Drug Trail from Europe to Ecuador: Inside Hunt for Elusive Narco Suspect…

FLORENCE, Italy—Police here say they traced a sprawling network flooding Europe with cocaine to an unlikely kingpin: an Albanian hit man incarcerated in Ecuador.

The yearslong operation exposed how new criminal groups are taking advantage of globalization to turn Europe into a rival of the U.S. as the biggest market for cocaine, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Police say the Albanian, Dritan Rexhepi, sourced cocaine from Colombia from a fellow inmate. Using a concealed cellphone, he arranged shipments worth hundreds of millions of dollars on container ships to ports in the Netherlands, transferred the proceeds and ordered attacks on adversaries, including two murders, according to Italian officials.

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