Since his coming into power on 2013, PM Rama government has been involved in numerous high-level scandals, relating in particular to drug trafficking and vote buying, some of which are reminded below. In all of these occasions, Rama, either has defended his political nominations or has considered these scandals as fake. No serious investigations, nor judicial sentenced, have been issued until now. All these scandals confirm opposition former stake that the entry into Parliament of criminals during the 2013-2017 legislature, was the reason behind the surge of cannabis production and heavy drugs trafficking in Albania, which in turn fuelled the massive vote-buying phenomenon though criminal gains.
- The Tahiri scandal: Considered among the most successful Minister of Rama’s government, Saimir Tahiri, former minister of Interior has been accused for his association to the Habilaj’s gang, with whom he had direct family links. The Habilajs were accused for having trafficked large quantities of drugs and ammunitions to Italy. Based on Italian interceptions, the Habilajs declared that Tahiri spent millions of euros in electoral campaigns and vote-buying.
- The Xhafaj scandal: MP and Chair of the Justice Reform Parliamentary Committee, FatmirXhafaj succeeded to Tahiri as a Former Minister of Interior. He was accused first for having falsified public documents in order to hide his brother’s 7 years jail sentence for organised crime and heavy drug trafficking in Italy. Later, based to a leaked audio recording, it was proved that his brother was still heavily involved in drug trafficking in the region of Vlora while benefiting the protection of his brother Minister of Interior.
- The Alizoti scandal: PM Rama has openly defended both Tahiri and Xhafaj, while declaring that Xhafaj’s brother audio recordings were fake. A self-declared witness, FrediAlizoti, backed Rama’s statement declaring that he was behind the audio recordings and that he was paid by the opposition to do so. Nevertheless, official phone interceptions show that Alizotiwas actually bribed by high-level senior Socialist, Police and Prosecution representatives in order to attack the opposition and downsize the political impact of Xhafaj’s audio recordings, which in end turned to be true.
- The Bushiscandal : PM Rama has considered Elvis Bushi, former Mayor of Kavaja, as one of his best local mayoral candidates. After the entry into power of the decriminalisation law, it appeared that Bushi had five different names, and that he was sentenced for drug trafficking in Switzerland and gang rape in Italy. Rama kept considering these as fake news manipulated by the opposition. Bushi is currently free and active in the Socialist branch of Kavaja.
- File 339 & File 186: the two relate to official investigations on organised crime and vote-buying in the regions of Durrës and Dibra. The file contain hundreds of interceptions, some of which have been published by the German BILD newspaper. Vangjush Dako, Mayor of Durres and one of Rama’s closest allies, appear to have directly cooperated with a gang involved in drug trafficking to Europe, in exchange of their support in vote-buying. Rama has stated that interceptions can’t be considered as proofs, and that Dako could still win the elections even if he nominated him 500 times.
- The “$1 billion” PPP scandal: In 2017, PM Rama presented the $1 billion project corresponding to a series of PPP projects relating to infrastructure, health, transport, education etc. The majority of these projects appear to have serious administrative problems and over-estimated budgets, with some being cancelled. The health check-up PPP project (120 mln euros) was awarded to a company specialised in trading of food, beverages and tobacco and with no experience at all in the health sector. Other initiatives such the waste incineration PPP project (180 mln euros) or the National Theatre PPP project (140 mln euros) have been facing important resistance from civil society and local stakeholders for their divisive dimension and high financial impact.
- The Rinas scandal: On February 2017 and on April 2019, in both cases few months prior to the incoming elections, an unidentified armed gang has achieved to steal several millions euros in cash, within the premises of the sole International airport of the country, while being air-transported abroad by local banks. In both occasions, the Police was not able to stop and identify the authors. Current Minister of Interior Sander Lleshi suggested in a surprising statement, that the 2019 spoil might have been burnt. Since 2017, Lleshi was head of the National Council of Aviation, which is in charge also of the security of the International airport.
- The “Tirana Ring” scandal : On December 2018, media revealed that two public works contracts worth €12 million and €18 million were contracted to a shell company which was a complete fabrication, based on forged documents from the US State of Delaware, including the seal of the Delaware Secretary of State. Although a part of the tender was cancelled, there has been no indictments for the responsible officials, who have merely changed positions in the administration. PM Rama has reluctantly refused to comment on this scandal offering his full protection to the people behind this scandal.
- The “justice reform” paralysis: in a highly criminalised context, the socialist majority nominated unconstitutionally and unilaterally a Temporary General Prosecutor, who has failed until now to effectively investigate Rama’s government scandals. The Government has also delayed the nomination processes of the Constitutional Court and to the High Court, leaving the country in an effective lawless situation. In addition, several vetting procedures and nominations to the new justice reform institutions, have reflected double standards and serious ethical problems.