According to an independent study by scholars Fabian Zhilla and Besfort Lamallari, Albanian criminal groups are becoming ever more sophisticated and are significantly increasing their influence on state institutions and society. Funding of the elections, involvement in seemingly legal businesses, and involvement in policy making are some of the indicators showing the increase of their influence in the country.
In their study, titled “The Evolution of the Organized Criminal Structures in Albania,” Zhilla and Lamallari provide an analysis of the development of organized crime in Albania from 1990 until 2015. They reviewed 71 decisions from the Court of the First Instance of Serious Crimes, interviewed 84 people involved in law enforcement, and did 5 case studies on specific criminal groups in Albania.
The study shows that in nearly all major cities of the country there are well-organized criminal groups or families who control the territory and which are mainly focused on drug trafficking, extortion, and collecting debts.
Different from before, in recent years criminal groups have expanded the territory in which they are operating from cities to the entire country and even beyond the borders, especially in the case of drug trafficking.
Another characteristic is the usage of organized of legal business as a façade to hide the trafficking of cocaine and other drugs. The criminal organizations also no longer attack the police and state institutions. On the contrary, crime has created strong bonds with part of the government, influencing both local and national politics. The profits made by these organizations is thus integrated in legal businesses and used to influence policy making.
The study points out several organizations and families operating in the major cities of Albania:
- Tirana: At least 3 very powerful criminal organizations with a long presence in the city;
- Shkodra: At least 4 large families are thought to be involved mainly in the trafficking of arms, drugs, and people. This region runs the risk of transforming into the next “Lazarat” and epicenter for the production of cannabis;
- Durrës: The locus of investments of criminal groups from the entire country, as well as an important meeting and hiding place.
- Fier: The criminal organizations operating in Fier are thought to be among the most sophisticated, and with one of the longest presences in the Albanian territory during the transitionl
- Berat: At least 3 families with a long history of criminal activities;
- Vlora: The many murders in Vlora in the criminal milieu appear to point to a battle for influence in international drugs and arms trafficking networks connected to EU countries, mainly Italy and Spain;
- Elbasan: The formation of criminal organizations and groups appears to have influenced the behavior of a younger generation in the rural areas imitating their behavior;