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.
Who Dritan Rexhepi is
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’.
Moment he was arrested
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.