Expatica news

Swiss rules Kosovo men guilty of drug smuggling

31 October 2008

BELLINZONA – Two brothers from Kosovo were convicted Thursday of running a massive drug smuggling ring that prosecutors said supplied Western Europe with up to half of its heroin.

Ragip and Kemal Shabani channelled 1.5 tons of heroin through Europe from the mid-1990s until 2003, when they were shut down, prosecutors said. They used a small town in Kosovo as their base with branches in Macedonia, Albania, Spain and the Czech Republic, according to the Federal Criminal Court.

The trial – considered one of Switzerland’s largest-ever drug cases – was held under high security in the southern town of Bellinzona, with only some relatives and journalists allowed into the courtroom.

Judge Jean-Luc Bacher sentenced Ragip Shabani to 15 years in prison for breaking Swiss narcotics law, and ordered the 42-year-old to pay CHF 300,000 in court costs.

Kemal Shabani, 28, was given only a two-year suspended sentence for participating in a criminal organisation, and was charged CHF 90,000 in court costs.

Defence lawyers said they would appeal the verdict, which also ordered that the Shabanis’ assets be confiscated. The assets include five luxury cars and Kosovo properties such as houses, restaurants and shopping centres.

The court dropped a charge of money laundering for lack of evidence.

The brothers’ father, 69-year-old Tariq Shabani, was acquitted in the case and was granted compensation of CHF 47,000 for his time in custody during the investigation.

Bacher said the verdict took into account the fact that Switzerland had only partial jurisdiction in the case because much of the drug smuggling allegedly happened in other countries.

The Shabani clan had already come under suspicion in some countries before the 1998-99 Kosovo war, but it continued to operate after the territory was placed under U.N. administration, the indictment said.

A six-year investigation led to the arrest of Ragip Shabani in 2003 in Macedonia’s capital of Skopje. His brother and father were arrested in Germany in 2005, according to the indictment.

Police across Europe confiscated 970 kilograms of heroin during raids carried out from 1997 to 2003 in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland and Kosovo, which is now an independent country.

[AP / Expatica]