The case of the alleged audio-recording of Agron Xhafaj, the former Minister of Interior Famir Xhafaj’s brother, has taken a new and intriguing turn in the recent days. Former Democratic Party MP Ervin Salianji has recently made public some phone call logs handed to him by the prosecution office. In the wiretaps, Alfred Alizoti, who has previously pleaded to have acted as Agron Xhafaj when the alleged audio-recording was made, appears to have a close relationship and to have received favors from the Director of Fier Police.
Exit.al brings a chronological summary of the main developments of this affair in order to contextualize the recently published prosecution wiretaps.
May 14, 2018: The Democratic Party (PD) publishes an audio recording of a conversation between two persons who appear to be talking about drug trafficking. One of the persons is identified as Witness X. He appears to be getting directions on how to get a quantity of drugs. The person giving directions is claimed to be Agron Xhafaj, brother of Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj.
The Democratic Party also accuses Agron Xhafaj of having been sentenced in Italy to 7 years and 8 month in prison, in November 2012, on charges of international trafficking of cocaine. According to the PD, Agron Xhafaj is a fugitive from the Italian justice system and has been hiding for years in Albania under the protection of his minister brother.
May 15, 2018: PD representatives submit the audio recording to the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office.
Agron Xhafaj claims that the audio-recording is a montage made by the opposition, and presses charges for false accusations against MP Ervin Salianji, MP Enkelejd Alibeaj and PD’s legal adviser Gazmend Bardhi, who made the recording public.
In late evening, under unclear circumstances, Agron Xhafaj’s own voice is recorded in order to be used as sample to perform comparative analysis. To this day it is still not clear who, where, in what capacity and under which procedures recorded his voice.
In front of prosecutors, Agron Xhafaj identifies “Witness X” as Albert Veliu, aka Babale, a former drug trafficker and convict. Agron Xhafaj denies having spoken to him.
Agron Xhafaj admits he has been convicted in Italy and says he will hand himself over to the Italian police and complete his sentence.
May 16, 2018: In the morning, Agron Xhafaj flies to Italy, escorted by Italian and Albanian officers, where he hands himself over to serve the sentence.
In the evening, less than 48 hours after the audio recording was made public, Prime Minister Edi Rama states that the recording was examined by a prestigious foreign lab, which concluded that it was manipulated. He didn’t reveal neither the name of the lab nor the country. The prime minister warns that there will be consequences for the counterfeiters, and asserts that minister Fatmir Xhafaj has no moral or legal responsibility for his brother’s actions.
The Serious Crimes Prosecutor’s Office starts an investigation for drug trafficking into Agron Xhafaj.
May 17, 2018: Having been identified, Albert Veliu seeks protection for himself and his family at the Democratic Party.
The PD runs an interview with Veliu, made by journalist Jetmir Olldashi during the night at the PD headquarters where Veliu had taken refuge. In the interview, Veliu claims that the audio-recording is genuine. He claims to have worked with Agron Xhafaj in Italy as part of the same cocaine distribution ring.
The head of the Socialist Party parliamentary group, Taulant Balla, accuses the PD of having paid Albert Veliu to stage the audio-recording.
18 May 2018: Albert Veliu is questioned by the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office, where he asserts that the recording is genuine/authentic and repeats his accusations for drug trafficking against Agron Xhafaj. The prosecution records a sample of his voice.
May 19, 2018: Journalist Jetmir Olldashi admits to have audio-recorded the conversation between Albert Veliu and Agron Xhafaj as part of an investigation into drug trafficking groups in the city of Vlora. Olldashi says that the person recorded in the conversation is Agron Xhafaj. He adds that he was not physically present in their conversation but stayed outside the building where the two persons met and talked.
21 May 2018: MPs Salianji and Alibeaj, and adviser Bardhi give their statements to the prosecution office after the indictment filed by Agron Xhafaj against them.
May 28, 2018: Albert Veliu is arrested in Kosovo for illegal border crossing. The prosecution announces that the audio-recording was sent to be examined at the Science Police Institute of Rome, Italy.
June 8, 2018: In an exclusive news, Shqiptarja.com reports that a person has handed himself over at the Serious Crimes Prosecutor’s Office claiming to have acted as Agron Xhafaj for the audio-recording made by Albert Veliu, aka Babale. Shqiptarja.com claims that prosecutors took a sample of the self-incriminating witness’s voice.
June 19, 2018: Shqiptarja.com runs another allegedly exclusive article claiming that according to the self-incriminating witness Albert Veliu (Babale) received EUR 100,000 to stage the audio-recording of Agron Xhafaj. He asserts that Babale has never told him the name of the person who paid the money.
According to Shqiptarja.com, the statements of the self-incriminating witness are consistent with the content of phone calls intercepted by the prosecution where he and Babale argue about sharing the profit. In these intercepted conversations, he appears to warn Babale that if he doesn’t get his share as promised, he would jump on the other side and tell the whole truth.
July 2, 2018: More than a month after the audio recording was sent to Italy, the prosecution states that the Italian lab did not accept to do the examination, therefore the recording was sent to the UK this time.
September 26, 2018: The media reports that several days ago the British lab has sent back to the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office the results of their examination of the audio-recording.
October 6, 2018: Serious Crimes Prosecutor Gentian Osmani demands the Serious Crimes Court for Albert Veliu (Babale) and self-incriminating witness Alfred Alizoti to be arrested. Prosecutor Osmani also demands the court to issue orders for “obligation to appear in front of the court” for the PD MP Ervin Salianji and journalist Jetmir Olldashi on charges of making false accusations.
7-8 October 2018: Information from the prosecution’s investigation file submitted to the court is made public. According to this information, the audio-recording was examined by a British private lab. Their response says that the prosecution had sent four samples of recorded voices to be compared: recordings of Agron Xhafaj, Albert Veliu, Alfred Alizoti and another person’s voices. In addition, the prosecution had not sent for examination the original audio-recording submitted to them by the PD, but a recording from media broadcasts of the original audio-recording. The British lab states that the sample recording of Agron Xhafaj’s voice, made by the prosecution, is of a very low quality.
The British lab confirms that the voice in the audio recording is that of Albert Veliu, and excludes the fourth voice sample from taking part in the recorder conversation between the two persons. The lab fails to ascertain whether the other voice in the conversation is that of Agron Xhafaj or Alfred Alizoti, since both voices are similar to the one in the audio-recording.
Despite the response from the British lab, the prosecution concludes that the voice in audio-recording is that of Alfred Alizoti, from the Novosela village in Vlora, who has acted as Agron Xhafaj in order to damage the image of the Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj. According to the prosecution, Alizoti had decided to reveal the plan he had agreed upon with Veliu after the latter had failed to pay him the agreed sum of money.
October 9, 2019: In a speech at the parliament, Prime Minister Rama proclaims the audio-recording to be part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Rama says:
“I know it all, from the beginning to the end, because I have engaged a special group that has dealt [with the case] from the beginning to the end, in order for me, first of all, to know the whole truth. Albanians will learn from A to Z who is involved in this genuine conspiracy to overthrow the government– [Albanians will learn the] names of people, not institutions.”
Rama made allegations that segments of the secret service and the Serious Crimes Prosecution were involved in the conspiracy to throw the government.
In the evening, MP Ervin Salianji releases a video-recording showing Alfred Alizoti talking with someone in a café. The other person’s voice is distorted in order to hide his identity. In the video, Alizoti says that he was forced by the Director of State Police Ardi Veliu and MP Taulant Balla to admit that he had acted as Agron Xhafaj in the audio-recording. Alizoti says that director Ardi Veliu picked him up from Vlora and they traveled in Veliu’s car to the prosecution office in Tirana where Alizoti denounced Babale. Alizoti says that before entering the prosecutor’s office he had a coffee with Taulant Balla, who offered him EUR 200,000 for the service.
Salianji states that Alfred Alizoti is a false witness, recruited by police and government to assume the role of Agron Xhafaj in the audio-recording.
October 10, 2018: The Serious Crimes Prosecution seizes the video-recording of Alizoti made public by Salianji.
The director of the State Police Ardi Veliu admits that he has accompanied Alizoti with his car from Vlora to the prosecution office in Tirana, and states that this is a normal activity for a police officer. Police denies all other statements made by Alizoti in the video. Also, MP Taulant Balla denies having ever met Alfred Alizoti.
October 12, 2018: MP Salianji gives a statement to the prosecutor regarding the video-recording with Alfred Alizoti. Salianji says that it was recorded by Florenc Hoxha (former Chief of Tirana Municipality Police when Lulzim Basha was mayor) in a café near the PD building. Salianji claims that Veliu had come to PD offices to meet him, but he [Salianji] had not come out to meet him. Veliu had been waiting at the nearby café and had started to talk in the presence of Florenc Hoxha.
October 16-18, 2018: MP Ervin Salianji publishes a series of transcripts of telephone conversations intercepted by the prosecution and included in the file submitted to the court. Alizoti is heard talking several times with high police officials of Fier city, who seem to have e leaders of the Fier Police, who seem to know him from close. Alizoti speaks of a “good package” he received from the Fier Police Director. He appears to be completely relaxed even though only few months ago he had handed himself over and incriminated himself for taking part in a conspiracy. In one of the many conversations, he appears to confirm the meeting with MP Taulant Balla when he tells the other person that he is “waiting to meet with a friend from Librazhd”, whom he refers to as “Taulant”.
March 6, 2019: The prosecution officially charges Alfred Alizoti, Albert Veliu, Ervin Salianji and Jetmir Olldashi for false accusations, claiming they have conspired to stage an audio-recording against Agron Xhafaj.
March 22-25, 2019: Salianji publishes a series of audio interceptions carried out by the prosecution and included in the investigation file, but which the prosecution has not examined. The interceptions prove that late at night on June 7 and 8, 2018, Alfred Alizoti had phone conversations with Albert Nushi, Director of Fier Police.
The conversation seems to reveal a close relationship between the two as a result of the interest their share about something. Alizoti asks for money and director Nushi promises him that he will send the money. There are also indirect references to money previously given to Alizoti by Nushi. It is also implied that Alizoti is indirectly in touch with a prosecutor and with a major boss of the Fier Police Director.
Below is the transcript of one of these conversations, conducted after midnight (at 00:28) on June 8, 2018.
Director Nushi : Fredi…
Alfred Alizoti : That motherf*** prosecutor, he dares to tell me…
Director Nushi : Where are you, I cannot…
Alfred Alizoti : Listen to me, what I have started… I…
Director Nushi : Where are you? Are you in Fier or not?
Alfred Alizoti : F*** off! I am not going to go back from what I have already started! Should I have told him “F*** your sister”?
Director Nushi : Fredi, listen to me, Fredi…
Alfred Alizoti : I don’t understand how you leave me on the streets, f*** it, it’s Gramoz who handles these issues.
Director Nushi : I am at a crime scene right now. What do you want, tell me?
Alfred Alizoti : Will you send me someone to speak with?
Director Nushi : I’m in Fier. I am dealing with a case in Ballsh.
Alfred Alizoti : Do you remember where you dropped me the first time? Send me someone within fifteen minutes.
Director Nushi : I am at a crime scene, my phone might lose connection.
Alfred Alizoti : Did you hear me? Where you dropped me, remember?
Director Nushi : Yes, I’ll send you someone with the money.
Alfred Alizoti : Yes, you got it. You see, I will say it clear, I’m on the streets.