be one of the largest groups of illegal immigrants in the UK and are found in British ports more often than any other nationality. They have been known to cross the Channel on smuggler boats, taking advantage of Britain’s “porous“ maritime borders.
A report by The Observer earlier this month said: “Officially, the UK is home to about 20,000 Albanians, but more are known to have entered, having pretended to be Kosovans fleeing the war in Yugoslavia.”
It also stated that “the UK is the ultimate destination for Albanians, who come from a country where 70% of the population is Muslim and [the] medieval code of kanun [an “eye for an eye” code of law] holds sway in rural areas.”