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Suspected key figures from Albanian underworld are arrested in UK raising border security fears

EXCLUSIVE: TWO suspected key figures from the Albanian underworld have been arrested in the UK following international manhunts linked to cross-border drug supply.

It has led to renewed fears over border security and that the UK has become a favoured bolt hole for alleged serious organised crime figures from Eastern European countries who are seeking to evade justice.

Albanian crime networks are established across the UK and have taken over much of the cocaine supply and homegrown cannabis production in many areas, using young low-level criminals who arrive in the country illegally. However, alleged senior figures in the importation and distribution of the drug across Europe sourced directly from South American cartels are also being identified here. Genti Balliu, 40, was one of six suspected key players in the importation of cocaine into Europe from South America arrested in Belgium in December 2020. It followed a major joint operation involving Belgian, German and Albanian police in which 232 KGs of cocaine, weapons and 200,000 euros were seized. The gang was suspected of arranging delivery of drugs hidden in banana shipments from South America before staging armed robberies to recover them from the warehouse upon arrival. It is not clear how Balliu was able to leave Belgium and get into the UK or how long he was here, but he was arrested by the Met Police last month, nearly three years on, and brought before Westminster Magistrates' Court for extradition proceedings. He did not contest extradition and the court confirmed he has since been returned to Belgium. Earlier, in July Vladimir Shkambi, 35, was arrested by the Met Police on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) from Italy where for a number of years he has been wanted in connection with the attempted brazen assassination of two fellow Albanians involved in drug trafficking. In September 2011 the pair were shot at by a man in a targeted strike in Padua, Italy, in connection with drug trafficking. Both survived and Shkambi was arrested as the suspect and remanded into custody. It is not clear how he was able to later leave Italy or when he entered the UK. Westminster Magistrates' Court has remanded him into custody, due to his "access to fake identity documents" as he fights extradition. Alp Mehmet, Migration Watch UK Chairman, said: "Foreign suspected and convicted criminals should not be able to get into the country while they are wanted for such serious offences. Why are they not identified at the border and refused entry? Is it because we placed too much faith in technology at the expense of trained officials? Whatever the reason, border control is not working.” Steve Morris, a former Met Police intelligence DS, said British law enforcement had allowed Eastern European organised crime groups to flourish during free movement, rather than tackle them, so the networks were no win place to try to harbour fugitives. He added: "We’re Broken Britain. Our borders leak like a sieve and the agencies responsible for protecting UK interests are under funded and resourced. We have become a safe haven for international organised crime and through Brexit we have lost the partnership of our near neighbours.

"With a £9.4 billion annual trade in drugs in the U.K. alone criminal gangs are much richer and better resourced than the cops.

"The European Union allowed people to live and work in member countries not commit crime. The Authorities had the opportunities to get rid of them and chose not to. The Spanish did the same with British criminals and also suffered the consequences." The Home Office would not comment on individual cases, but insisted Border security was of "utmost importance."


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