Joint Ecuadorian-Spanish operation results in 30 arrests, dismantles part of the Albanian drug mafia

Feb 6, 2024 | 0 comments

By Alexandra Valencia

Police in Ecuador and Spain have arrested at least 30 people in simultaneous operations as part of an investigation into Albanian organized crime, the Ecuadorian attorney general’s office said on Tuesday.

William Villarroel, chief of Ecuador’s anti-narcotics police, describes the arrests related to the Albanian drug mafia on Tuesday.

Prosecutors from both countries carried out 57 raids in six provinces of Ecuador and in four Spanish cities related to alleged money laundering and drug trafficking.

The raids occurred amid a military offensive launched by Ecuador President Daniel Noboa to combat criminal gangs in the South American country, which he has designated terrorists.

“The operation was carried out in collaboration with the attorney general’s office in Spain (where 12 of the arrests were made and 450,000 euros were seized) with 45 prosecutors participating with their support staff,” the Ecuadorian attorney general’s office said via social media. “We believe that much of the Albanian drug trafficking network has been dismantled with these arrests and asset seizures.”

The money seized is worth around $483,000. Prosecutors also found cash and firearms and seized property and vehicles. Detainees included people from Colombia, Argentina, China, Spain, Ecuador and Albania, Ecuadorian police said, adding that the group was allegedly led by an Albanian citizen.

The group moved cocaine from Colombia to the Ecuadorian border city of Tulcán before being taken to collection centers in Ecuador, said William Villarroel, the head of Ecuador’s anti-narcotics police. The drugs were then camouflaged in banana  export containers for transport to Europe, he added. The shipments were destined for ports in Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey and Albania.

According to Villarroel, the Albanian organization had privileged information on foreign trade documents and some of its members had connections to Ecuadorian exporters.

“In Ecuador they had six companies and in Spain they had four, with large commercial activity which facilitated money laundering,” Villarroel said, adding that the group could not explain some $32 million in sales.

More people could be linked to the case, he added.

In Ecuador, raids were carried out in Guayas, El Oro, Santa Elena, Cotopaxi, Pichincha and Azuay Provinces. In Spain, they were conducted in Barcelona, Malaga, Marbella and Valencia.
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Credit: Reuters

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