November 27th, 2017
This newsletter is drafted by the International Affairs Bureau of the Democratic Party of Albania in response to the growing interest from international partners and organisations on the democracy and rule of law standards in the country.

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Due to internal leak, Albanian authorities fail to arrest three police high ranking officials linked to Tahiri and the Habilaj gang.

On Wed. 22nd, 2017, the Albanian Prosecution for Serious Crimes issued three arrest warrants for the former Vlora Chief of Police, the former Vlora Chief of anti-crime and the former Dhermi Chief of Police (important sea border control point). 
The warrants are linked to the Habilaj gang criminal activity between the city of Vlora, Albania and Southern Italy. All three arrests failed nevertheless as the three police chiefs had fled the country and believed to be abroad due to an internal leak from the Albanian police. 
The three police chiefs were appointed by Saimir Tahiri, at the time Minister of Interior. They are considered to be directly linked to the Habilaj’s gang, family cousins of Tahiri, and the cannabis record seizures in the city of Vlora of 15 tons on July 17th and 10 tons on October 18th. 
Two weeks ago, in the city of Shkodra, another senior police official (brother of the National Border Police Deputy Chief) was caught trafficking 1.5 tons of cannabis after a routine road police control. 


Deputy of Former Interior Minister Tahiri, Ms. Elona Gjebrea (current Soc. MP), exposed as to have links with the Habilaj gang. 

New evidences expand the scope of the Italian wiretaps scandal. Tahiri’s Deputy Minister and current Socialist MP, Ms. Elona Gjebrea, seems to have had contacts with the Habilaj brothers’ gang. Ms. Gjebrea was Deputy Minister of Interior from 2013 to 2017 and National Coordinator against trafficking. 
Ms.Gjebrea and Mr.Tahiri have travelled together to Greece by boat, at one occasion on August 2014, where they were joined by Artan Habilaj, one the Habilaj brothers. Artan Habilaj travelled to Greece by car, the Audi A8 type that former Minister of Interior Tahiri had sold to them. In their way back to Albania and on the same day, Gjebrea and Tahiri crossed the border in the Audi car formally owned by the Habilajs, while Artan Habilaj travelled by boat alone.
Tahiri, albeit admitting that he had sold his personal car to the Habilajs on 2013, has repeatedly and publicly refused to have had any contact with his Habilaj cousins, arrested in Sicily for drug and ammunition trafficking on October 2017.
When asked by journalists on this specific episode, Gjebrea refused to comment stating abruptly that she can answer only to prosecutors and not to trash-journalists.  

In addition, according to official documents recently made public, Gjebrea’s husband has been condemned to nine months prison sentence by a court in Fier for falsifying state documentation. He has hidden this conviction in his “decriminalization” statement at the time he was serving as advisor to the Minister of Energy.


Weekly record seizures in Italy and Greece: 1.6 tons seized after fire exchange and 22h sea-hunt near Athens

On Nov. 25th, the Greek authorities have achieved to intercept after a 22 hours-long hunt, a 12m high-speed boat loaded with 1.6 tons of cannabis in the Albanian city of Hiamara. A fire exchange occurred between the traffickers and the Greek authorities who were obliged to use snipers in order to the speed-boat’s engines. 

The Greek newspaper “Ekathimerini” published an information stating that that Greek “Authorities said the suspects are connected to drug smuggling networks that prosecutors in Albania had linked last month to a former minister of the Albanian government. Moreover, a source told Kathimerini that the same network was also behind two attempts – in April and September – to smuggle large quantities of hashish from Albania to Italy.”

8 individuals were arrested following the event, 4 Albanians, 2 Italians, 1 Greek and 1 Bulgarian. The drug was loaded in the Albanian city of Himara and then trafficked to Greece and Italy. Final market value close to 15 million euros. 

Last week, on Nov.14, the Italian police in the city of Ravenna made a record seizure of 2.2 tons. Since the beginning of the year, there are close to 40 tons of cannabis seized by Italian and Greek authorities.


US representative to the OSCE: Corruption, criminality and vote rigging are obstacles to Albanian prosperity; Tahiri case should be addressed. 

The United States Chargé d’Affaires to the OSCE Permanent Council, Mr.Harry Kamian, replying to the Report of the Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, Mr.Bernd Borchard, on November 23, 2017, stated that:
Ambassador, like you, we recognize that more work remains to be done. 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. Mr. Ambassador, addressing these and other problems, coordination among international stakeholders will continue to be one of the keys to success.

To read his full intervention, please follow link.


Socialist Mayor of 2nd Albanian largest city under investigation on vote-buying deal with organized crime.

The Head of the Democratic Party of Albania, Mr. Lulzim Basha, expressed concerns on a grave justice obstruction instance during a public conference held on November 20th.

Prosecutor Anton Martini (Serious Crime Prosecution Office) has been transferred to the northern district of Shkodra in order to remove him from investigating the Socialist mayor of Durrës, Mr. Vangjush Dako, in a case of vote-buying through organized crime.

Wiretapping records reportedly show conversation of mayor Dako with notorious underworld criminal where he promises city contracts in exchange for vote-buying during the June 2017 general elections. 

Mr. Basha declared that there are several interceptions of Mr. Dako asking for criminal’s help in manipulating and buying votes in exchange for public contracts and construction permits up to millions of Euros. 
Foreign security services, including those of partner countries, have caught Vangjush Dako proposing deals by phone. Dako promised public contracts to criminals in exchange of buying votes and violating citizens. There are millions of Euros being promised to criminals only to ensure votes and power to the Socialist party” - said Basha. He alluded that the prosecutor removal was made following PM Rama's pressure. 

In the picture, from left to right : Vangjush Dako (Mayor of Durres), Edi Rama (Prime Minister) and Elvis Roshi (former mayor of Kavaja having lost his mandate due to the decriminalisation law as he was convicted for drug trafficking and rape).


EU funded survey: 20.6% of citizens in Albania have received an offer to sell their vote in exchange of cash or favors.

A recent EU funded comparative regional study by the Skopje Democracy Institute on the informal activities of political parties in the Western Balkan societies, suggests that 20.6% of citizens have received an offer to sell their vote in exchange of cash or other favors during last year in Albania.
The percentage of pressured voters, according to the study, has a direct influence in the final electoral result by altering it significantly as it can go up to 674.000 pressured voters approximately.
In addition, the study finds that 5.6% of voters in Albania have been asked by their managers/ boss to participate in party activities and 4.8% to vote for a certain party on election day. The probability of a clientelist transaction between voters seeking for a benefit and party representatives rises to an estimated value of 64%, the highest level in the Balkans area.
The report analyses the different forms of vote influencing such as:
- Handouts for vote buying (money, goods...);
- Party employment in public administration;
- Selective distribution of subsidies for farmers;
- Selective distribution of social benefits and similar favors;
- Public procurement contracts;

To read the full report follow link.


International media pay high attention to the Albanian cannabis surge and government laissez-faire.

The French “Le Point” and the Belgium “La Libre Belgique” newspapers have published two independent reportages on the cannabis surge in Albania pointing the finger directly to the strong links between drug traffickers and Rama’s ministers. It shall be reminded that Tahiri and Xhafaj (former and current Minister of Interiors) have direct family links with high-level representatives of organized crime. 
“La Libre Belgique”, in its article titled “Albania plagued by drug traffickers” published on Nov 17th refers in particular to the recent Tahiri’s scandal reminding that “Prime Minister Edi Rama's Albania has long been a "good European student" in the Balkans. However, since 2014, drug production and trafficking have exploded and Westerners are starting to raise their voices.”
Le Point in its article published on Nov. 25th states that “The country has for years been the largest exporter of cannabis to the EU, including Italy, according to successive reports from Europol. This trade would represent one-third of the value of Albania's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or more, according to Western diplomatic sources. In its latest progress report, Brussels believes that the authorities "failed in the identification of criminal groups". Small farmers are regularly prosecuted, but never "big-fishes"…”

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Democratic Party of Albania.

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Democratic Party of Albania · Selia qendrore PD · Blv. Zhan d'Ark, No.11 · Tirana 1001 · Albania

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