Yugoslav drug boss arrested after seven years in hiding in Czech Republic

Vasuf Sabani is one of the most important drug bosses operating in Central Europe. For the last seven years he's been living in the Czech Republic under a false name--until last week that is, when he was finally arrested by the Czech police. Lucie Krupickova has the story:

Since 1989 the number of drug dealers and also the number of drugs on the streets of the Czech Republic have risen rapidly. With the help of their foreign colleagues, the Czech police have over the last few years arrested a number of influential drug bosses heading international drug gangs.

Last week Czech drug-squad officers detained a 39-year-old Yugoslav citizen, Vasuf Sabani. Mr Sabani will be handed over to Switzerland, where in 1992 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug smuggling. A year later he managed to escape and since then he has lived in the Czech Republic under a false name.

The police say Mr Sabani has been a leading figure in the international drug trade since the 1980s. According to detectives, he has helped to organise heroin smuggling via the Czech Republic since 1988. Vasuf Sabani was detained in one of the longest searches the Czech police have ever carried out.

In the course of the last ten years, the Czech Republic has become a crossroads for four paths used by gangs smuggling hard drugs from Central Asia to Western Europe. One of them leads to Britain, another to Germany, a third, which was only established last year, to Italy and a fourth to Scandinavia.

Since its re-organisation in 1995, the drug squad has recorded successes both on the national and the international level. In 1999 they arrested more than 240 people, most of the them Czech but including 42 foreigners. The Czech authorities seem determined to prove that their country will not be a hiding place for drug gangs.

Author: Lucie Krupičková
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