Ex-dictator Hoxha’s nephew held in Albania drug bust
The nephew of Albania's former dictator Enver Hoxha was arrested Thursday suspected of running a major cocaine laboratory in the centre of the Balkan country.
Police held 13 people, including Ermal Hoxha and two Colombians, in a raid on the alleged lab, seizing 120 kilos (264 pounds) of the drug.
They said they had also confiscated four tons of chemicals used to process the drug, which investigators said was destined for Germany.
The raid, in the village of Xibrake, near Elbasan some 50 kilometres (31 miles) southeast of Tirana, came as the suspects were preparing to mix the pure cocaine with other substances.
Hoxha is suspected of being a leader of the criminal group, police said. His uncle Enver Hoxha ruled the country with an iron fist for more than 40 years, imposing one the most hardline communist regimes in the world, and the first to outlaw religion.
Police said the cocaine had originating in Cuba and was to be transported through Italy and Austria to Germany.
Money and arms were also found during the search, official sources said.
An investigation into an international drugs trafficking ring had been going on for several months in cooperation with German police, they said.
Albania lies on the so-called Balkans route, used by criminals to smuggle drugs, people and weapons to western Europe.
In June 2013 Albanian police conducted a major operation to crack down on the impoverished country’s “cannabis kingdom” around the village of Lazarat, some 240 kilometres (149 miles) south of Tirana.
Lazarat produces about 900 tonnes of cannabis annually, according to police, worth some 4.5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) — equivalent to almost half of Albania’s gross domestic product.
Albania is regarded by international law enforcement agencies as Europe’s leading cannabis producer.