Violent Albanian criminal groups are exerting “considerable control” over the drug trafficking market in the UK, a law enforcement report has said.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it was increasingly concerned by what it called the Albanians’ “high-profile influence within UK organised crime”.
The remarks are in the agency’s annual assessment of the nature and scale of serious and organised crime in the UK.
It also warned of the threat of cyber-crime from Russian-speaking countries.
The NCA said profit margins in the drugs trade remained “substantial” despite international efforts.
Among those to emerge as a “significant threat” were Albanian gangs – which the agency said had particular influence on the cocaine market.
Officials said the gangs were characterised by their readiness to resort to serious violence.
London is their “primary hub”, the report says, but they are established across the UK.
NCA deputy director general Matthew Horne said: “It’s very much a group that’s small in number but big in impact.
“We have seen an emergence of violence, particularly around enforcing the drug trade, in this group.”
The report also said that Serbian and Turkish crime groups “dominate high volume maritime cocaine logistics”, while Turkish and Pakistani groups “continue to dominate heroin trafficking to the UK”.
The report said corruption among staff working at ports and airports was a “key vulnerability”, because it made it easier for gangs to smuggle in drugs and bring in illegal immigrants.
The agency also warned about cyber-crime, saying its scale was being underestimated.
It said many businesses failed to report attacks for fear of damaging their reputation.
Mr Horne added: “What is striking from this year’s assessment are the themes running through the crime types.
“Organised criminal networks are using online methods to defraud and extort, but also facilitate the abuse of children and advertise the victims of human trafficking and modern slavery.
“Similarly, the threat from corruption encompasses a huge range of sectors and professional enablers, from bank insiders and accountants involved in high-end money laundering, through to port workers and delivery drivers facilitating drug trafficking.”