A fugitive drugs lord, exposed in the Mail’s acclaimed ‘Albanian Narcos’ documentary for flooding the UK with cocaine, has been arrested by armed police in Turkey.
Dritan Rexhepi, in his early 40s, was held in a dramatic operation after his details were circulated on an Interpol red notice for drug smuggling and other offences including murder.
The international crime baron, who has previously featured on a Scotland Yard Most Wanted list because of his close links to England, is said to have been leader of an international drug cartel called Kompanio Bello, which transports drugs from South America to Europe.
The Interpol notice was issued by the Italian and Albanian judicial authorities for crimes of ‘wilful murder, drugs, kidnapping/deprivation of liberty, forgery of travel documents, weapons and ammunition’.
Officials in Turkey said the man nicknamed the ‘King of Cocaine’ entered the country via Istanbul Airport with a Colombian passport registered in the name of ‘Benjamin Omar Perez Garcia’.
Dritan Rexhepi, the ringleader of the Kompanio Bello drug cartel, who was wanted with a red notice, was nabbed in a drug raid in Istanbul, the Turkish interior minister said on Friday
‘Dritan Rexhepi, leader of the ‘Kompanio Bello’ drug cartel, exporting drugs from South America to Europe, was arrested,’ Turkey’s Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on X
Armed police stood guard as Rexhepi was hauled out of his hideout in Istanbul, Turkey
A triumphant police video of his arrest showed anti-narcotics officers in body armour removing cash, jewellery and watches from a safe at his hideout in an upmarket apartment block in Istanbul. A revolver, thought to have belonged to the convicted killer, was also recovered.
As revealed in the Mail’s bombshell documentary Albanian Narcos: Bullets, Bloodshed & Britain on Mail+ and Mail Online and accompanying two-part investigation published earlier this year, Rexhepi’s whereabouts had been a mystery since he was controversially released early from prison in Ecuador two years ago.
While behind bars in the South American country, he continued masterminding the supply of vast quantities of cocaine to the UK – where he was a key target of the National Crime Agency, Britain’s version of the National Crime Agency.
In the Mail’s multi-media investigation in March, we revealed how Albanian narco gangs ensured you can now get cocaine in Britain quicker than a pizza delivery. In Ecuador, a ruthless local gangster who worked for a gang leader known as ‘Carlos the Devil’ told us of the terrifying bloodshed behind the operation to export cocaine to the UK.
The man, whom we called Junior, appeared too scared to answer questions about Rexhepi. Asked about Albanian gangsters, linked to a string of drug-related mob murders in Ecuador, he said: ‘If you fail, they kill’.
One prosecutor who has survived five assassination plots in Ecuador said of Albanian drugs lords there: ‘They are the masterminds and hire the hitmen’.
In highly suspicious circumstances, Rexhepi was released early from a 13 year sentence for drug trafficking in Ecuador. His jail term did not end his criminal operations.
From his prison cell in the capital Quito, he allegedly used an encrypted mobile phone to co-ordinate a ‘trans-national crime federation’ of Albanian drug traffickers known as Kompania Bello. A key destination for his illicit cargo was the UK, with its £2billion cocaine market.
Rexhepi is also believed to have ordered the murder of an innocent man after a rival Albanian drugs gang allegedly stole millions of pounds worth of cocaine which he had had smuggled to Portsmouth on a container ship full of bananas.
The victim’s only ‘crime’- he was kidnapped and killed in Albania – was to be the brother of someone who had supposedly double-crossed Rexhepi over the drugs consignment.
Video showed a number of vehicles heading to the hideout in Istanbul, Turkey
Officials said the man nicknamed the ‘King of Cocaine’ entered Turkey via Istanbul Airport with a Colombian passport registered in the name of ‘Benjamin Omar Perez Garcia’
The man was seen in dramatic footage being detained by armed Turkish police
Dritan Rexhepi, in his early 40s, was held in a dramatic operation after his details were circulated on an Interpol red notice for drug smuggling and other offences including murder
Several months after his release from prison, the criminal mastermind disappeared off the radar in Ecuador – setting alarm bells ringing in the alleged narco state, the UK, elsewhere in western Europe and Albania.
In Albania he has been jailed for 25 years in absentia for two murders (including that of a policeman) and is suspected of other killings. He is also wanted in Italy and Belgium, and has multiple identities.
He featured on Scotland Yard’s Most Wanted List of foreign criminals ten years ago when he was thought to be hiding in the UK and he has links to London, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.
According to Europol, what set Rexhepi’s syndicate apart from others was the way in which it controlled the entire supply chain – from sourcing cocaine for export, to wholesale distribution and on to selling on the streets of cities such as Brighton, as we revealed in our documentary and Part One of the Mail investigation.
Ecuadorian law enforcement officials, who share intelligence with the NCA, admitted they were unsure of the King of Cocaine’s location.
Officially, he was supposed to sign a post-release register twice a month as a condition of his liberty, but multiple sources said they suspected someone else was doing it on his behalf.
Footage showed Turkish authorities outside the building where they arrested Rexhepi
Narcotics teams trawl through the suspect’s belongings during a raid in Istanbul, Turkey
Rexhepi’s whereabouts had been a mystery since he was controversially released early from prison in Ecuador two years ago. Pictured: Narcotics teams search the hideout
A police video of his arrest showed anti-narcotics officers in body armour removing cash, jewellery and watches from a safe at his hideout in an upmarket apartment block in Istanbul
Pictured: a safe in the hideout with a handgun and rounds of ammunition
Watches and jewellery were among the belongings recovered during the raid
Video showed police going through a large safe and revealing the expensive contents
According to an anti-narcotics chief, investigations were under way into Rexhepi’s partner who had been making trips to the Colombian capital, Bogota.
‘We have no doubt that he may be carrying out or returning to illegal activities through his partner,’ he told the Mail, which spent a month in Ecuador investigating Albanian Narcos.
The trail appeared to have gone cold until Rexhepi turned up in Turkey in a triumph for global law enforcement.