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Albanian government official, police officers arrested in major drug trafficking probe

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By Euronews with AP
Three senior police officers were among those arrested, Albanian authorities said.
Three senior police officers were among those arrested, Albanian authorities said.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, FILE
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An Albanian government official and three senior police officers have arrested as part of a major drug trafficking investigation.

A total of 38 people -- also including a prosecutor and two other policemen -- have been detained for drug offenses, corruption, abuse of post, and money laundering, authorities said.

Albania’s Special Structure Against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) said the arrests followed a two-year probe led by Italy.

The suspects, who operated in Albania, Italy, Montenegro, and Spain, were part of four international criminal groups mainly involved in drug trafficking.

Twenty-eight of the suspects -- including two bodyguards who worked for a former Albanian Interior minister -- were arrested in the country.

Since 2016, police in those countries seized around 6 metric tons of cannabis, cocaine, and other drugs, with an estimated total value of €55 million.

"The public officials, in some cases themselves the owners of the drugs, had guaranteed that the narcotics destined for the Italian region of Puglia would arrive there securely either by land or sea,” said the statement.

SPAK added that they will confiscate millions of euros worth of the suspects’ assets including apartments, plots of land, restaurants, and other businesses.

The European Union Ambassador to Tirana, Luigi Soreca, welcomed the arrests on Twitter as an "important operation" against international drug trafficking.

"[The] fight against organised crime and money laundering are top priorities for the EU and for Albania on its accession path," he wrote.

Albania has for years been a major source of cannabis exported to the EU, but a government crackdown has significantly reduced the number of plantations in the country.