Agron Xhafaj Is in Albania

In recent days, the Democratic Party has been producing a stream of revelation related to the alleged criminal activities of the brother of Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj, Agron Xhafaj, who legally changed his name to Geron.

Ever since the criminal activities of his brother, which involved international drug trafficking from Latin America to Europe, became public in 2017 after his nomination as Minister of Interior Affairs, Fatmir Xhafaj has been reluctant and evasive, even though because of his function he is politically responsible for the State Police, which is supposed to have acted upon the outstanding international arrest warrant for his brother. This has, however, not happened so far, even though the opposition has repeatedly called for his arrest.

The recent publication of the 2012 verdict of the Italian Supreme Court, Xhafaj’s suspicious changes to the Criminal Procedure Code, and the alleged wiretap of Agron Xhafaj discussing drug trafficking show increasing evidence that under Fatmir Xhafaj’s watch the Albanian State Police has taken no action. The State Police had already become fully criminalized under his predecessor Saimir Tahiri, who is currently under house arrest awaiting trial for corruption and membership of a criminal organization involved in drug trafficking.

This brings Minister Xhafaj and the Rama government in an ever more untenable position. As recently as August 2016, Prime Minister Edi Rama defended Minister Xhafaj’s brother as follows:

Sali [Berisha, former Prime Minister and PD leader] has undertaken his next sordid campaign, to throw mud on Fatmir Xhafaj! And in his old and revolting Soviet fashion, he has raised an accusation on an entirely fabricated story about Fatmir’s brother. A story of Venezuelan drugs, about the father of two children who minds his honest business and is only guilty of one thing: being the brother of the head of the Parliamentary Committee for the most important and difficult reform of the last 25 years!

All this time, it was only assumed that Agron Xhafaj would be living in Albania under the protection of the government. However, the recent news that Agron Xhafaj sued several MPs of the Democratic Party over the wiretap they released clearly shows that he is residing in Albania and in spite of the international arrest warrant has not been arrested by law enforcement.

In many ways, this situation mirrors the Klement Balili scandal, who was allowed to reside for many months in Albania unhampered in spite of an arrest warrant released by the Greek authorities. Balili still has not been captured, even though in April US Ambassador Donald Lu declared “there is the possibility that he will be arrested in the coming days.”

The recent lawsuit filed by Agron Xhafaj proves that he indeed legally changed his name to Geron, as previously claimed by the opposition. It also shows that he resides in Albania.

This then leads to the following issue. In February 2018, Minister Xhafaj and Temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku signed an agreement to create a section of “special prosecutors” at the Prosecution Office to investigate corruption and organize crime. As Exit explained before, this move was unconstitutional in the sense that the Constitution prescribes already two special institutions, the National Investigation Bureau (BKH) and the Special Prosecutor (SPAK), which, however, have not yet been nominated due to delays in the vetting process.

These special prosecutors would allegedly investigate corruption and organized crime until the installation of the BKH and SPAK, based on the legal framework set out in the Anti-Mafia Law. According to this law, the assets of family members of suspects of corruption and organized crime need to be verified by the Prosecution Office. As the Prosecution Office already started a verification process of Agron Xhafaj after the denunciations of the opposition, it follows from the Anti-Mafia Law that Minister Xhafaj himself should be investigated as well. This, however, appears not to have happened yet. In the meantime, the conflicts of interest besetting Minister Xhafaj have considerably expanded.

The second issue is the position of the Italian authorities. Although it seems reasonable to assume an international arrest warrant has been issued, neither the Italian government nor the Italian embassy has responded to the recent developments. Will they demand the extradition of Agron Xhafaj?