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The final destination for much of the goods and services is Western Europe. It also has a political purpose — supporting the purchase of arms for Albanian rebels. Nearly two years after NATO troops drove Serb forces from this region, rebels are believed to still be skimming profits from drug and sex slave trafficking to fund illegal arms purchases for ethnic Albanian rebel movements. This trafficking has allowed both the Kosovo Liberation Army in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo and the National Liberation Army in Macedonia to be outfitted with the latest in rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, mortars, sniper rifles and night-vision goggles.
A look at European police blotters provides evidence of the close links between the rebels and Balkans trafficking. In , a court in Brindisi, Italy, convicted an Albanian drug trafficker who also admitted obtaining weapons for the Kosovo Liberation Army. Later, two Albanians were caught in Kukes with 20 kilos of heroin bound for Kosovo, and then on to Serbia and northern Europe.
Ali Ahmeti is the leader of the ethnic Albanian rebel movement in Macedonia. But Ahmeti, whom the Macedonian government has arrested on drug charges in the past, maintained that the volume of donations to the rebel movement made it impossible to check their source.
But even Ahmeti admitted he counts rich Balkans smugglers among his supporters. Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia are filled with tiny brothels, where women, mostly from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, are forced to work as prostitutes under threat of death. Ilir Gjoni, a former Albanian interior minister, and numerous other officials in the region said they are certain that Albanians who traffic in women and drugs contribute money to rebel arms purchases.
But they admit there is no legal way of proving it. Chaos breeds profits The rise of organized crime syndicates flourished following the collapse of the communist system and frontier controls throughout most of the Balkan peninsula, resulting in lawlessness and civil conflict.