A special prosecution in Albania has called for a 12-year prison sentence for former interior minister Saimir Tahiri, who is on trial for drug trafficking. Tahiri was granted an abbreviated trial at his last hearing in July, meaning if convicted he would be sentenced to 8 years in prison.
The former minister and close associate of Prime Minister Edi Rama has been on trial since June on charges of “participation in a structured criminal group,” “trafficking of narcotics,” and “passive corruption by high state officials”.
Tahiri initially won plaudits for his crackdown on Albania’s widespread cannabis cultivation after his appointed as interior minister in 2013.
However, it wasn’t long before he faced accusations of drug smuggling himself, when his name arose in connection with an investigation into the activities of a drug trafficking gang led by a distant cousin of his.
According to Italian police investigating the gang, its leader, Moisi Habilaj, was recorded on a wiretap as saying that someone named Tahiri will receive 30,000 euro as well as bracelets for his wife and mother worth several thousand euro, and then a further sum of five million euro the next month.
In the recordings, Habilaj said that Tahiri made a lot of money from drug payments and operating as the crime gang’s inside man, reported OCCRP.
In June Moisi Habilaj was sentenced to 15 years in prison, while other members of the gang to 8 years.
After initially giving him their support and denouncing the allegations as politically motivated, the governing Socialist Party, under international pressure, lifted Tahiri’s political immunity, allowing him to be arrested in May in connection with the case.
An “abbreviated trial” is a concept in Albanian law where the defendant can opt for an accelerated procedure that does not require the detailed examination of facts and allows for a reduction in the prison sentence by up to 1/3.