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News 23 Nov 17

Albanian Police Wanted Over Drug-Trafficking Probe Vanish

Three Albanian police officers wanted in connection with an investigation into drug trafficking – that includes former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri – appear to have vanished.

Gjergj Erebara
BIRN
Tirana
Mosi Habilaj(left) and Samir Tahiri.

Albanain police have been unable to locate three police officers suspected of helping traffickers to export several tons of cannabis across the Adriatic, media have reported.

Former director of Vlora police Jaeld Cela and two other officers, Gjergj Kohila and Sokol Bode, are suspected of being part of the criminal organization. Another suspect is Albania's former Minister of Interior, Saimir Tahiri.

Prosecutors sought Tahiri's arrest in October 2017 after Italian authorities cracked the crime gang by arresting its leader, Moisi Habilaj, along others.

However, Albanian MPs blocked the move, when Socialist Party MPs claimed that prosecutors had a political agenda behind their request.

Tahiri's position was further complicated on 1 November when Orest Sota, 25, was arrested for driving without driving a license and found with 835,000 euros in cash and boat licenses listed under the name of Saimir Tahiri.

Sota claimed that the money belonged to his family and that a friend who had worked before as driver for Tahiri had forgotten about the shipping licenses in his car.

While Tahiri has denied drug trafficking charges, he has not spoken about his relationship to the cash found on Sota.

Meanwhile, Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama has claimed that media reports of continued drug-related activity in Albania form part of a national smear campaign.

In an open letter to EU leaders, Rama asserted that the "cannabis industry is dying" in Albania and that media are wrong in calling Albania "the cannabis capital of Europe".

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