Tirana, Oct 16 (Tirana Echo) – Albania has been shocked by a growing political scandal after allegations that former socialist interior minister Saimir Tahiri may have been linked to one of the most notorious drug networks in the Balkans.
More than 400 pages of tapping materials by Italian Prosecutor following the arrest of 7 key leaders of a drug-smuggling Albanian-Italian criminal organization by Italian police, have revealed that two of the drug lords were were blood related to former Albanian interior minister Saimir Tahiri, who served in the position over the past four years.
Phone conversations recorded by Italian police between Moisi Habilaj and his partner Sabaudin Celaj, both Albanian, have revealed the drug network had substantial control over corrupt police officials in Albania and worked well with their Italian counterparts. Conversations have revealed that the drug lords mentioned the name of former interior minister of Albania Saimir Tahiri on several occasions, prompting allegations that the young socialist minister, now MP, may have received hefty sums of money by turning a blind eye to the ongoing drug trafficking between Albania and Italy.
Italian police recordings in the region of Catania have shown that the traffickers want to make sure Tahiri’s name is not mentioned in front of the other collaborators while they confirm to each other on several occasions sums of money allegedly received by the former minister.
“They both speak of a powerful person named Saimir Tahiri (member of parliament in Albania), a man of politics. Moisi Habilaj: ‘What does he have more than us?’. Sabaudin answers that ‘Saimir has only the name’, but does not believe he has more money than them. Moisi Habilaj calculates that Saimir earns around 5 million euros in a month” – says the 400 page Italian prosecutor’s document.
The Italian prosecutor has also revealed the drug traffickers used an Audi A8 under the number plate ‘AA003GB’, a car which used to belong to Mr. Tahiri but later sold to his distant cousin Moisi Habilaj.
Mr. Tahiri responded to allegations in a press conference saying the mere fact that two criminals, although distant cousins of himself, have mentioned his name during their random conversations, does not prove that he is personally involved. Tahiri admitted that his possible biggest mistake was selling the Audi A8 to his distant cousins, without first checking their background.
A visibly shaken Tahiri said: “This is not an easy day for me. Two criminals, distant 10th grade cousins of mine have been arrested over drug trafficking, while they have mentioned my name. I will immediately ask for every detail to be verified over me and my family without benefiting from any political immunity. My biggest mistake is that I sold my personal car to the Habilaj brothers without verifying their persons. I condemn every criminal activity and I ask the Prosecutor to investigate everything according to the law“.
Earlier on in the day, Albania’s General prosecutor Adriatik Lalla had refused to meet with Tahiri, following a tete-a-tete meeting with Albanian Secret Service (SHISH) Director Visho Ajazi.
Opposition democratic party chairman Lulzim Basha has called for the arrest of Mr. Tahiri and the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama, saying that Tahiri was operating under the orders of its PM boss.
“Albania is ahead of an explosive scandal of historical proportions, when it comes to its organized crime and links to today’s politicians. Today is the day for Saimir Tahiri to be arrested and to be tried without any delays. The facts are public and the proof is on Edi Rama’s table” – said Basha.
Albanian prime Minister Edi Rama, visiting his counterpart in neighboring Macedonia, tweeted that “It is disgusting and shocking what has come out of the conversations between the two criminals. I have known Saimir Tahiri for many years and I only have encouraging and supporting words for him, as a person with good intentions, capacities and integrity. But Albania and the Albanians deserve to know the truth, which is why all law agencies need to go to the end of this story, shedding light over the facts.”
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