Former Albanian Dictator's Grandson Arrested in Drug Heist
TIRANA, Albania — The grandson of the communist dictator who ruled Albania with an iron fist for four decades has been arrested on suspicion of belonging to an international criminal ring that smuggled cocaine from Colombia to western Europe.
Ermal Hoxha, 40, faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence if convicted on charges of drug trafficking and processing. Police said Thursday a further eight Albanians and two Colombians have also been arrested.
Hoxha is the eldest grandson of Enver Hoxha, who governed Albania from 1944 until his death in 1985 — five years before a student revolt overthrew the country's isolationist communist regime.
The arrests followed a raid on a cocaine-processing laboratory in central Albania Wednesday, where police seized 120 kilograms (265 pounds) of the drug, cash and weapons.
The nephew of Albania's former dictator Enver Hoxha was on Thursday arrested on suspicion of running a cocaine laboratory.Police held 13 people, including Ermal Hoxha and two Colombians, in a raid on the alleged lab, seizing 120 kilograms (264 pounds) of cocaine worth 24 million euros ($33 million).
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, 50 kilometres (31 miles) southeast of Tirana, came as the suspects were preparing to mix the pure cocaine with other substances.
The Colombians arrested were named as Cezar Adolfo Avila, 67, and Walther Moren Juan Moreno, 42.
Hoxha is suspected of being a leader of a 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 outlawing religion.
Police said the cocaine had originating in Cuba and was due 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 south of Tirana.
Lazarat produces about 900 tonnes of cannabis annually, according to police, worth some 4.5 billion euros -- equivalent to almost half of Albania's gross domestic product.
Albania is regarded by international law enforcement agencies as Europe's leading cannabis producer.