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High-level corruption cases in the Western Balkans and Turkey

Narcotics trafficking (Tahiri) - High-level corruption cases in the Western Balkans and Turkey

Narcotics trafficking (Tahiri)

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Introduction

From 2013 to 2017, police in Italy and Albania seized large amounts of the illicit drug cannabis.

In response, the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office in Tirana launched a criminal proceeding for narcotics trafficking committed in collaboration as a structured criminal group. The defendant was Albanian citizen Saimir Tahiri, who served as interior minister for the Republic of Albania from 11 September 2013 to 19 March 2017. Also involved in the case was the director of the local police station in Vlorë as Tahiri’s collaborator.

Country
Albania
Sector
Public institutions
Offence
Narcotics trafficking
Phase
2nd instance procedure

Description of the case

From 2013 to 2017, police in Italy and Albania seized large amounts of the illicit drug cannabis.

In response, the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office in Tirana launched a criminal proceeding for narcotics trafficking committed in collaboration as a structured criminal group. The defendant was Albanian citizen Saimir Tahiri, who served as interior minister for the Republic of Albania from 11 September 2013 to 19 March 2017. Also involved in the case was the director of the local police station in Vlorë as Tahiri’s collaborator.

According to the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office, the two defendants helped a structured criminal group by abusing their supervisory state functions. They removed obstacles and gave information to narcotics growers and traffickers, which prolonged the trafficking.

The prosecution’s evidence includes interceptions and chat communications in which other defendants talk about gifts and sums of money for Tahiri and his family members. In one conversation, a defendant says that “cousins of the minister” guarantee the cultivation of narcotics and he claims to have connections to the “director”, who guarantees protection in return for a 30 per cent share of the narcotics.

Evidence in the court files also includes valuable gifts allegedly given to Tahiri and expenses for repair of the marine vessel Auras, which Tahiri used. These expenses were covered by other defendants, the Habilaj brothers, who are Tahiri’s cousins. Tahiri also lent the Habilaj brothers his car, whose use appears in the court files.

Further evidence, which includes wiretapping, telephone interceptions and transcripts of chat communications, indicates that the narcotics cultivation and trafficking were carried out with the support and collaboration of police officers and other officials. These are often referred to in the interceptions as “the state”.

In March 2019, the case went to court, which applied the abbreviated judgement procedure. This meant that the case could be tried based on the evidence obtained during the preliminary investigation.