A new report from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has revealed that violent Albanian criminal groups are exerting considerable control over the drug trafficking market in Britain.
In its fourth annual public analysis of the nature and scale of serious and organised crime affecting the UK, the NCA said it was increasingly concerned by what it called the Albanians’ high-profile influence within UK organised crime.
The agency said Albanian gangs pose a significant threat, and have particular influence on the UK cocaine market.
While based predominantly in London, the gangs have established themselves across Britain, developing a reputation for protecting their interests with serious violence.
“It’s very much a group that’s small in number but big in impact,” NCA Deputy Director General Matthew Horne commented.
“We have seen an emergence of violence, particularly around enforcing the drug trade, in this group.”
The NCA report also revealed that Serbian and Turkish crime gangs dominate high-volume maritime cocaine smuggling operations, with emerging intelligence regarding Mexican/Romanian collaborations to import cocaine from Europe in trucks.
Meanwhile, Turkish and Pakistani crime groups continue to dominate heroin trafficking to Britain, according to the NCA.
“Criminals from the Balkans are increasingly expanding their network of influence, forming direct relationships with cocaine suppliers in Latin America,” the report says.
“The threat faced from Albanian crime groups is significant. London is their primary hub, but they are established across the UK.”
Last year, the Observer reported that Albanians are one of largest groups of illegal immigrants in the UK, and that many have been smuggled into the country by people traffickers.
Elsewhere, the report warns that the scale of cyber crime is being underestimated in the UK as a consequence of many businesses failing to report they have fallen victim to hackers through fear of damaging their reputation.
It also reveals that some companies are buying Bitcoins in anticipation of having to pay off cyber criminals after being targeted in ransomware attacks.
“A survey of security professionals by industry identified that some businesses are stockpiling Bitcoins in anticipation of a ransomware attack,” the report said.
“Ransomware has become one of the most profitable malware types in history. Its success is best illustrated by the sharp increase of varieties in the marketplace.”
The study found that firearms offences increased by 7% in Britain last year, during which the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) reported the highest number of firearm discharge incidents since 2012/13.
Handguns and shotguns remain the most commonly used criminal firearms in the UK, but recoveries of automatic weapons is increasing, albeit from a low level.
The majority of criminal firearm discharges in Britain involve weapons that have not previously been discharged, which indicates there is a sufficient supply of guns being smuggled into the UK.