As I write this at the end of April, the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia is in its fourth week. Albania—predictably—has been turned into a NATO base, and the Kosovo Liberation Army is openly recruiting volunteers in NATO countries, including the United States, where both U.S.-born Albanians and Albanian resident aliens are allowed to join the ranks of an armed movement that meets all the standards of a terrorist organization. In late 1998, the New York Times reported that Kosovo Albanians in America—with the approval of the U.S. State Department—were collecting money to purchase arms for the terrorists. (This activity is not banned by federal law as long as the State Department does not list the KLA as a terrorist organization.) The Albanians coordinating the fundraising acknowledged that they had collected the fantastic sum of $100 million from Kosovo Albanians in New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston. The transportation of arms to Albania was also coordinated from the United States.

The State Department’s decision not to include the KLA on its list of terrorist organizations makes a mockery of international justice. While the Clinton administration knows that the KLA is receiving arms from Iran, has ties to Osama bin Laden, and is deeply involved in the international drug trade, these facts have been kept from the general public. The sporadic voices of former American officials who caution against arming the KLA are drowned out by the battle cries of the administration.

The decision by the corporate media in the United States not to expose the KLA’s involvement in the international drug trade appears to be as politically motivated as the efforts of the State Department to portray the KLA as freedom fighters. Unlike their counterparts in the United States, European journalists have reported on the sources that finance the KLA. Large numbers of Albanians from Kosmet (Kosovo and Metohija)—who have falsely claimed the right to asylum in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Belgium—are raising funds through arms smuggling, drug trafficking, and prostitution. According to the Corriere della sera (March 6, 1998), Albanians from Kosovo who live in Switzerland, Germany, and the United States are involved in a variety of illegal activities, especially drug smuggling, and they use a portion of their profits to finance terrorist activities.

The latest police action against the Kosovo mafia, made public after almost a year of investigation, occurred in Milan. Italian newspapers reported in early January that the heroin market in Lombardy is controlled entirely by Kosovo Albanians who do not even bother to launder their money in Italy but transfer it directly to Kosmet and to Switzerland to finance the KLA. After police in Milan held a press conference to expose the Kosovo Albanians’ criminal organization, Rome’s La Repubblica ran the headline (January 19): “Heroin Sold in Milan Serves to Finance Kosovo Liberation Army.”

The latest discovery in Italy is just a drop in the ocean. Albanian organized crime rules the streets of Geneva, and in Hungary, the head of the narcotics division of the Hungarian police, György Hollós, estimates that Albanian criminals control 80 percent of the heroin market. The Hungarian newspaper Magyar Hirlap reported on November 15, 1997, that Albanians from Kosmet control almost the entire heroin market in Hungary and send part of their profits to separatists fighting for a “Greater Albania.” The same is true in the Czech Republic, where police last year broke an Albanian drug gang, arresting 16 people who were hiding 40,000 doses of heroin worth some 300,000 deutsche marks (DM).

When, after a recent bust in Prague, a Yugoslav Albanian was captured with ten kilograms of smuggled heroin in his car, the Yugoslav public was not surprised either by the swift action of the Czech police or by the ethnicity of the captured smuggler. Only the quantity seemed odd, since the Kosovo Albanian couriers who take drugs from Turkey to Europe and America used to smuggle slightly over three kilos of heroin per person. The war in Kosovo has apparently led the Albanian underground to increase heroin deliveries from the Middle East to the Western drug market. According to the Swiss and the French press, since the Colombian cartel entered the Old Continent in 1997 with drugs of higher quality and lower prices, Kosovo Albanian drug dealers have been forced to lower heroin prices, which has increased consumption of their “white powder.”

The Czechs first had troubles with the Kosovo Albanian mafia in 1992, when Yugoslavs (mostly from Kosovo) began to immigrate. That year, as many as 20,000 illegal immigrants were stopped at the border. The police confiscated 50 kilos of heroin and arrested 35 people in one bust alone—four Czechs and 31 Kosovo Albanians. The Czech police had dismantled a gang from Kosmet and their network of dealers, all of whom lived in Prague. One of them, Sali Bakija, had been pursued for an entire year by the Czech police in an operation called “Andromeda.”

In July 1996, Czech police arrested another group of Balkan drug dealers. The “Sirius” operation resulted in the capture of three Kosovo Albanians and approximately 100 kilos of heroin worth half a million Czech crowns. One of the three, Ramiz Sadiku, was born in Kosovo in 1953, and the other two. Mehmet Dzevat and Sali Recica, were also born in Yugoslavia in the late 1960’s There are about 50,000 former Yugoslavs in the Czech Republic today; half of them are Albanians serving as accomplices to the Albanian mafia and drug dealers.

Albanians and Kosovo Albanians, together with their fellow nationals from Turkey, have been involved in drug smuggling for over 30 years. The Albanians started as couriers for the Turkish and Bulgarian state mafias, who smuggled drugs to fund secret political, military, and intelligence operations. The majority were recruited from the “Kosovo triangle” (the cities of Veliki Truovac, Presevo, and Gnjilane), one of the black spots on Interpol’s map of world drug routes.

As Allen Labrousse, a French expert on drug smuggling, told the Washington Post last year:

Powerful Turkish clans, who used to control [the] European heroin market, found out that, over the past ten years, their terrain had been infringed upon by Russian, Caucasian, and Albanian drug Mafia looking for their share of the market and profit. The Kosovar Albanians have grown so strong that they have control over seventy percent of the drug market in Switzerland only. At this moment, at least 2,000 Kosovar Albanians are in jails in this country for drug dealing. The war in the Balkans disrupted former Yugoslav channels for drug smuggling from the Middle East to the Old Continent; over the last four years, however, nimble Kosovo Albanians opened new distribution centers and new passages to the West. The Albanian connection represents the heroin route that causes most problems to European states and their police forces.

Today, there are about 500,000 Kosovo Albanians in Europe. This base has strengthened the Albanian drug mafia in two important ways. The first is the accumulation of capital through trafficking in drugs and weapons and through other criminal activities, such as car theft. The second is the organization of Albanians from Kosmet, Macedonia, Albania, and Turkey into a single drug trust headquartered in New York, with branches in Chicago, Tirana, Skopje, Istanbul, Pristina, Sofia, Prague, Budapest, Moscow, Frankfurt, Zurich, and Brussels.

György Hollós, head of the narcotics division of the Hungarian police, said recently that

About 20 tons of heroin destined for Germany arrives from the Far East to our border. Last year, we seized 812 kilos of this drug, which is twice as much as. . . in previous years. Greater quantities of drugs are smuggled in trucks arriving from many countries with . . . international markings, which guarantees the protection of this cargo from our customs and police inspection. Unless we change our regulations, we cannot cut this heroin channel, which is coordinated by three gangs in Budapest. The biggest is the Turkish-Hungarian gang; the Hungarian-Kosovo Albanian gang is also strong, while the Hungarian-Arabic is the weakest.

In Istanbul, DM 50,000 buys a kilogram of 90 percent pure heroin. In the spring of 1996, customs officers at the Kapetan Andreevo crossing on the border between Turkey and Bulgaria arrested Osman Haliti, Fatmir Haliti, and Rehmar Kelemendi (all of Kosovo), who were transporting 320 liters of anhydrous acid for heroin production. During questioning, all three admitted that they were working as couriers for “Bojci,” a secret group of Bulgarian drug dealers.

According to Interpol, the drug route from Southeast Asia to consumer markets in Western Europe passes through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and finally Turkey, where the raw drugs are refined. Interpol estimates that about 90 percent of heroin seized in Europe comes from Turkey, by way of Bulgaria and Macedonia. As a result of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, the “Balkan route” forked into two—a northern one, through Bulgaria, Rumania, and Macedonia; and a southern one, through Greece, Macedonia, and Albania.

For poor Albanians, drug smuggling is a way out of poverty. Last year, a 12-year-old Albanian boy was arrested in southern Italy, in the port of Bari, with five kilos of hashish in his knapsack. He told police that he wanted to settle in Italy and that he had been ordered to smuggle the drugs in exchange for passage from the Albanian port of Valone.

After three years of drug trafficking in Switzerland, 25-year-old Artan Hodza became a rich man. “I was transporting heroin from Istanbul, via Skopje, to Zurich,” says Hodza. Once, the drug was in a gas tank; another time, two yormg Norwegian girls diverted customs officers. Artan and his twin brother, Arben, used to earn as much as DM 10,000 a month in Switzerland. Back in Albania, Hodza was earning less than DM 100 a month. His drug earnings have allowed him to build a luxurious house in Sijak, a town of 11,000 halfway between the ports of Drac and Tirana. The house, which cost DM 200,000 and features a swimming pool and Italian furniture, is one of 700 new estates in a town where three factories have closed.

In 1993, Interpol arrested about a hundred Kosovo Albanians involved in the international drug trade. Nearly 50 were detained in Germany and approximately 20 in Switzerland. Italy also arrested about 20 Kosovo Albanian smugglers. The same year, eight European countries worked together to break up the “Benjamin” smuggling ring. Another 330 dealers were arrested, and approximately 250 kilos of heroin was seized.

Long before the Bosnian war broke out, Yugoslavia warned Interpol and the United Nations that the Kosovo Albanian mafia was spreading across the world. As early as 1988, the Yugoslav government sent information to the United Nations about 5,000 Albanians in Kosovo who were involved in heroin smuggling in Europe. That same year, 55 Kosovo Albanian drug dealers were arrested in Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav’ government’s warnings were met with silence from the United Nations and Interpol.

Recently, however, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and Italy have all announced plans to deport Albanian offenders. Under pressure from citizens upset over increasing troubles with Albanians, who have filled Swiss prisons, the Bern government has decided to revoke the political asylum of many Albanians and return them to Yugoslavia. Since most of them do not have Yugoslav papers, however, Belgrade does not want to accept them. Switzerland is attempting to deport 153 Albanians, and Belgium, Austria, and even the United States may follow suit. A quick glance at the situation in a few countries will indicate why.

In Switzerland, the Kosovo Albanian mafia is led by Sami Sabedini, better known by his nickname, “Baron.” The 40-year-old owner of the Plans Café in Zurich was a major supplier of drugs to Switzerland. The Swiss police shadowed Sabedini for a year and secretly recorded some 6,000 of his “business” conversations. He was apprehended in the spring of 1995, sentenced to 17 years in prison, and sent to the Regensdorf jail. While being transferred to Bern for a second trial in January 1996, Sabedini escaped from the train. The Swiss suspect that he now lives in the Czech Republic and controls the distribution of drugs to the Zurich market from there.

Swiss police estimate that Kosovo Albanians bring in 500 kilograms of heroin per month. Zurich alone has 5,000 hard drug addicts, and the state recently bought 500 kilograms of heroin for use in rehabilitation. There are about 250,000 Albanians in Switzerland (about 150,000 from Kosovo); in addition to the drug trade, many of them are involved in illegal work, theft, and begging.

In 1995, a series of police raids and court trials in France revealed the involvement of Albanian gangs in organized crime of all kinds, from heroin smuggling to child prostitution. Early this year, members of an Albanian drug gang were arrested in Kemper, in western France, after police discovered a network of illegal activities covering all of Brittany. Their leader, 30-year-old Arben Korba, was sentenced to eight years in prison. Korba commanded 16 Albanians who were smuggling cars from Germany and taking heroin to Kemper and other French cities. “Korba has a typical file,” the police told me. “He arrived in 1990 and was registered as a political refugee. However, later on he got involved in crime.”

In 1994, the Geopolitical Drug Observatory, a group headquartered in Paris, reported that one armed group, known as the Albanian Resistance Movement and National Liberation Front, trades in heroin in order to buy weapons and fund the separatist cause in Kosovo. The French found strong indications that, as early as ten years before, the entire business of drug smuggling had been organized by the chiefs of the Albanian secret service, who control the Albanian underground even today. The Observatory recommended that Albanian criminals be deported.

Judging by police reports, Germany may have the most trouble with Yugoslav offenders, particularly with Albanians. The Germans used to grant them political asylum; now, they want to expel them. German Police Minister Manfred Janter says that one of every ten criminals arrested in Germany comes from the former Yugoslavia. Last summer, about 40 criminals were arrested in Westphalia and Lower Saxony, most of them from Yugoslavia. The Buckbach prison near Frankfurt houses 530 inmates, 27 of them Yugoslavs. According to the Kosmet weekly Zeri, as many as 1,200 Albanians are on the list of dangerous criminals in Germany. The Frankfurt police have a separate department for fighting Yugoslav criminals. Joseph Schutse, director of the Frankfurt prison, said that, “Thirty years ago, Turks were the first who started ‘doing’ drugs. Albanians got involved later on, and, over the past five years, Serbs are doing it sporadically. The Kosovo network is fairly strong and is expanding all the fime.” He added that:

The chief of [the] Albanian drug mafia in Frankfurt was Iso Azemaj, an Albanian from Kosovo. We captured him in 1995, sentenced him to life in prison for smuggling and murder, but he managed to escape during his transportation to [a] prison hospital. . . . He is now hiding in Portugal. We expect the Portuguese to extradite him to us one day, since he had fired at a police officer.

In North America, Kosovo Albanians form one of the stronger links in the Colombian chain of drug distribution. They are active in New York, where there are 60,000 of diem, and in Chicago and Toronto. According to some estimates, they make about $50 million a year on heroin. Milan Vujic, a Chicago policeman, told me that:

Our police have troubles with the Albanian underground, since they are close-knit and difficult to handle. U.S. policemen do not know the Albanian language; secondly, they almost cannot distinguish them from Turks and Arabs, and do not manage to infiltrate their own agents into their ranks. Albanians cover up for their business by working at restaurants registered as Greeks, Turks, Kurds, Arabs. The Kosovar Albanians are very well connected among themselves; they are obedient and disciplined . . . and ruthless in settling accounts with informants within their ranks. Their couriers for heroin distribution across the U.S. include elderly women, even children, who cannot speak English, and therefore we can hardly obtain any useful information from them during investigation. Albanians invest the profits they earned on heroin into houses and entire neighborhoods in New York and Chicago. In the Bronx, they even bought some Serbian houses in order to erect an ethnically clean suburb for themselves.

Yugoslav police have a registry of “Wanted” circulars. It is a small green book, held by all police officers at border crossings, and it includes about 1,500 names of Yugoslavs and foreigners under police supervision. Albanians are the most numerous on this list of supervised persons.

An Albanian scholar from Pristina, Dr. Kadri Bicaj, disturbed by the major role that Kosovo Albanians play in the world’s drug trade, has established the Association for Fighting Drug Addiction and Drug Smuggling in Kosovo. But the dangers posed by Albanian drug smuggling are not only physical and spiritual; they are political. The Albanian underground is extensively involved in the political life of Kosmet, and a portion of Albanian drug profits returns to Kosmet as an investment into Albanian separatism. The sponsors of Albanian separatist movements also include the secret services of several major countries, who finance some of their own political activities in other countries through drug smuggling.