Who are the Habilaj brothers and Dritan Zagani? How do they relate to the former socialist Minister of Interior? What is Rama’s official position and why family links are so important in the Habilaj – Tahiri scandal? How the Xibraka and the Balili affairs are linked to Tahiri and Rama?
Elements to keep in mind in order to fully understand the Habilaj wiretaps scandal :
The Habilaj brothers: they are eminent underworld representatives originally from the port-city of Vlora known for their numerous local businesses, real estate investments and luxurious lifestyle. They become publicized by media on 2015 when an anti-mafia police Chief, Zagani, stated that the Habilajs were the leaders of the cannabis cultivation in Vlora because they were under the direct protection of the then Minister of interior Tahiri. The key linking element was Zagani’s accusation that the Habalijs were using Tahiri’s personal car (an Audi A8 type) to travel within the country and abroad as a public sign of their impunity. The arrest of the Habilajs in Sicily on October 16th, and the Italian Catania’s tribunal interceptions (cash and gifts to Tahiri, influence over the police etc.) appear to confirm all of Zagani’s accusations.
Dritan Zagani: a whistleblower, he was a local Anti-mafia Chief of the Albanian police who accused publicly his superior Tahiri for his ties with a local gang headed by the Habilaj brothers in the port-city of Vlora. Zagani stated that local senior police officials were directly collaborating with the Habilajs and that all police actions to collect evidences on them failed due to internal leaks. Zagani was later sacked by both Tahiri and Rama and even put in prison for misconduct. He was finally found innocent due to the lacks of proofs and was granted asylum in Switzerland on early 2017. Zagani has never stopped his public media appearances and keeps accusing Tahiri even today.
Saimir Tahiri: a cousin of the Habilaj brothers, he was a Minister of Interior from mid-2013 until mid-2017. A socialist MP, he has been long considered as one the best ministers of the Rama government and a potential successor for the Head of the Socialist Party. Tahiri has publicly acknowledged that he has sold his personal car to the Habilaj brothers on October 2013. He was also forced to acknowledge that the car remained officially registered as his own even after the selling occurred and that he had travelled abroad on several occasions with his cousins with the same car.
Edi Rama: he has long considered Tahiri as one the best Minister of his Government and praised the fact that Tahiri, in his words and supported by charts, was capable of destroying more than 99,2% of the cannabis plantations in the country (follow public declarations ). Rama has defended Tahiri on every accusation made by the Albanian opposition as of the surge of the cannabis production in the recent years. He has also publicly disregarded all of Zagani’s accusations.
Klement Balili: he is considered as the Escobar of the Balkans and one of the biggest drug traffickers of the region according to reports from the DEA and the Greek police authorities. Former regional Director of the road infrastructure in the south of the country, he is under an international warrant since May 2016. He lives freely in Albania and participates openly to family gatherings and social events. A former Minister of Justice, Mr. Ylli Manjani (member of the SMI party), has made strong accusations against Saimir Tahiri (at the time Minister of Interior) for his unwillingness to arrest Balili albeit the international warrant on him. Manjani was sacked by Rama immediately after this declaration on January 2017. Manjani’s brutal sacking and public accusations happened at the same time as the instalment of the opposition tent. It shall be noted that Balili nephew is Mayor of the city of Delvina.
Fatmir Xhafaj: the current socialist Minister of Interior has been on duty since March 2017. A former investigator during the communist regime, he has publicly recognized the fact that his brother, Agron Xhafaj has been condemned in Italy for drug trafficking on 2001. The opposition has accused Xhafaj’s brother to actively being involved still today in the cannabis trafficking in the same region as the Habilajs. Xhafaj has openly accused the Albanian prosecution that is being used politically in the handling of the Habilajs case while supporting a vote against the immunity lifting of Tahiri. Prior of being a Minister of Interior, Xhafaj was socialist representative and head of the Justice reform parliamentary commission.
The Xibraka case: based on an official request of the German prosecution that kept aside the Albanian police and Ministry of Interior during all the proceedings and exchanges, the Albanian prosecution raid on January 2015 the biggest cocaine refinery of the Balkans located in Xibraka (Elbasan). The refinery was serving a network running from Columbia to Germany and worth hundreds of millions of euros. Among the arrested and later convicted individuals was Ilir Hoxha, nephew of the former dictator Enver Hoxha and one of the heads of the network in charge of funding its operations. Evidences made public as recently as October 2017, show that Olsi Rama, the brother of the socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, has travelled abroad by car on several occasions with Ilir Hoxha and two other convicted individuals running the Xibraka refinery few months before the raid of January 2015. Olsi Rama is currently free of any charge and not under any police investigation.