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Albanian drug cartel leader sought on INTERPOL Red Notice captured in İstanbul

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An Albanian national, the ringleader of a drug cartel who was wanted on an INTERPOL Red Notice by the authorities in Italy and Albania, has been captured in a drug raid in İstanbul, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday, citing a minister.

Dritan Rexhepi is the leader of the Kompanio Bello drug cartel, a major player in smuggling drugs from South America to Europe.

Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya on Friday said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Rexhepi was being sought for extradition on charges that include “murder, drug trafficking, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, forging travel documents and illegally providing weapons and ammunition.”

According to the minister, Rexhepi’s location was determined as a result of intelligence sharing with the Italian police, and he was apprehended in an operation conducted in İstanbul’s Beylikdüzü district.

The drug cartel leader had been placed under international surveillance by security forces and entered Turkey through İstanbul Airport with a Colombian passport under the alias Benjamin Omar Perez Garcia.

Between 2016 and 2017 Rexhepi allegedly trafficked a minimum of 5.9 tons of cocaine from Ecuador to Europe, reportedly yielding an approximate profit of $140 million, as indicated in Italian court documents referenced by Balkan InSight.

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