The government hailed its crackdown on a large drug trafficking ring based in the central Athens district of Exarchia Tuesday, with Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas describing it as the biggest coup in the area in 30 years.
Referring to the operation as “the product of several months of planning and intelligence gathering,” Toskas indicated that the government was determined to stamp out crime in the area, which has been the focus of disputes between police, dealers and self-styled anarchists for years.
His comments came a day after a unit of 65 police officers conducted coordinated raids in the broader area of Exarchia, arresting 14 suspected members of the drug racket. The suspects – four Greeks, nine Albanians and one Polish national – are believed to have had active roles in the racket’s operation. Some were responsible for the cutting, preparation and packaging of the drugs, others for their storage and trade and others for handling revenue.
Raids on 10 apartments believed to have been used as storage areas for the drugs turned up 17.5 kilograms of cannabis and smaller amounts of cocaine, just a fraction of the narcotics handled by ring members. Police also confiscated 208 receipts for winning lottery tickets worth 162,307 euros, apparently a method used by the ring members to launder their revenue.
Police are continuing to seek suspected members of the racket, which is believed to have operated like a business with members assigned to specific roles and part of a strict hierarchy, working shifts, and with drug sales carried out daily.
A high-ranking police officer told Kathimerini that drug dealers and anarchists have been clashing in the area for over a decade, noting that the latter tend to take the law into their hands “when they feel safer and stronger.”
Addressing Parliament on Monday, Toskas said authorities would not tolerate “a military order in Exarchia.” “The problems have been covered up for years,” he said. “We will have safety in society.”
Last Saturday a new group called Armed Militia Groups claimed responsibility for the execution-style murder of a 36-year-old Egyptian man in Exarchia on July 17. The victim, known as Habib, is believed to have been involved in a local drug racket.