Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city, has been reported as the likely springboard for the African mafia group known as Black Axe. The criminal organisation, which has roots in Nigeria, is now spreading across Scandinavia's largest country.
At present, several people reported to belong to the feared mafia group are in custody in Gothenburg over “large-scale heroin and cocaine smuggling”, the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten reported.
The first arrests reportedly took place in September 2018. Since then the investigation has snowballed to involve at least 17 detainees. Most of them come from Nigeria, while some hail from the Gambia, Sierra Leone and the Netherlands. All of them are suspected of being part of a large smuggling scheme. Since some of the gang members now reside in Gothenburg, the Swedish authorities suspect that the mafia group may have plans to take root in the city more permanently.
“It is about huge amounts of drugs in different places in Europe”, prosecutor Anna Svedin at the national unit against international and organised crime told Göteborgs-Posten.
According to her, a total of 20 people are expected to be prosecuted.
“Judging by the number of detainees and the extent of the investigation, this is by far one of the largest cases the Customs have ever had”, Gill Eriksson, the deputy head at the Customs Criminal Investigation Unit in Gothenburg, said.
According to Eriksson, drugs are smuggled using capsules swallowed by mules. The main transit routes involve the Öresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden, as well as ferry lines from Germany between Kiel and Gothenburg, and Travemünde and Malmö.
Black Axe reportedly challenged the very Cosa Nostra on the Mafia's home ground, Sicily, only to later launch a lucrative cooperation. Its organisation is heavily hierarchical and military-based.
“Our view is that we are dealing with well-organised activity conducted for profit, more or less in the form of a company. Much of the investigation material indicates that some of our suspects belong to the Black Axe,” Anna Svedin said.
This weekend, one of Sweden's largest newspapers, Aftonbladet, published an article where locals describe Gothenburg as a horrible place in a state of “decay” and “disrepair”, rife with drugs. Last week alone, two young men were stabbed to death in the city, making national headlines and spurring a heated debate.
In the article, locals described Gothenburg as a highly unsafe place, where drugs are sold openly in the street, residents carry weapons, and robberies are becoming commonplace, to a point where residents avoid the city centre after darkness.
“I'm more scared now. At some point it's my or my relatives' turn to get hurt. Robbed or raped,” a 34-year-old woman told the newspaper.
With a population of 570,000 people and about a million in its metropolitan area, Gothenburg is Sweden's second-largest city, home to Scandinavia's largest port. A quarter of its population is of non-Swedish descent.