The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and Instituto Prensa y Sociedad collaborate to uncover links between criminal networks in Latin America and the Western Balkans.

  • For years, Balkan nationals have facilitated cocaine shipments from Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil to the US and Europe.
  • Balkan cartel emissaries have travelled to Latin American countries to cooperate with local mafia groups, negotiate prices and arrange shipments of cocaine.

Since 2003, cocaine production has more than doubled, generating billions of euros in drug money for European criminal networks. Balkan nationals and their counterparts in Latin American criminal organizations have been working together for years in the transcontinental cocaine trade. The purity of cocaine seized in Europe has increased to 90% over the last decade.  Reportedly, drug consignments have been trafficked mainly by concealing them among banana freight containers, though traffickers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and changing their modes of transporting cocaine. The drugs are generally shipped to major Western European ports, including in Spain and Belgium, as well as in South Eastern Europe, and are then redistributed to other consumer countries in Europe.

A new initiative in collaboration between the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) and Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), a Peruvian civil society organization, aims to identify, map and report on links between these criminal groups in Latin America and the Western Balkans.

The programme will initially build a network of journalists in both regions, providing them with the tools to research the networks that span these two regions. The role of the IPYS will be to help identify journalists in Latin America for the programme and organize training sessions to provide them with the research methodologies for investigating organized crime. Training will also cover the dynamics that have given rise to the involvement of Western Balkans criminal groups in cocaine trafficking. To conclude the initiative, the GI-TOC will publish a report on the transcontinental criminal flows that assesses the illicit drug trade as well as how it impacts development and governance at the local level in both regions.

This partnership reflects the GI-TOC’s commitment to building the evidence base around transnational organized crime that underpins the development of new strategic policy and programmatic approaches to addressing organized crime at local, national and international levels. It is an output of the Observatory of Illicit Economies in South Eastern Europe, a GI-TOC regional platform that connects and empowers analysts and civil society actors in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The Observatory aims to enable civil society to identify, analyze and map criminal trends, and their impact on illicit flows, governance, development, interethnic relations, security and the rule of law, and supports them in their monitoring of national dynamics and wider regional and international organized-crime trends.

The focus of the GI-TOC in Latin America is to advance policies that counter organized crime and build community resilience through a human-rights approach. The organization has supported community-based projects in nine countries in the region. Journalists are a crucial community – their recognition, support and engagement have always been an important part of the GI-TOC’s work.

The partnership underlines and supports the important role played by civil society in addressing the threat of organized crime, and adopting transnational networked approaches in the effort to counter it by catalyzing meaningful policy action.

Adriana Leon, Director of Freedom of Information at the IPYS, said:This project will be a valuable contribution to the professionalization of Latin American journalism dedicated to covering organized crime. We are enthusiastic about the challenge of establishing a network of journalists that will spearhead transnational investigations on the subject. We are confident that the results will be illuminating and regional in their impact.’

Mark Shaw, Director, GI-TOC, said: ‘At the core of the GI-TOC’s activities in the Western Balkans is its engagement with media. Journalists are key partners when it comes to gathering information and raising awareness of the impact of organized crime on local communities, and in strengthening resilience. We are very excited to expand this work in Latin America by creating networks to counter networks.’

Find out more:

For further questions, please contact Ana Castro (GI-TOC) at; or Fatjona Mejdini (GI-TOC) at; or Adriana León (IPYS) at

About GI-TOC

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime is a network of professionals working on the front lines of the fight against the illicit economy and criminal actors. Through a network of global civil society observatories on the illicit economy, we monitor evolving trends and work to build the evidence basis for policy action, disseminate the expertise of our Network and catalyze multisectoral and holistic responses across a range of crime types. With the Global Initiative’s Resilience Fund, we support community activists and local NGOs working in areas where crime governance is critically undermining people’s safety, security and life chances.

About IPYS

The Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, based in Lima, Peru, is a civil society organization that promotes investigative journalism, freedom of expression and access to public information in Latin America. IPYS is interested in promoting freely available journalism with high standards so that society has access to quality information. In this way, citizens will be able to adequately exercise their civil, political and economic rights.