Court Cleared Regional Police Chief of Drug Trafficking Charges

Yesterday’s verdict of the Court of Serious Crimes cleared the former Vlora Police Chief Jaeld Çela of all prosecution charges, along his former boss Saimir Tahiri.

Çela and Tahiri were both charged with three counts: international drug trafficking, participation in a “structured criminal organization”, and “criminal activity under a structured criminal organization.”

Prosecutors had demanded 12 year in prison for Çela but the court found him not guilty on all charges. He was instead sentenced to 5 years in prison for abuse of office, which was reduced to 3 years and 4 months due to the abbreviated trial. In contrast to Tahiri, the court did not put Çela on probation because he is still at large, and

Prosecutors accused the former Vlora police chief of favoring the Vlora-based Habilaj criminal group and collaborating in drug trafficking in at least three specific cases involving the trafficking of more than two tons of cannabis caught by the Italian police. Members of the gang were relatives of the then Minister of Interior Saimit Tahiri.

However, the court did not find the prosecution evidence strong enough and dropped all charges against Çela as well.

In contrast to Tahiri, Jaeld Çela was not put in probation but will have to serve his term in prison because he has been on the run for about two years.

Two former close collaborators of Jaeld Çela have also been at large since November 2017: Gjergji Kohila, former head of the department for fighting organized crime in Vlora, and Sokol Bode, former chief of border police in Dhërmi. However, the court decided to separate their case from that of Tahiri and Çela.