Co-operation is key to stopping regional drug trafficking


A joint effort between police in Montenegro and Albania is a prime example of co-operative crime fighting.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica -- 04/02/13


Police from Montenegro and Albania seized more than a tonne of skunk cannibas along the border between the two countries on January 24th. [Montenegro Police]

Collaboration by police from Montenegro and Albania has to the seisure of more than a tonne of skunk cannibas along the border

Police officials said the operation was a textbook example of how law enforcement agencies should cooperate, and experts say such cooperation is essential in the regional fight against drug trafficking.

Montenegrin police found an inflatable boat with two motors about a kilometre from the spot where the drugs were seized on January 24th. Two people were spotted fleeing the area before Albanian police arrived to take possession of the drugs about 15 kilometres southeast of the Montenegrin city of Ulcinj.

Marija Jovovic, spokesperson for the Montenegrin police, said the agency engages in joint patrols and training and exchanges information with other law enforcement agencies.

"This seizure on the border with Albania is an indicator of good co-operation," Jovovic told SETimes. "Of course, there is always room for improving the co-operation, especially when it comes to the safety sphere."

The region is part of a drug trafficking pipeline that starts in Afghanistan and extends via Turkey, the Balkans, Italy and Austria to Central and Western Europe. The UN calls this "the Balkan Route."

According to the US State Department's 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, "Cocaine is smuggled by sea and air from South America to Montenegro with the increased involvement of Montenegrin citizens, either as organisers or couriers."

Marko Nicovic, a member of the board of directors of the International Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association, said broad-scale collaboration between nations is necessary. He pointed to the 2009 joint action by Serbian, US and Uruguayan authorities in the seizure of more than 2 1/2 tonnnes of cocaine from fugitive crime boss Darko Saric as an example.

"The case of Darko Saric showed that fighting against drug smuggling needs to reach a global level of co-operation," Nicovic told SETimes.

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The Belgrade Prosecutor for Organised Crime recently reported that Saric laundered more than 2 billion euros in Serbia by providing loans to 600 firms. Saric, who is Montenegrin, remains on the run, but dozens of his associates have been arrested.

"Saric was a part of global network of narcotics," Nicovic said. "He could not do such a job without some political background. It is slowly being uncovered how much firms, lawyers, journalists and politicians were bought by Saric's dirty money. The essence is that the police in the region should cooperate even better because there certainly is room for that."

Uros Pena, deputy of director of the Directorate for Co-ordination of Police Bodies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said every police agency needs to co-operate more when it comes to planning.

"Every police is a little jealous on someone else's strategy and data," Pena told SETimes. "Therefore, every police unconsciously hides its data and strategies. Police agencies need to improve the co-operation in that planning part, to exchange the strategies and operation details. When it comes to execution of action they're all working good. But planning needs to be more available."

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