An Albanian parliamentary committee of inquiry into a former foreign minister’s alleged involvement in an international drug smuggling operation began in the Albanian capital Tirana on Tuesday.
The committee, which was called for by the opposition, has been set up to investigate the so-called Habilaj–Tahiri affair which revolves around the arrest of Moisi and Florian Habilaj, distant cousins of former foreign minister Saimir Tahiri, suspected of smuggling over 3500 kilos of cocaine from Albania to Italy.
According to Italian police Moisi Habilaj is recorded as saying that someone named Tahiri will receive 30,000 euro as well as bracelets for his wife and mother worth several thousand, and then a further sum of five million euro the following month.
A police investigation into the case is ongoing.
The head of the parliamentary committee, Democrat representative Edi Paloka, said that the committee would look into the actions of the state’s investigative institutions in the case of former minister Tahiri as well as broader state involvement in criminal activity.
Albania is one of Europe’s leading cultivators and smugglers of cannabis. At the peak of its production, the cannabis industry in Albania was worth several billion euros – about half the country’s gross domestic product. Although the area of the Albania countryside under cannabis cultivation has been reduced since a 2014 crackdown on the narcotic, it still remains a major producer as well as a key transit point for drugs into Europe.
Last month the Albanian parliament backed a new law to screen the country’s 13,000 police officers for competency and connections to organised crime. Albanian Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj said he hopes to “clean police ranks of incompetent [officers] or persons suspected to have been involved in crime or corruption.
In January more than 10,000 people attended protests against corruption in Albania, which is regularly named as one of Europe’s most corrupt countries. The parliamentary inquiry into the Habilaj-Tahiri affair is expected to last until September.