‘Undisputed Capo’: The Albanian Behind a Cocaine Pipeline to Europe

Fourteen years later, in September 2020, the police came knocking, arresting 20 suspects in coordinated raids in 10 countries in Europe and the Middle East to dismantle the Albanian crime syndicate, 'Kompania Bello'.

According to Europol, the European Union's police agency, cocaine importers have traditionally worked separately from the wholesalers and gangs distributing the drug, but Kompania Bello "ditched the model and controlled the whole chain."

The operation to bring it down, codenamed 'Los Blancos', followed a five-year investigation led by Italian prosecutors in Florence and is considered, according to Europol, "the biggest of its kind ever against Albanian-speaking organised crime."

According to court documents obtained by BIRN, Italian prosecutors have identified Rexhepi, 40, as "the undisputed 'capo'" of Kompania Bello, with access to "endless quantities of cocaine".

Describing Kompania Bello as "a union of criminal operators," an Albanian prosecutor involved in the Los Blancos operation told BIRN:

"It certainly poses a threat to public order and security in Albania as we're dealing with a union of operators with huge criminal and economic potential."

Jailed in Ecuador, still wanted in Europe

Dritan Rexhepi. Photo: Interpol

Going by the name Gramoz, Rexhepi's criminal career dates to the 1990s, a period of huge turbulence in Albania when he is suspected of working as a contract killer. In 2013, he was sentenced in absentia by a Tirana court to 25 years in prison for the 1998 murders of two people, one of them a police officer.

Rexhepi has also been convicted of cocaine trafficking in Italy and armed robbery in Belgium.

Besides an extensive rap sheet, Rexhepi...

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