While the Habilaj–Tahiri affair exploded in the Albanian media, the US Embassy posted a video on its Facebook account in which “Ambassador Lu and the Embassy’s American staff members tried to guess traditional Albanian dishes” while being blindfolded with the US flag.
There is perhaps no metaphor that is more apt for the current position of the US Ambassador, and other foreign officials closely involved in Albania’s judicial reform, than a man blindfolded by his own flag poking a fork in an Albanian dish, unable to tell whether it will delight or disgust him. Because what is currently being served with the revelations of former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri must taste very bitter to all these international warriors of justice.
Ambassador Lu has never been the one to remain silent in the face of dangerous criminals roaming free and the “corrupted” judges of the judicial system.
On December 14, 2015, during a conference of judges, Ambassador Lu stated that any judge with a watch more expensive than his car is “corrupt.”
On December 9, 2016, Ambassador Lu called the judges who released criminal Lul Berisha “corrupted.”
And on October 2, 2017, in a widely mediated speech at the School of Magistrates, Ambassador Lu accused the Albanian judicial system of incompetence, calling out by name several known criminals:
There are some famous names of Albanian criminals, like convicted drug trafficker Emiljano Shullazi, whom the media claims continues to carry out drug and arms trafficking from his pre-trial detention cell. Or Lul Berisha, the head of the violent Durres gang who was mistakenly released from prison early by prison officials. This resulted in the arrest of the director of the prison and the prison lawyer, but Lul Berisha mysteriously remains free. And finally the magician Klement Balili, an international drug trafficker wanted by Greece and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, but who has managed to escape Albanian justice for 18 months through the incompetence of prosecutors, the police and the Ministry of Justice.
But what now appears is that not only the judicial system is corrupt, but that organized crime has had smooth access to the highest levels of the government and the police, with the former minister of interior directly profiting from the drugs trafficking activities of his cousins, allegedly making €5 million per month in the process.
It now appears, wonder of wonders, that the millions of US tax dollars pumped into programs of ICITAP to assist the Albanian police to effectively confront drug trafficking and cultivation and organized crime, were pumped into a judicial reform project headed by a minister who for four years was on the payroll of an Albanian–Italian criminal organization.
So what will Ambassador Lu do? Once again call out the corrupted judges and prosecutors who failed to arrest the Habilaj brothers and Saimir Tahiri for all those years, letting them roam freely in the offices of government? Or will he call out the man with whom he shared the stage in 2015, when he declared victory in the war of drugs?
He should better take another bite of that imam bayıldı first and pray that it is true to its name.