25 March 2007

Macedonia: 90 million euro cocaine haul at Kosovo border



Skopje, 9 Jan. (AKI) - Macedonian police have confiscated 483 kilogrammes of cocaine at a checkpoint on the border with Serbia's United Nations administered province of Kosovo worth 90 million euros. It is the largest drugs haul since Macedonia became independent 15 years ago, prime minister Nikola Grueski told local media. Several European police agencies participated in the operation to break up the drug trafficking ring which involved "criminal organisations from several neighbouring countries," Grueski said.


Grueski did not name the countries, or state where the truck originally came from, however. He said the truck driver, a Macedonian citizen, had been detained, but police were looking for a further two individuals with foreign passports.


The cocaine, discovered in paint cans in a truck that entered Kosovo from Montenegro on Monday, had originated in Italy and the Czech Republic and was destined for the European Union market, Macedonian television A1, said. The whole operation was organised "directly from his jail cell" by Cavilj Sabani, an ethnic Albanian serving a 40-year jail sentence in Kosovo for smuggling heroine, A1 reported.


Montenegro customs failed to detect the drugs, but reportedly warned Kosovo police that the truck was suspicious. Kosovo police also found nothing, but warned Macedonian customs at the Blace border crossing where the paint cans were checked and the 90 million euros haul was uncovered, A1 reported.


Kosovo, whose majority ethnic Albanians demand independence, has become a haven for organised crime, drug and human trafficking since it was placed under UN control in 1999. A1 said the Interpol - which coordinates national police investigations of cross-border crime - was investigating how the cocaine got across several borders and into Kosovo undetected.


Grueski said he received congratulations from several European diplomats on the cocaine bust, adding that European countries have shown great interest in the matter and will closely follow the investigation.