Former Minister Tahiri Set for Trial on Drug Trafficking Charges

Albania’s former Minister of Interior Saimiri Tahiri will be tried for “trafficking of narcotics” as part of a structured criminal group, as well as “passive corruption by high state officials”.

After an 8-hour-long pretrial hearing at the Serious Crimes Court yesterday, Judge Miljana Muça decided to proceed with the trial against Tahiri, and other police officials following the Serious Crimes Prosecution charges against them.

Jaeld Çela, the former police director of Vlora, Gjergj Kohila, the chief of the organized crime section of the Vlora police directorate, and Sokol Bode, the former head of the border police in Dhërmi will be tried in the same case with their former boss, Saimir Tahiri. The three former high police officials have been on the run since November 2017.

Yesterday, Saimir Tahiri requested the court to dismiss the case but the judge refused his request.

Tahiri also filed a request for an “abbreviated trial”. This is a concept in Albanian procedural law where the defendant has the right to be judged by an abbreviated trial. This type of trial involves an accelerated procedure that does not require the detailed examination of facts that were evidenced during the preliminary investigation. It benefits the defendant by allowing a reduction in sentence by up to 1/3.

Talking to the media after the court hearing, Tahiri claimed that despite his request for an abbreviated trial, he was not involved in the case whatsoever.

“I asked for the trial not to drag on forever”, he said. “However, I will be fighting to the end for what I have already stated, that is that I am not involved in this matter whatsoever.”

“What I can say is that the justice [system] owes a lot to the people. For 25 years, people who have murdered and stolen have ruled this country. I haven’t stolen, nor have I murdered. Having me become a sacrifice is not easy.”

Investigations into Saimir Tahiri began in October 2017 following the arrest of his cousin Moisi Habilaj and members of his criminal group in Catania, Italy. The wiretaps of the Italian Prosecution Office revealed that members of the group talked about their close relationship with the then-Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri, how he allegedly made millions of Euros from the drug trafficking, and used that money in electoral campaigns. The Habilaj group is facing a trial in Italy on charges of international drug trafficking.