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Germany arrests Albanian over record cocaine smuggling

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Germany arrests Albanian over record cocaine smuggling
File photo: DPA
09:32 CEST+02:00
An Albanian businessman suspected of being involved in smuggling a record 613 kilos (1351 pounds) of Colombian cocaine in a cargo of bananas was arrested in Germany on Friday, police in Tirana said.

The drugs haul, with a market value estimated at €180 million ($215 million), was discovered in February in a container that arrived from Colombia, via Italy, to the northern port of Durres.

It was the biggest such seizure in the Balkans country, which is used as a crossroads for smuggling to Europe.

Arber Cekaj, owner of the Abi Garden firm which owned the cargo, was arrested near Duesseldorf on Friday in a joint operation of Albanian and German police, the police statement said.

Cekaj had fled just hours before the February operation in Durres was launched during which the drugs were seized and two people arrested.

A European Union candidate country since 2014, Albania is under pressure from Brussels to tackle its problems of drug trafficking, corruption and organised crime.

For years the country has been the main exporter of cannabis to the EU, notably Italy, according to a number of Europol reports.

That trade is equivalent represents at least the value of a third of Albania's gross domestic product (GDP).

A 2017 State Department report said Albania is also "a transit point for cocaine and heroine aimed at European markets".

A former interior minister, Saimir Tahiri, politically allied with Prime Minister Edi Rama, is currently under investigation for his alleged links with cannabis smugglers.

Tahiri, who rejects the allegations, said on Thursday he was resigning as an MP to "face justice" over the "fake accusations" against him. 

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