A Short History of Saimir Tahiri and the Habilaj Brothers – Exit Explains

Yesterday, the Guardia di Finanza of Catania arrested the members of an Albanian–Italian mafia group including 4 Italians and 3 Albanians, 4 others are still wanted. According to the Italian prosecution, the criminal group had trafficked over 3.5 tons of cannabis, guns and other weapons over the last few years, with a yearly profit of €20 million.

Among the persons arrested is Moisi Habilaj, one of three Habilaj brothers, well-known to the Albanian public because of frequent public accusations for drug trafficking to Greece and Italy. With the arrest of Moisi Habilaj, these accusations now appear to have been grounded in reality.

The first accusations against the Habilaj brothers were made by Dritan Zagani, former employee of the anti-drugs services of the police in Fier and former employee of the border police in Vlora. Zagani had been informed about the drug trafficking activities of the Habilaj brothers, and investigated their actions. During this investigation, he exchanged information with the officers of the Guardia di Finanza mission in Albania, and all finds were passed on to his superiors.

Inexplicably, instead of the Vlora and Fier police forwarding his investigation to the prosecution, Zagani was accused by the police of leaking his investigation, including through the exchange of information with the Guardia di Finanza. For this reason he was arrested by the prosecution and put under house arrest by the court until the investigation in to his actions had been completed. Zagani escaped his house arrest and fled from Albania, seeking political asylum in Switzerland.

After his departure from Albania, Zagani declared that the accusation against him and his arrest had been the former Minister of Interior Affairs Saimir Tahiri’s revenge for investigating the Habilaj brothers. According to Zagani, the Habilaj brothers were cousins of Tahiri and that their drug trafficking activities were under his protection. Zagani accused Tahiri of lending his personal car, an Audi with number plate AA003GB, for drug trafficking toward Greece, because the border police didn’t dare to investigate the personal car of a minister.

Saimir Tahiri replied in public that he had no relation whatsoever with the Habilaj brothers, and that he had sold the car after he became minister and didn’t know the buyers of his car. After this declaration, the media published extracts from the car registry showing that the Audi used by the Habilaj brothers was in fact registered under Tahiri’s name.

Faced with this proof, Tahiri was forced to accept that the car was still legally owned by him and registered in his name. He explained this fact by saying that he hadn’t legally declared the sale of the car, which is why the car wasn’t registered in the Habilajs’ name, because he didn’t want the profit from the sale to be confiscated by the court; following a verdict in another case, Tahiri had to pay compensation to the children of former Prime Minister Sali Berisha for slander, which he didn’t pay claiming he didn’t have money.

This declaration was basically an admission of tax evasion, but Tahiri was neither investigated nor prosecuted.

After a few days, another truth came out: Tahiri had travelled at least twice to Greece in the Audi AA003GB in the months after he claimed to have sold the car to the Habilaj brothers. Tahiri justified this fact by claiming that he didn’t want to use his office car for personal trips, and had asked the Habilaj brothers to borrow back his car on those occasions. This declaration contradicted his previous claim that he didn’t know the Habilaj brothers apart from the car sale.

Under pressure of these public revelations and the continued accusations of the opposition, the prosecution in Fier started an investigation into the Habilaj brothers and the use of their car for drug trafficking. The investigation was stopped a few months later because no evidence for the accusations against them could be found.

Tahiri publicly celebrated that the investigation against his cousins had finished without results, posting the following message on his Facebook:

Now that the prosecution has checked the lies of the fled policeman, the PD has also lost its stream of lies. This is one of these cases when the lie slaps you back in the face, and the PD members now got a black eye. The police is built on truths, and always has value. The lie is greedy and is never full. This holds also for PD members.

The arrest of one of the Habilaj brothers as part of a criminal drug trafficking group throws new light on the old accusations about the possible criminal activity of the Habilaj brothers and the links between their activities and former Minister and current PS deputy Saimir Tahiri.

The action of the Guardia di Finanza has revealed an interesting fact, which in first instance appears to confirm the long-standing against the Habilaj brothers. The Italian police confirmed that the criminal gang including Moisi Habilaj sent in May 2015 a shipment of 800 kg marijuana from Albania, which was later confiscated by the Italian police.

In the same period, in May 2015, PD deputy Enkelejd Alibeaj accused the Habilaj brothers of having stolen from the police commissariat in Vlora a confiscated truck containing 800 kg of cannabis, and that Tahiri had facilitated that theft. Tahiri denied the accusation, while the police didn’t take any measures against the actions of the Habilaj brothers.

The arrest of Moisi Habilaj in Italy will maybe be the beginning of the clarification of the criminal activities of the Habilaj brothers, as well as the links of former Minister Saimir Tahiri with them.