How blight of Albanian gangs is turning the South East of England into a European crime hotspot

Source: The Sun

At least 40,000 villains from ­Eastern Europe have crossed the Channel, turning the county — and neighbouring Kent — into terrifying crime dens.

It has sparked armed robberies on Essex’s popular Lakeside Shopping Centre while, just eight miles away, the huge Bluewater mall in Kent has become the fourth biggest crime spot in England and Wales.

The sensational claims come in a new book by acclaimed crime investigator Wensley Clarkson.

He has seen first-hand how Albanians are controlling sex workers in the South East, even using a shipping container as a torture chamber.

On Wednesday, The Sun reported how National Crime Agency stats show that one in ten foreign prisoners in our jails is now Albanian.

Now we can reveal how gangsters from there have turned the Dartford Crossing into a gateway to billions of pounds worth of crime.

ARMED WITH AN AXE AND HAMMER

In the book one Albanian drug lord reveals: “Britain is richer than most other countries and [it’s] easy to make big money here.”

Essex is now a haven for Eastern European crooks.

One drug smuggler says: “It is the perfect marketplace for all these foreign gangsters.

“They can sell their drugs, run their ­brothels and clean all their dirty cash here.”

The Dartford Crossing has evolved “into a pivotal gateway for the UK underworld”, says Clarkson.

He adds: “By linking Kent and Essex, it provided gangsterdom with a wide-open market place in the richest corner of England.”

Meanwhile, the Tilbury Docks in Essex is the Thames’ biggest port, processing 200,000 shipping containers annually.

The recent influx of criminals can be traced back to 2012 when Eastern European gangs joined forces to target the shopping malls near the Dartford Crossing.

Their first “assault” was on Lakeside, when a Romanian gang, armed with an axe and hammer, robbed a Goldsmiths jewellery store of more than 30 Breitling, Cartier and Rolex watches worth almost £170,000.

The following day, raiders stole £1.2million of items from a jewellery shop at Bluewater.

At least a further six robberies at the two shopping centres have followed.

On some occasions the thieves torched vehicles and tyres to hinder emergency services.

Since then, the influx of foreign criminals has only escalated. One underworld contact tells Clarkson: “Bluewater is much more dangerous than Lakeside. A lot more dodgy people use it than Lakeside.

“It is the fourth biggest crime hotspot in England and Wales. That says it all.”

The criminals have evolved and now scooter gangs — led by an Albanian crime boss — target high-end shops in smash ’n’ grabs.

In the past ten years, it is ­estimated that hundreds of raids have been carried out in London and the South East, netting criminals upwards of £20million.

“They’re ruthless,” one detective says. “They smash their way into a store and, within two minutes, they are gone. Sometimes they even have back-up in 4×4 vehicles.

“There is a huge network of them. They go for watches worth £400,000 and light goods such as laptops.

“They are getting rid of the stuff straight away — and that does not involve them selling it down the pub.”

Albanian criminals also control the majority of sex workers.

Vice squad officers at Scotland Yard today estimate they run more than 75 per cent of the UK’s brothels and their operations in London’s Soho alone are said to be worth more than £15million a year. ­

Clarkson tells how one Albanian criminal uses converted shipping containers, not only as brothels for sex workers to operate in but, also, as torture chambers to frighten rivals. In fact, he was shown inside one, near the Dartford Crossing in Essex, by an Albanian drug lord called “Bari”.

Clarkson reveals: “There were stocks and whips hanging on the wall.”

He was introduced to a woman in her 40s called Tatiana.

He says: “She was a professional S&M mistress and also worked as chief torturer of Bari’s underworld enemies. She carried out ‘freelance’ commissions for other foreign gangs, too.”

Clarkson says Bari told him: “Tatiana likes to hurt people so this is fun for her.”

Foreign criminals also use shipping containers as transportation to ­smuggle everything from drugs to black money.

Bari added: “Shipping containers (are a) brilliant invention. We cannot exist in this country without them.”

Clarkson met “Felicia”, who manages a busy London brothel.

She arrived in the UK on a false passport in 2000 a few days after her husband, an Albanian gangster, was killed in a police shoot-out in Albania’s capital Tirana.

She says: “I like it here in England, it’s much safer than Albania.”

NO-GO AREAS IN PARTS OF THE COUNTRY

She claims many of her London clients are judges, police, lawyers, politicians, even a handful of famous Hollywood actors.

Albanian gangs have muscled in on the drug trade, too.

Dealers in the centre of London now take on so-called “straight” jobs as a cover for their underhand dealings.

While in Essex, the sleepy seaside resort of Westcliff-on-Sea is the perfect cover for Albanian drug lords who own three safe houses there from where they run couriers, peddling drugs.

Clarkson adds: “Deep in the countryside outside Tirana is a private airfield said to contain more Learjets than anywhere in Eastern Europe.

“It is rumoured that drug cash earned mainly in the UK paid for the entire airport to be constructed, because Eastern European criminals wanted somewhere to fly in and out of without any of the usual airport restrictions and security routines.”

Criminals have also arrived from Bulgaria and, last year, one such gang was believed to have stolen more than £3million from UK cash machines in just a few days.

Politicians in Kent claim the influx of foreign gangsters has led to no-go areas in parts of the county.

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