By Marina Stojanovska
Three alleged ringleaders of a massive international drug trafficking network are among the 29 people arrested in a recent sting by Macedonian police, with the help of their German and Austrian colleagues.
Nicknamed the “Frankfurt Mafia”, the group had strong links to the town of Veles and other locations in Macedonia, authorities say.
“It is assumed that the group belonged to the dealer network which has succeeded in the past years to sell drugs on the streets of Vienna and Frankfurt, worth millions of euros,” said Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska. “All participants of the network who served as street dealers of heroin were paid for travel expenses, accommodations and food and a percentage of the sold heroin.”
Police action took place in Sveti Nikole, Veles and Gevgelija. Those arrested include Vlade Manaskov of Veles and two Skopje residents, Spase Dimkovski and Tomce Dimkovski. Police suspect they played a pivotal role as organisers.
Fourteen luxury cars were seized in the sting, along with dozens of computers, over 50,000 euros and 157,000 denars, two kilos of marijuana, and 25 small packages containing illegal drugs.
The group, authorities say, was a highly sophisticated operation distributed among individuals or decentralised cells. Many dealers were unaware of each others’ identities and simply received their instructions by phone.
“People do not know each other because of greater security for them and for the bosses, and in case of penetration of the network. They got orders via telephone where and in which apartment [to] find drugs, how to process it, pack up and where to take it,” said Ljubco Todorovski, director of the public security bureau.
The police attaché at the Austrian Embassy, Stefan Turner, said that as many as 69 Macedonian citizens have been arrested on drug charges as a result of co-ordinated action among the Macedonian, Austrian and German police.
Indeed, many families in Veles have reportedly filed complaints about the arrests, saying their children are being imprisoned on drug charges in Austria and Germany and handed sentences of up to 15 years.
According to unofficial statistics, approximately 40 people from Veles have been implicated in drug trafficking. Sources in the town told SETimes that the network was originally active in Vienna, then moved to Frankfurt due to fears of a bust.
When the coast was perceived as clear, the gang moved back to Vienna.
Some of those who worked in Frankfurt built big houses in Veles and bought expensive cars, said local residents, who asked not to be identified.