Former Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri has been jailed for three years and four months for abuse of office over links with a drug-trafficking group by the country's special anti-corruption court on February 4.
Tahiri, Albania's longest-serving interior minister, held the post in a previous government of Prime Minister Edi Rama from 2013 to 2017, during which time a massive clean-up operation was launched at Lazarat, Europe’s so-called “marijuana mountain” in south Albania.
Drug trafficking has been one of the biggest obstacles to Albania's ambition to win accession to the European Union.
The Special Appeals Court for Corruption and Organised Crime announced that the decision of the First Instance Court in Tirana dated September 19, 2019 will stay in force, with the change that Tahiri will be sent to prison and not given probation.
In 2019, Tahiri was found not guilty of other charges related to drug trafficking and participation in a criminal group by the First Instance Court despite sensational wiretapped recordings of conversations between Moisi Habilaj and another drug trafficker, Sabaudin Celajt, revealed by Italian media on in October 2017, that showed that both spoke with a powerful politician, assumed to be Tahiri.
The execution of the appeal court’s decision starts immediately and will be carried out in an ordinary security prison.
“I am morally calm, I have never broken the law, I loved every day of my work, I am happy that I did my duty as best I could,” Tahiri said in a Facebook post. “It’s just injustice,” he said.
The Court of Appeals decided to order a re-trial of Tahiri in June 2020 due to procedural violations by the Special Anti Corruption Prosecution Office (SPAK) while filing charges against Tahiri.
Tahiri’s name has been linked with two brothers, both suspected drug traffickers, one of whom, Habilaj, was arrested in Italy in 2017. Tahiri admitted they are his distant cousins, but denied all charges against him.