The Albanian drug gangs who flaunt their wealth online: London-based mafia in drive to recruit more footsoldiers to the UK as Lamborghini and Rolls Royce-driving rappers glorify kingpins ‘linked to cartels’
- Albanian gangs have now forged direct links with brutal Latin American cartels
- They’re trying to persuade Albanian criminals to smuggle themselves into the UK
- They do this by posting images of themselves with machine guns and bank notes
- Middle-class drug users swelling vast profits of the Albanians’ criminal empire
Strutting in front of a pair of Rolls-Royces, a Lamborghini Huracan and a menacing mob of masked men, Albanian gang rapper ‘Stealth’ delivers a chilling warning.
‘We gun you down cos Albanians need no reason,’ he spits. ‘They try to catch us, but these Albanians can’t be caught.’
The defiant video offers a shocking insight into the Albanian mafia in the UK. It was until recently shrouded in secrecy but now it is exploiting online PR to recruit more foot soldiers.
Posting images of themselves flaunting machine guns, wads of bank notes and gold Rolex watches, brazen gang members are trying to persuade criminals from Albania to smuggle themselves into the UK to join their network, experts say.
Middle-class drug users are swelling the vast profits of the Albanians’ criminal empire, which controls Britain’s £5 billion cocaine trade.
The Mail on Sunday’s investigation into Albanian organised crime can reveal:
- Albanians have forged direct links with brutal Latin American cartels, driving down the price of the Class A drug, and have a vice-like control over cocaine distribution in the UK;
- For the first time Albanians make up the highest number of foreign nationals in British jails, with 802 of them behind bars here;
- Jailed gang members are illegally using mobile phones to make video calls to each other from their cells and then posting their conversations online. The cells of two Albanian criminals who appeared in a recent video were raided by prison officers last week;
- Albanian contract killers in the UK charge from £15,000 to £100,000 per assassination.
Known as the Mafia Shqiptare, Albanian gangsters seized control of Britain’s cocaine trade about five years ago by linking up with the South American cartels that supply the drug. This resulted in the price of a kilo of uncut cocaine in Britain plummeting to £30,000 from more than £45,000 while still providing vast profits for the Albanians who are believed to buy their cocaine from the cartels for about £4,000 a kilo.
The main cocaine routes into the UK ports are via Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Europe’s largest seaport, and Antwerp in Belgium. Europe’s police have found it almost impossible to infiltrate the Albanian gangs, which are governed by a strict code of loyalty known as besa, meaning ‘to keep the promise’.
They also have a fearsome reputation for violence, governed by the code of kanun: the right to take revenge. A report by the Open Society Foundation for Albania identified Britain – along with Belgium, Greece, Spain and Italy – as countries where professional Albanian hitmen operate. ‘The payment for a killing in Great Britain varies from £15,000 to a maximum of £100,000,’ the report states.
Albanian gang member Azem ‘Ziro’ Dajci pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated burglary, possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition. He will be sentenced later this month
Albanian gang rapper ‘Stealth’ struts in front of a pair of Rolls-Royces, a Lamborghini Huracan and a menacing mob of masked men. However, the music videos come with a disclaimer that those behind it ‘do not condone violence of any kind’ and that any violent acts portrayed ‘are simply artistic impression’
Much of the vast Albanian criminal network operates below the police’s radar and is focused on making huge profits. But the Hellbanianz – a violent gang of brazen drug dealers in East London – is a brash exception.
Based in housing estates in Barking and Dagenham in East London, many of the gang members’ parents came to the UK in the late 1990s. Formed in about 2002, the criminal lifestyles of the Hellbanianz’s gang members is glorified by a rap group of the same name. Professionally produced music videos that depict swaggering young men flaunting their wealth have elicited a huge following.
The video for the song Hood Life, first posted two years ago on YouTube, has been viewed more than 10.3 million times and features fearsome masked men and a scantily clad woman sitting on the bonnet of a white convertible Rolls-Royce Phantom on the Gascoigne Estate in Barking.
‘My Albanians, hold on to your Kalashnikov rifle, Albanians, you are being reduced to sawdust,’ sings a gang rapper called Vinz, whose real name can today be revealed as Ervin Selita, 26.
The video for the song Hood Life, featuring rapper Vinz (pictured), first posted two years ago on YouTube, has been viewed more than 10.3 million times. However, the music videos come with a disclaimer that those behind it ‘do not condone violence of any kind’ and that any violent acts portrayed ‘are simply artistic impression’
The rap group Hellbanianz shares a name with a violent gang of brazen drug dealers in East London. However, the music videos come with a disclaimer that those behind it ‘do not condone violence of any kind’ and that any violent acts portrayed ‘are simply artistic impression’
‘All your p***y Albanians think they Rambo. All my real Albanians moving narco, narco,’ adds Stealth, whose real name is Fatjon Dibra who, like Selita, was born in Burrel in Northern Albania.
In another video, which has been viewed 4.3 million times since its release in 2016, gang members are shown swigging champagne from bottles in a mansion, surrounded by women wearing only underwear.
‘F*** the police, I’m chasin’ my dreams,’ sings Dibra, 29. ‘F*** only all these hoes. I’m lovin’ the green [money], lovin’ the green, lovin’ the green.’
Meanwhile, pictures posted on Instagram by gang members appear to show a fearsome arsenal of weaponry. One, uploaded last November, shows an assault rifle with ammunition arranged to spell the letters ‘HB’ for Hellbanianz. Experts say that more senior Albanian gang bosses are happy for the Hellbanianz to have such a high profile because such flashy videos will help persuade more Albanians to move to the UK and join the criminal network.
In the song, Stealth says: ‘We gun you down cos Albanians need no reason. They try to catch us, but these Albanians can’t be caught’. However, the music videos come with a disclaimer that those behind it ‘do not condone violence of any kind’ and that any violent acts portrayed ‘are simply artistic impression’
‘They show their muscle through their music,’ said one Albanian source with knowledge of the gang. ‘It’s criminal PR.’
Dr Mohammed Qasim, an expert on gangs at Leeds Beckett University, said: ‘This lavish lifestyle is a message to others to say ‘we’re successful’, and it’s also a message to rivals to say ‘we’re making more money than you’. ‘They usually go back to Albania in large numbers for a birthday or a wedding and there’s a need to show they’re successful, which is measured in how much they can spend on a party.’
The most recent Hellbanianz video – Kodak – was released in May and has already been viewed more than 2.6 million times. The title of the song compares the rapid fire of a camera shutter with shooting a gun: ‘We shoot more rounds than Kodak takes pics,’ Dibra sings.
The video begins with a ‘disclaimer’ that those behind it ‘do not condone violence of any kind’ and that any violent acts portrayed ‘are simply artistic impression’. The lyrics, however, hail three jailed Hellbanianz gang members known as Ziro, Gucci and Illir. ‘Ziro was jailed cos they caught him carrying a gun,’ they state. ‘Free my Albanians – Gucci – living their lives in halls. Illir’s freedom was taken away; he went out of control.’
Experts say that more senior Albanian gang bosses are happy for the Hellbanianz to have such a high profile because such flashy videos will help persuade more Albanians to move to the UK and join the criminal network
Albanian organised crime in Britain can be traced back to the bloody Balkan Wars of the 1990s that led to a surge of Kosovan refugees claiming asylum in Britain. From 1998 hundreds of hardened Albanian criminals also began arriving, having hoodwinked the Home Office by falsely claiming to be Kosovans.
They first took over London’s prostitution rackets but their tentacles soon spread into drug dealing and people trafficking. In about 2014, their gang bosses conquered Britain’s cocaine trade by forging their new business model for the supply, transportation and distribution of the drug.
Gangsters brazenly flout jail phone ban
Last week The Mail on Sunday discovered a video call filmed in the prison cells of Albanian gang members Azem ‘Ziro’ Dajci (pictured) and Fabion ‘Gucci’ Kuci was brazenly posted online – despite the fact mobile phones are banned in prisons.
The men used Instagram Live to speak to each other from their respective cells in Wormwood Scrubs and then posted a recording on YouTube. Kuci, of Camden, North London, boasts, ‘I am only smoking weed’, while Dajci explains how he is keeping fit – ‘We have done push-ups every day till we get tired.’ Kuci, 27, is behind bars after pleading guilty to a charge of aggravated burglary, while Dajci, 26, of no fixed address, has pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated burglary, possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition. They will be sentenced later this month.
Both men’s cells were raided on Friday and three iPhones seized.
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: ‘We will punish those responsible.’
Both men’s Instagram pages have been taken down.
Soon the Albanians were involved in every element of the trade – from shipping the drug across the Atlantic hidden in pallets of bananas to dealers selling bags of powder in pubs and clubs. ‘They became responsible for bringing it into the country,’ said Tony Saggers, former head of drugs threat and intelligence at the National Crime Agency.
Albanian gangsters living lavish lifestyles in Britain enjoy hero status among disaffected young men in their native country where youth unemployment is 22 per cent.
In a sign of their growing cult status in Albania, Hellbanianz ‘rappers’ performed to hundreds in Tirana, Albania’s capital, earlier this month. Behind the performers was a screen displaying the Hellbanianz gang’s logo: two pistols with handles shaped like dragon heads. The PR blitz appears to be working: large numbers of young Albanian men are travelling through Europe to the Netherlands where they then try to smuggle themselves into the UK.
Albania won the right for its citizens to travel without visas in the so-called Schengen Area – which does not include Britain – in 2010. This allows Albanian nationals to travel across Europe to Britain’s doorstep without any passport checks.
Earlier this year, however, the Dutch government took the extraordinary step of issuing a plea to the European Commission to suspend visa-free travel for Albanians.
In a hard-hitting letter to the Commission, obtained by the MoS, it argued that since 2015 the Netherlands had ‘experienced a substantial increase in serious criminal offences linked to Albanian nationals and Albanian crime gangs’.
‘Another development is the increasing number of illegal migrants from Albania, mostly young men wishing to start a new life in the United Kingdom,’ it added. But despite such an alarming warning, bureaucrats in Brussels this month rejected the Dutch request.
Meanwhile, in the UK the police are trying to fight back against the Albanian crimewave. In March the NCA arrested a 37-year-old Albanian woman in East London who is alleged to have counter-signed hundreds of fraudulent UK passport applications for an Albanian criminal ring.
And two Albanian men living in Britain were jailed last month for a total of 13 years and 10 months after being caught with 8.5 kilos of cocaine and £17,000 in cash.
But the Albanian mafia is unlikely to release their grip on Britain’s cocaine trade any time soon, says Tony Saggers. ‘There’s no reason for them to go anywhere – cocaine prices are stable in the UK, purity is high. As a theme, I don’t see anything changing.’