Basha Warns Albanian Citizens of Government’s Criminal Links From right to left: Prime Minister Edi Rama, MP Damian Gjiknuri, crime boss Imer Lala, Mayor of Durres Vangush Dako, crime boss Astrit Avdylaj

Opposition leader Lulzim Basha has accused Prime Minister Edi Rama and his Socialist Party government of stealing “through concessions, private-public partnerships, tenders, building permits, special laws, and whatever they can.”

He continued that those in power are profiting off the ordinary citizens.

These comments came after his harsh criticisms of the Socialist Party Mayor-elect of Shkodra, Valdrin Pjetri who recently resigned after his criminal record for drug trafficking, came to light. He said that this demonstrates once again that Rama has “brought dozens of criminals into politics and state institutions.”

Adding that this was a threat and danger to the security of every Albanian citizen, he said that the country has become “a paradise for organised crime, money laundering, drug trafficking and corruption.”

Pjetri was “elected” in the controversial 30 June “elections” where just 10% of the electorate in Shkodra voted and he was the only candidate on the list. He resigned four days ago after the Opposition published a document detailing a prior conviction for drug dealing in Italy that he had failed to declare on his self-declaration form.

In his resignation statement, Pjetri described his conviction as a “totally banal event” and claims he had “no guilt and responsibility” despite him being found guilty.

Hiding a conviction is a criminal offence, yet the Prosecution is yet to open a case against him.

He is one of a number of Socialist Party associates that have turned out to have criminal links. Former Mayor of Durres Vangjush Dako and his family have been banned from entry to the US due to “involvement in significant corruption”, Samir Tahiri the former Minister of the Interior who was arrested for corruption and drug trafficking, former Mayor of Kavaja Elvis Roshi who hid a conviction, and Fatmir Xhafaj the former Minister of the Interior whose brother was part of an Italian drug trafficking ring.

Many more have been accused and implicated in crimes including the election gate wiretaps that provide evidence of collusion with criminal gangs to rig the 2017 General Election.

In the US State Department has reported as recently as this year that the situation for drugs, organised crime, and money laundering in the country is increasingly dire due to an environment of impunity. Government corruption, a weak rule of law, and infrequent investigations, convictions, and imprisonments mean that Albania is now serving as a base for organized crime operations for the US, South America, Europe and the Middle East.

Basha’s comments relating to permits, tenders and PPPs appear to reference the vast number of controversial and highly irregular tenders including road concessions, and the National Theatre, Unaza Ring Road amongst others.