Since May 14, Minister of Interior Affairs Fatmir Xhafaj and his brother Agron Xhafaj, convicted of drug trafficking by the Italian courts, have been thrust in the center of public discussion. The public focus is not only concerned with the fact that Agron Xhafaj did not spend a day of his sentence in prison, but also with the accusations from the opposition alleging that the Minister’s brother continues trafficking drugs from Vlora, where he has been living for years.
Below, find a chronological summary of the developments in the Xhafaj case that took place in the previous week.
- On May 14, at 11:30 am, the Democratic Party accused Agron Xhafaj of continuing his criminal activity and orchestrating drug trafficking operations from Vlora. PD also released a wiretap recording where Agron Xhafaj could be heard making arrangements for the transportation of a drugs shipment with one of his former collaborators, now known as Witness X.
- On May 15, in the morning, officers of the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office retrieved the recording from the PD headquarters.
- On May 16, at a time when Minister Xhafaj and Prime Minister Edi Rama had yet to react to the opposition’s accusations, Agron Xhafaj publicly declared that he would turn himself in to the Italian police to carry out the sentence he received in 2012 by the Italian courts. Additionally, Agron Xhafaj claimed that PD’s wiretap was fake and filed a lawsuit at the Prosecution Office against the opposition MPs that released it.
- A few hours after Xhafaj’s letter was made public, Prime Minister Rama reacted via a press conference. On May 16, at 11:14 am, two days after the PD wiretaps, Rama declared that the Interior Minister had no moral or legal responsibility. Furthermore, Rama claimed he had sent the wiretap recording to “one of the world’s best laboratories” to analyze, and received a response that confirmed that it is “an inauthentic material aiming at destabilizing the country.” In the afternoon of May 16, Fatmir Xhafaj reacted for the first time. In a press conference he declared that he intended to stay in his position as Minister of Interior Affairs and not resign. He claimed that he had broken no laws and accused the opposition of slander because of his office.
- On May 17, on 11:30 am, the Democratic Party made public the identity of Witness X who was speaking with Agron Xhafaj in the wiretap. He is Albert Veliu, a 51-year-old living in Vlora. Veliu admitted to working with Agron Xhafaj, in a gang that trafficked cocaine. Veliu also attested to the authenticity of the wiretaps and confirmed that the other person in the conversation was indeed Agron Xhafaj. Veliu claimed that, following the publication of the wiretap, his family was threatened by high officials of the Vlora police.
- On May 18, Albert Veliu was interrogated by the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office for 6 hours. A sample of his voice was recorded to be used in the verifications of the original wiretap.
- On May 18, around noon, Prime Minister Rama refused to disclose which foreign agency had analyzed the wiretap, and how he had obtained the recording in the first place. During a press conference, Rama seemed annoyed by questions concerning Xhafaj, and went so far as to attack journalist Ambrozia Meta who asked “Aren’t there in the Socialist Party representatives without cousins of brothers that are involved in drug trafficking, who could lead [the Ministry of Interior Affairs.]”
- On May 19, investigative journalist Jetmir Olldashi confessed to being the person who wiretapped the conversation between Albert Veliu and Agron Xhafaj, as part of an investigation into Vlora’s drug gangs. Like Albert Veliu, Olldashi asserted that the person in the recording is Agron Xhafaj, disproving the Prime Minister’s claims that the wiretap was fake. Olldashi also stated that his investigative piece on the drug gangs of Vlora would be released soon.
- On May 21, Democrat MPs Alibeaj and Salianji, as well as legal counsel Gazmend Bardhi, gave their statements to the Prosecution Office, following Agron Xhafaj’s lawsuit of falsely reporting a crime.