Shkodra Mayor-Elect Hid Italian Drug Trafficking Conviction

On Tuesday, the opposition Democratic Party (PD) published an Italian police document allegedly showing that Shkodër Mayor-elect Valdrin Pjetri was sentenced for drug trafficking in 2003.

The opposition has denounced Pjetri’s past involvement in drug trafficking, as well as sentencing in Italy 16 years ago, during the last two weeks. It has claimed that Pjetri had hidden his criminal past from the self-declaration form. The PD also submitted a request with the Prosecution Office to initiate investigations into the case but no investigation has been announced to date.

In a press conference today, PD General Secretary Gazmend Bardhi published a Florence County Police document, according to which Valdrin Pjetri and Altin Doda were arrested in flagrante delicto on January 27, 2003. Pjetri agreed to admit to the criminal charges of “distribution, production and trafficking of narcotics”, in collaboration, before a court on January 28. The court sentenced him with a final verdict on July 12, 2003, to 18 months in prison and a €1000 fine, and suspended the sentence due to his admission to charges. Italian authorities cancelled Pjetri’s residence permit and expelled him from the country on February 3.

Bardhi claimed the PD was publishing the document after Prosecutor Office’s hesitance to initiate an investigation, and after Prime Minister Edi Rama’s silence on the matter for two weeks. “With his silence, Rama proved that he is Valdrin Pjetri’s godfather,” Bardhi stated.

The so-called Decriminalization Law prohibits those with criminal convictions in- or outside Albania to run for office.

Mayor-elect Valdrin Pjetri had denied the opposition allegations during the last two weeks. Today he refused to comment for the local media on the publication of the alleged Italian Police document.

“Valdrin Pjetri’s insistence to stick to his lies until the end proves that he has the protection of the highest-level power,” Bardhi argued.

Prime Minister Edi Rama responded on Twitter by distancing himself and the Socialist Party from Pjetri, while at the same time praising him:

No, Valdrin, even if you’re my brother, there is no chance to cast any shadow of a doubt onto the PS and onto me, with respect to the law and honesty to the people! The responsibility for any unworthy individual act is individual. Our responsibility is how we react to an individual unworthy act! Educated, able, his family respected in Shkodra and wherever he has worked, but that’s not enough! Never did have I thought that Valdrin would hide the truth with respect to the law, but until the truth comes out, Valdrin Pjetri and the Socialist Party have completely separated their ways.

This is not the first time high officials in Albania are accused of hiding their criminal past. Mayor of Kavaja Elvis Roshi, MPs Arben Ndoka, Armando Prenga, Gledion Rehovica, Aqif Rakipi, Shkëlqim Selami, and Dashamir Tahiri lost their seats or resigned as a result. Former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri stands accused of drug trafficking and corruption, while the State Department barred former mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako from entering the US owing to corruption and links to the mafia.