An FBI statement before a US Senate Committee in October assessed the organised crime situation in the Balkans.
By Dimitris Agrafiotis for Southeast European Times in Athens - 21/11/03
Organised crime in the Balkans has attracted the interest of the American law enforcement community and the US Senate. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believes that crime from the Balkans, Eastern and Central Europe, and the former Soviet Union is expanding and will continue to expand.
"In the last year or two, European nations have recognised that Balkan organised crime is one of the greatest criminal threats that they face," Assistant Director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division Grant D. Ashley said in an October statement before the Subcommittee on European Affairs of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
He added that European police organisations estimate that Balkan crime rings now control more than 70 per cent of the heroin market in some of the larger European nations, and are rapidly taking over human smuggling, prostitution and car theft rings across Europe.
Analysts believe the gangs are involved in all kinds of criminal activity -- drug trafficking, human trafficking, burglary and home invasion robbery, money laundering and securities fraud, organised crime gambling and extortion rackets.
According to Ashley, organised crime groups from Albania have expanded their activitites in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, and the Scandinavian countries. In the last few years, he said, Albanian organised crime has reached the United States, creating partnerships with the Gambino, Genovese, and Luchese families to facilitate specific crimes.
In Italy, meanwhile, Mafia groups have reportedly taken advantage of the country's geographic proximity to Southeast Europe to align themselves with Balkan organised criminal groups engaged in arms and cigarette smuggling, trafficking in humans and smuggling of aliens.
In order to confront this growing problem, Ashley said, the FBI has established the Balkan Organised Crime (BOC) initiative, which is focused on criminal activity emanating from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Greece. The BOC is a high profile endeavour on the part of the FBI's Organised Crime Section and the US Department of Justice's Organised Crime and Racketeering Section, he noted.