US Representative at OSCE: Tahiri Implicated in Drug Trafficking

In a response to the report of OSCE Ambassador in Albania Bernd Borchardt, US Chargé d’Affaires a.i. to the Permanent Council of the OSCE in Vienna Harry Kamian confirmed the position of the US government as regards the suspicion of former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri’s involvement in organized crime:

Corruption and criminality indeed remain obstacles to prosperity in Albania. Tirana’s Prosecuting Attorney is currently investigating more than 3,000 cases of patronage hiring and firing during the 2017 election campaign period, a concern that has been raised by ODIHR as well. In one such case, a former interior minister – who is now a Member of Parliament – has been implicated in Italy for supporting drug traffickers.

Besides his comments on Tahiri, Kamian also mentioned the serious issues observed by the OSCE surrounding the 2017 elections, as well as the failure of the Rama government to implement electoral reforms according to the recommendations of the OSCE.

In its initial report, ODIHR found that contestants campaigned freely and fundamental freedoms were respected. These findings do indeed mark important progress. However, ODIHR also reported that Albania failed to address many of the recommendations made by ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission from 2013 and 2015, including the need to depoliticize key aspects of the election administration. In addition, ODIHR reported that public trust in the electoral process remains low.

The US embassy in Tirana, as well as US Ambassador Lu, have so far remained silent on the Habilaj–Tahiri affair, which has already spread to the top layers of the police and other officials in Rama’s government.