Albania’s ex-interior minister faces 12-year prison sentence if found guilty of drug links

By bne IntelliNews September 11, 2019

Albanian ex-interior minister Saimir Tahiri is facing a 12-year prison sentence if he is found guilty of links with a drug trafficking network, local media reported on September 10.

Tahiri, Albania's longest-serving interior minister, held the post in the Socialist-led government from 2013 to 2017. His name has been linked with two brothers, both suspected drug traffickers, one of whom, Moisi Habilaj, was arrested in Italy in 2017. Tahiri admitted they are his distant cousins, but said the accusations against him are baseless.

Prosecutors sought a 12-year prison term for Tahiri during the marathon seven-hour court hearing on September 10. Tahiri has been accused of being tied to a crime network suspected of trafficking large amounts of cannabis. The next court session will be held on September 19.

The investigation against Tahiri was launched two years ago. Tahiri resigned as an MP in 2018 to allow the independent investigation to go ahead, but denied any connections to the alleged trafficking network.

After the court session Tahiri said he did his best to reduce criminality while he was interior minister.

Sources familiar with the case said that Tahiri had an excellent defence.

Drug trafficking and organised crime are among the biggest challenges for the Socialist-led government, which was elected for a second mandate following the June 2017 general election.

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