Inside Britain’s Albanian Mafia: STEPHEN WRIGHT investigates ruthless gang violence


The Edwardian terraced home in the Dyke House area of Hartlepool is best described as dilapidated. 

Situated on a grim-looking street of boarded-up houses and properties with smashed windows, its neighbourhood is said to be in the bottom 2 per cent of the most deprived areas in the UK.

Yet until recently, behind the curtains at No 18 York Road, business had been good. It was there last month that police, acting on a tip-off, found a cannabis farm with 75 plants worth a total of £61,000 — almost double the £32,000 value of the house.

According to one local, the address has been raided nine times since 2015 — and on each occasion large numbers of cannabis plants have been brought out. 

That cannabis was still being produced on an industrial scale at the property might not have come as a surprise to detectives. 

But the identity of the young Albanian found tending the plants there surely should have — because he had been deported after an earlier raid and should not have been in this country at all.

In 2019, Ferbent Hoxha, 22, had been jailed for three years for running a cannabis farm at an address in Derby. Drugs worth £140,000 — 200 plants in six different rooms — had been found.

Though just 19 at the time, Hoxha, who had been in the UK illegally, had had a ‘significant role’ in the ‘sophisticated’ cannabis operation, according to the sentencing judge.

At No 18 York Road, police, acting on a tip-off, found a cannabis farm (pictured) run by Ferbent Hoxha with 75 plants worth a total of £61,000 — almost double the £32,000 value of the house

At No 18 York Road, police, acting on a tip-off, found a cannabis farm (pictured) run by Ferbent Hoxha with 75 plants worth a total of £61,000 — almost double the £32,000 value of the house

Despite his subsequent deportation, he sneaked back into Britain to resume his illegal activities — this time in Hartlepool as well as at another cannabis farm in Leeds, where his fingerprints were found on growing equipment in January.

He was jailed for a further five years this month.

According to neighbours, the red-brick, three-storey house in Hartlepool has long been a ‘full-time cannabis factory’.

One neighbour, who declined to be named, said: ‘It can’t be a coincidence that every tenant who ever rents the place is a cannabis farmer. I don’t know anything about the people who are renting it other than that if you try to speak to them they just shrug and say “No English”.’

Inquiries by the Mail revealed that the property is owned by two people who live in a smart, gated development 330 miles away in Bournemouth. They could not be reached for comment.

But Hoxha’s nationality suggests that this cannabis operation is run by one of the ruthless Albanian gangs that are increasingly — and mercilessly — targeting the young and vulnerable in this country.

Today, through exclusive access to intelligence reports, official documents and expert analysis, the Mail can reveal the terrifying extent of Albanian organised crime in Britain and how these gangs are becoming more brazen and violent. 

Our investigation comes as record numbers of Albanians make the perilous trip by boat across the Channel to the UK.

Of course, many come to this country legally, to work hard and contribute. But intelligence reports suggest that Albanians now account for between 40 and 60 per cent of migrants crossing illegally in small boats to our shores. It emerged this week that more than 700 Albanians reached Britain in small boats in just one day.

These incomers are not fleeing war. The country has seen no conflict for more than 25 years. They come here, it seems, hoping to make a better living and many of them, wittingly or not, are destined for a life of crime.

It emerged this week that more than 700 Albanians reached Britain in small boats in just one day. (File image)

It emerged this week that more than 700 Albanians reached Britain in small boats in just one day. (File image)

Albanian crime lords are sending ‘clean skins’ with no criminal records to the UK to join organised gangs. (File image)

Albanian crime lords are sending ‘clean skins’ with no criminal records to the UK to join organised gangs. (File image)

Some Albanian migrants posted TikTok videos as they unfurl the nation's flag while they make the crossing over the Channel

Some Albanian migrants posted TikTok videos as they unfurl the nation’s flag while they make the crossing over the Channel

Last week, the Mail reported how Albanian crime lords are sending ‘clean skins’ with no criminal records to the UK to join organised gangs. It means checks on Channel arrivals are failing to pick up links between them and organised crime groups.

Those who are brought here by organised gangs are inevitably vulnerable to recruitment into gangs — many being drawn into serious crime in order to repay the debts they owe to people-smugglers.

It is a deeply troubling picture, with huge implications for law enforcement here. So concerned is Home Secretary Priti Patel that she has just struck a deal with her Albanian counterpart to ‘fast-track’ migrants back home. The policy is due to be implemented next week, with some migrants being sent back within hours of their arrival here.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) says Albanian organised crime groups have rapidly expanded their drugs empires in the UK. Whereas previously they were predominantly concerned with cocaine, a market they have dominated for five years, they have now branched out into the large scale production of cannabis — squeezing out the Vietnamese as the main domestic growers.

And to help with the manpower for this labour-intensive process they have been shipping in foot soldiers across the Channel.

Research by the NCA has shown that Albanian-organised crime controls the cocaine market across the main city and suburban areas of the UK (with the exception of Merseyside, where a £1 million cocaine heist was said to be behind the shocking shooting this week of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel). And court reports show the gangs are becoming increasingly violent.

‘The control is mainly down to threats and intimidation,’ a court document stated last year. ‘Although the older generation of Albanian organised criminals had until recently been reluctant to carry out any form of violent retribution, kidnap and torture in the UK, the younger generation of Albanian criminals is starting to lose the reluctance of the older generation to do anything that would bring them to the attention of law enforcement agencies.’

This particular judgment came as a notorious Albanian gangster, who due to an anonymity order had previously been identified only as B9, was unmasked as a Bentley-driving Mr Big called Fation Dauti. 

According to the NCA, he had been involved in cash smuggling and money laundering via the export of expensive vehicles to Albania and the ‘possession and/or importation of firearms’. The document added: ‘The NCA also assesses that B9 has been involved with large-scale hydroponics production [of cannabis plants].’

Before he was named and shamed, Dauti, 37, was also seen driving around the UK in a Range Rover, a Jaguar and a number of Mercedes and BMWs. An examination of his finances showed he had ‘almost no financial turnover’ in the UK and his lifestyle was thought to be funded through the importation and supply of drugs.

He was finally identified when he lost an appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) after his residence card was revoked in 2019. This followed Home Office and NCA claims that the gangster, who came to the UK aged 14, was capable of ‘extreme violence’ and ‘an influential member’ of a London-based Albanian criminal network involved in cocaine importation, cannabis production, people smuggling and money laundering’.

During this reign of terror in the UK, he stabbed a club bouncer three times in the ear, but escaped punishment over the attack in North London after his victim was paid to stay silent. While undergoing a border check at Dover, photos of the gangster with weapons including a gun stored in his trouser belt, a Kalashnikov and an Israeli pistol were found on his mobile phone.

Fation Dauti, 37, is said to have been involved in cash smuggling and money laundering via the export of expensive vehicles to Albania and the ‘possession and/or importation of firearms’, according to the NCA

Fation Dauti, 37, is said to have been involved in cash smuggling and money laundering via the export of expensive vehicles to Albania and the ‘possession and/or importation of firearms’, according to the NCA

According to sources, Dauti is now running a piano bar in Tirana. The Mail was told it would ‘not be wise’ to visit him there.

The root of the problem of Albanian organised crime here goes back to the Kosovan war of 1998 and 1999, according to a senior official in the NCA’s Internal Far Europe Desk. This resulted in ‘significant numbers’ of Albanians coming to the UK.

Although the majority claimed to be Kosovan, many were from Albania. Criminals among them made contact with Serbian crime groups here, who were in touch with South American drugs cartels and moved into the cocaine market.

From about 2006 Albanian groups started dealing directly with South America and established themselves across the Balkans, Europe and the UK in ‘multi-commodity criminal transactions, including drug trafficking of all types, people smuggling, document fraud, modern slavery, money laundering and firearms trafficking’.

The extreme levels of violence used by warring drugs gangs has been laid bare in court cases nationwide. In one particularly chilling incident, it emerged last year that a cannabis gardener from Albania was tied to a bed and tortured by gangsters raiding the crop from a house in Bradford.

The man — smuggled into the UK by people traffickers — told hospital staff he had been robbed in the city centre when he turned up with severe stab and slash wounds to his legs after being bound with tape and flex and beaten at the property.

There was evidence of serious violence at the address, with widespread blood-staining, including on the windows and a single bed. Heavily bloodied electrical flex and black tape was also discovered. Sources suspect the 24-year-old was the victim of a rival Albanian drugs gang sending a warning.

Dr Mohammed Qasim — a criminologist and visiting research fellow at the University of Bradford, whose specialist areas are organised crime and criminal gangs culture — said there are probably between ten and 15 main Albanian criminal families keeping a powerful grip on their business.

‘There are definitely internal tensions now between the older members of families and the new breed of gangsters coming through who are much brasher and like to show off their wealth and are prone to violence,’ he added.

‘In the past, violence has been used but primarily as a means of showing they mean business and to achieve maximum effect from the minimum amount. They did not go round picking a fight with anyone and everyone.’

One of the UK’s more notorious Albanian drugs gangs is the Hellbanianz, which has operated in East London’s Gascoigne estate. Its members have not been shy about boasting of their ugly methods and flashy lifestyles.

The gang is known locally for its violence and more widely for social media posts featuring Ferraris, wads of £50 notes and Rolex watches to help enhance its reputation and recruit new members.

They are not the only ones glamorising crime. British-Albanian drill music is popular. One musician from Barking who performs under the name Stealth gets as many as 15 million views for a video.

One of the UK’s more notorious Albanian drugs gangs is the Hellbanianz, which has operated in East London’s Gascoigne estate. Pictured: A gloating member of the gang

One of the UK’s more notorious Albanian drugs gangs is the Hellbanianz, which has operated in East London’s Gascoigne estate. Pictured: A gloating member of the gang

Tony Saggers, former Head of Drugs Threat and Intelligence at the NCA, agreed that the younger gangsters who have grown up here ‘are becoming more like young Brits in their use of social media and making music videos,’ he said. ‘Because that world is very competitive, ego-driven, showing off wealth has become a feature. They seem to want a higher profile.

‘One issue for them is if you are making millions of pounds in revenue in drugs sales you are handling an awful lot of cash so you need to launder money and that becomes a burden and a challenge,’ he said.

Law enforcement sources have told the Mail that millions in ill-gotten gains are believed to be laundered through Albanian car washes across the UK.

‘I think Albanian organised crime is here to stay for the time being,’ added Mr Saggers.’ Retired deputy chief constable Lewis Benjamin, who was at the forefront of the fight against organised crime, agrees and has given an ominous warning about the dangers posed by Albanian crime gangs. He is also scathing about our ‘porous borders’.

Mr Benjamin, former ACPO National Coordinator for Serious and Organised Crime, told the Mail: ‘The consequences of not being able to get some measure of control of Albanian crime will be felt in increased crime and violence on UK streets. Eventually, this is bound to spill over into the lives of law-abiding citizens, even as we see now on our streets.’

He went on: ‘Above all, it’s blindingly obvious that we have no idea who is in this country or where they are from and what their right to be in the UK actually is, if any.’ Mr Benjamin suggested political correctness was hampering the fight against crime gangs, and said we need ‘a more coordinated and committed approach’.

It does not inspire confidence that the man leading the fight against Albanian organised crime is Steve Rodhouse, head of operations at the NCA, who led the Met’s disastrous VIP child sex abuse inquiry, Operation Midland.

The extent of the challenge is illustrated by a list seen by the Mail of 23 ‘dangerous’ Albanian criminals who were deported on a flight from the UK to Tirana on July 14. They included a kidnapper, a paedophile and numerous drug dealers who served jail terms here.

They included Kastriot Ahmati, 29, who entered the UK illegally one week after 39 migrants died in the Essex lorry tragedy, and who offered to smuggle an undercover reporter into the UK by the same route for £14,000. He was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court to 12 months behind bars after being caught growing cannabis.

Another was Bledar Doka, 39, sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2015 for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Erion Mehmetaj, 26, part of a gang of cocaine dealers, was on the same flight back to Tirana. He was jailed for ten years and nine months in 2019 for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

The big question is: how long will these brutal criminals remain in their home country? If the story of Ferbent Hoxha is anything to go by, it may be hardly any time at all. His previous jail term and deportation didn’t put him off coming back almost immediately.

Pictures of him on Facebook show him holding a rifle in Albania in 2013, while other images posted on his page nearly a decade ago include wads of cash, pistols, fast cars and motorbikes.

He was only 13 then. Eventually, he was recruited — and chillingly more and more wannabe young gangsters, just like him, are following suit as the Albanian crime wave sweeps our nation.

Additional reporting: Simon Trump and Stephanie Condron



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