ISIS seizes £4bn drug ring from the Mafia to fund its brutal terror campaign

Jihadists are flooding Britain with cannabis from the Albanian drug farm as intelligence experts warn that Islamist extremism is taking hold in Europe

Jihadists are flooding Britain with cannabis from the Albanian drug farm as intelligence experts warn that Islamist extremism is taking hold in Europe

In Albania Islamic State is raising cash for its terror campaign by running cannabis farms and shipping the drug to Britain.

The evil caliphate has seized control of a $4billion Mafia marijuana growing operation in the rural mountains of Albania – giving it a foothold in Europe.

Private jets and ships take the £4billion-a-year harvest to Mafia bosses in Italy, who distribute it, the Sunday People reports.

ISIS moved into the lucrative trade after security services fought their way into an Albanian Mafia HQ in the hill village of Lazarat.

Far from putting paid to cannabis farming, the 2014 raid cleared the way for ­extremists to take over by removing the Mafia.

ISIS now recruit in the area – often from the Mafia itself.

Jihadists flood Britain with cannabis smuggled from Albania
Crop: Cannabis grows near Lazarat

Dr Vladimir Pivovarov, a former military intelligence officer, said: “It is well known that Albania and other countries in the region have citizens joining ISIS.

“Western intelligence identified Balkan countries as the most active in providing ­recruits for jihad.

“There is no doubt that the best recruits for the jihadists are those that were in the Mafia. Already schooled in violence, they even pay their own way because the dirty money that the jihadists then gain when they recruit Mafia recruits helps to further swell the jihadist coffers. With new recruits and money, the Mafia in the region is exactly the reason why Muslim extremism is establishing itself in this part of Europe.”

He is echoing what the People was told earlier by an unnamed senior government official, who said: “It wasn’t as if the Mafia moved out and Jihadists moved in, what many people fail to understand is that the borders between Albanian Mafiosi and ISIS militants are blurred. Even if the leadership is different, they often use the same people to supply them with illegal weapons, and use the same people for illegal activities whether it’s drug running or indeed any of the other illicit activities.

“For the drugs Mafia there are not so many advantages to links with the extremists although in the past, it might have helped out with money laundering and the like, but the terrorists love to have drug dealers in their squads, and offer them everything that can to win them over. With their help, they are clearly muscling into the drugs world.”

Lazarat came onto the radar of western drug officials in 2012 after two Dutch motorbike tourists travelling through Albania made the remarkable discovery of the village.

Being from Holland, where cannabis consumption is legal, the pair were no strangers to what cannabis plants look like. But even they were stunned to discover tens of thousands of the plants growing in the countryside around Lazarat.

Jihadists flood Britain with cannabis smuggled from Albania
Seized: Cannabis at a port in Albania

A video they made of the trip showed cannabis plants stretching away alongside the road for mile after mile. Their video went viral showing how the druglords in Albania produced weed to fuel the bars and cafes, the nightclubs and the homes of western Europe.

In its 2015 report, the US government-funded NGO Freedom House noted that Lazarat was at the heart of producing marijuana in Europe, valued at 5.9 billion (4 billion GBP) in 2013 – then equivalent to nearly half of Albania’s gross domestic product and making it Europe’s biggest illegal cultivator of marijuana.

To protect their turf, narcotics barons had turned the area around Lazarat into a no-go zone, brooking no outside interference. Armed with rocket-propelled grenades and armour-piercing shells – and with millions available to grease the right pockets – the region was generating hundreds of tonnes of marijuana annually with residents even using private planes to distribute their drugs.

And the police stayed away. Or at least they stayed away until June 2014 when the Tirana authorities decided on a shock-and-awe display of force intended to reclaim the area for the state.

A new Socialist party government had taken office at the end of 2013 and pledged to combat corruption and organised crime – and to claim a place in the EU club of nations.

CENIslamic State is raising cash for its terror campaign by running cannabis farms and shipping the drug to Britain. Pictured - Weapons and ammunition Albanian police confiscated in the village Lazarat
Guns: Rifles and ammo seized in a raid on jihadists in Lazarat

They decided to hit Lazarat hard, and backed up by helicopters and armoured personnel carriers, 800 heavily-armed police officers marched into the region. Against them the gangsters deployed their fearsome arsenal and unleashed shells, grenades, RPGs and machine guns on the forces of law and order.

Police occupied the town after fierce fighting, seizing 102 tonnes of marijuana and destroying 530,000 marijuana plants. The cannabis they torched left a cloud of smoke so thick it obscured even the local mosque. In the process they seized grenades, mortars and machine guns.