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Albanian ‘King of Cocaine’ Dritan Rexhepi vanishes from Ecuadorian prison

Rexhepi (42), one of Europe’s most notorious cocaine traffickers, was last seen in January during his biweekly check-in with prison authorities

Dritan Rexhepi

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

An Albanian drug kingpin has seemingly disappeared from prison in Ecuador after vanishing several months ago.

Dritan Rexhepi (42), one of Europe’s most notorious cocaine traffickers, was last seen in January 2022 during his obligatory biweekly check-in with prison authorities at Litoral Penitentiary.

However, judicial documents reported that a change in Rexhepi’s home address was authorised in February, but this new address was not disclosed.

Rexhepi was provisionally released by Ecuadorian authorities in November 2021, where he was permitted to live outside the city of Guayaquil under the condition that he would report to the police every two weeks.

He was also obliged to wear a tracking device, refrain from committing crimes, and remain in the country until June 2027.

Rexhepi, who also uses the pseudonyms Mutaraj Lulezim and Edmir Kraja, escaped an Albanian police station in 2006 and Italian and Belgian prisons in 2011.

All three countries currently have extradition warrants on him while he was also arrested for a series of 2011 bank robberies in Spain, according to Spanish news outlet El Periodico.

Ecuador's national court has previously ruled that the Albanian must be extradited to his country of origin as soon as he has served his sentence in Ecuador.

In 2014, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for cocaine trafficking in Ecuador.

He was first held in a prison in Guayaquil and then transferred to Latacunga prison before being moved to Litoral. It is believed that he had a mobile phone with him in his cell.

Italian prosecutors allege that while Rexhepi was detained in these prisons, he operated as the head of the so-called Kompania Bello, a cartel involving 14 major Albanian crime groups at the top of Europe's cocaine trade.

In 2016 and 2017 alone, Rexhepi reportedly trafficked at least 5.9 tons of cocaine from Ecuador to Europe, netting estimated profits of $140 million (€135m), according to Balkan InSight, citing Italian court documents.

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