Former Minister Tahiri: My Only Mistake Was Selling My Car (And Not Declaring It)

In a press statement yesterday afternoon, former Minister of Interior Affairs and current PS deputy Saimir Tahiri has denied all the allegations leveled against him by the opposition and the media regarding his involvement with the drug trafficking scandal surrounding the Habilaj brothers.

After Prime Minister Edi Rama called the revelations by the Italian Guardia di Finanza, involving the trafficking of large amounts of marijuana from Albania to Italy, “disgusting and shocking,” Tahiri insisted that his only mistake was selling his car in 2015 to the Habilaj brothers.

Two criminals that are my tenth-degree cousins have been arrested for drug trafficking as was made public without hesitating to mention also my name. Of course there are endless criminals that use the names of politicians or ministers to brag to each other in order to increase profits. I am neither the first nor the last. […]

I feel a moral responsibility for the actions of anyone, even of some of my tenth-degree cousins, to whom in fact I have made the only great mistake to four years ago sell my personal car. I certainly should have never neglected to verify whom I sold the car to. And irrespective of the fact that in our country those verifications are rarely made – there are many of hide them or put assets on the name of someone else – I again hold full moral responsibility.

Beyond that I neither have had nor have any type of relation and even less illegal relations, so I have no other responsibility and condemn every criminal act, of whomever, even of those that are my tenth-degree cousins, who didn’t hesitate to use my name.

It remains to be seen whether Tahiri’s responsibility will only remain “moral.” Because the facts are that he didn’t only just “sell” his personal car, an Audi A8 with number plate AA003GB, to the Habilaj brothers, he also failed to pass on the registration to their name, because he didn’t want to the court to seize his profit in order to the cover the compensation money allotted in a slander case, in which he had been convicted. He has admitted to this attempt to evade taxation and a penalty imposed by the Albanian court in public, but has never been investigated.

While the Audi was still registered in his name, it was used several times by the Habilaj brother to cross the Greek border, allegedly to smuggle drugs. As the car was still registered under Tahiri’s name, back then Minister of Interior, the border guards failed to check the car.

Furthermore, Tahiri, while being Minister of Interior, used the car at least twice after selling it to the Habilaj brothers, which he defended by saying that he didn’t want to use official car for personal business, after first having denied that he knew the Habilaj brothers at all.

Tahiri’s name was mentioned in a conversation wiretapped by the Italian police as the recipient of €30,000, and is also present in other conversations between drug traffickers. Notably, names of other Albanian politicians appear to be absent. Tahiri explains this by the fact that the criminals are “bragging” to “increase profits,” although he fails to explain how saying that you’re giving someone €30,000 is increasing your profit.

Finally, Tahiri repeated several times that the Habilaj brothers are his tenth-degree cousins, while in September 2015 he claimed on TV that they were sixth-degree cousins. Perhaps that was still too close for comfort?