The most dangerous prisoner is no longer in prison

Where Does America Hold Its Most Dangerous Criminals?
Where Does America Hold Its Most Dangerous Criminals?

This is some real James Bond stuff. Not so much because of the suits, drinks shaken and not stirred and cars to kill for, but if you're looking for archvillain-type stuff, you can't get much closer than the Macedonian Albanian crusher of men Daut Kadriovski. In his 50s and wanted in 12 European countries for crimes connected to every aspect of arms, cars, drugs and human and organ trafficking, Kadriovski, according to Europol, sits atop a crime organization at this point unmatched for secrecy and brutality. Two qualities that are much more than casually connected.

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"We had one of [the members of this criminal organization] in here and tried to get him to turn state's [evidence]," says former New York undercover organized-crime cop Fred Santoro about his attempts to turn an Albanian prisoner into an informant. The erstwhile gangster stood up from his meeting with Santoro and asked to be returned to his prison celland his 30-year sentence for racketeering. Santoro — shocked, and more familiar with Italian Mafiosi stumbling over themselves to cut deals for reduced sentences — asked why the Albanian wouldn't. "He turned to me and said very plainly, 'They will kill my mother, my father, my brothers, my sisters, my children, my wife and everybody I know. So thanks, but no.' The Albanians are savages."

Savages and apparently smarter than the average bear, as Kadriovski's been arrested no fewer than two noteworthy times. The first time, for drug trafficking, was in 1985 in Germany, where they threw him in jail and seized his villas, yachts and cars. At that point, the plan may have been to lock him up and throw away the key, but it quickly became let him wander off, which is exactly what he did. Nasty allegations were leveled at all those in charge of keeping him in, but the fact remained that, by 1993, he was on his way to New York and people were calling him a fugitive.

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He then became a known associate of some of the original Mafia crime families in an area where Albanians in general had already distinguished themselves as assassins. Dangerous and unpredictable, but good assassins nonetheless. So with a foothold in New York and Philly, Kadriovski also expanded into doing what he did best, outside of killing, and now his organization is believed to be North America's main source of heroin from Afghanistan's Golden Crescent, according to the FBI. Because, you see, Daut Kadriovski, also known as Mehmed Haidini or Mehmet Hajdini, is part of a Muslim Albanian connection that's tied the organization, in the shadows, to Al-Qaeda.

Having more connections than a switchboard is a necessary prerequisite for what Kadriovski has put together. To wit: A heroin-for-cocaine connection with Colombians, plus hundreds of associates moving drugs in Australia, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Venezuela and all over the E.U. Which brings us to the second time Kadriovski was a prisoner: September 2, 2001, when he was locked down in a police station in Tirana, Albania, after an arrest by locals and Interpol for drug trafficking. Something in literary terms we might call foreshadowing: Kadriovski disappeared again and, if rumors from last year are to be believed, is dead now. Or "dead."

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"Without a body, as far as I'm concerned, we just ain't caught him yet," says now-retired undercover gang-detail cop Eddie Williams. But Kadriovski and Albanians in general are cutting a bold, blood-red swath through crime business as usual. By way of giving an example, Santoro details the arcane kind of patronage that guides gang living. "The Albanians opened up a club in a very traditional Mafia spot," Santoro says from his house in Staten Island. Not first seeking approval for this spot, or club, which became a locus point for all kinds of competing criminal activity, was a no-no. The Italian Mafia sent two heavies in to brace the newbies. The newbies were summarily dispatched with ass kickings.

This got blasted up the chain of command, and the Albanian bosses had to have a sit-down meeting. Santoro says that what happened next, learned through wiretaps, surprised even him. Not-entirely-low-level mob guys showed up at a spot in the Bronx to meet with the Albanians. "The Albanians kicked the shit out of them, broke their arms," says Santoro. Eventually, the Italian Mafia just decided to let them be, for complicated but sound business reasons, according to Santoro.

And Kadriovski, alive or dead, still has his fingerprints on a lot of his old businesses, whether it's kidnapping young women for lives of sexual servitude, shooting waiters dead for messing up an order or running a $19 million Internet heist, like lover of drink and murder Zef Mustafa, who skipped out on a $5 million bond after an arrest and is now also missing. Kadriovski created an organization that, on the basis of the sheer weight of its intensity and ferocity, led onetime Italian prosecutor Cataldo Motta to call it "a threat to Western society."

When you learn that the Albanians lost a $125 million shipment of heroin under New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's tenure and, the FBI says, their first response was to put out a contract on the prosecutor, Alan Cohen, and the detective, Jack Delemore, you can see why. Others who might wholeheartedly agree with Motta's assessment: the New York U.S. Attorney's Office, the DEA, the NYPD, Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations, New York State Police, the IRS, the U.S. Marshals and, indeed, the whole International Narcotics Control Board, all of which were part of the bust.

But without habeas corpusing Kadriovski, he remains a very present reminder of the fact that, sometimes more than we like, the system is not working right at all. And with no less than President Barack Obama sanctioning suspected follow-on kingpin Naser Kelmendi for drug trafficking just as recently as two years ago, don't expect a change in weather any time soon. "Kadriovski, alive or dead, says the same thing, really," says Hannah Elliott, a self-declared criminal-justice revolutionary from Florida International University. "Sometimes, justice is never served." A fact that would please Kadriovski much, no doubt.

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