No matter how it will end, Wednesday will be one of the most difficult days in Albania’s recent history. The Parliament will have to decide, through a double vote, whether to withdraw parliamentary immunity from former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri and to consider whether to allow the resulting arrest warrant. A double vote that arrives after a week in which the Socialist Party politician, the right hand of Prime Minister Edi Rama, ended up accused of presumed relations with his cousins Moisi and Dorian Habilaj, believed by the magistrates of Catania to be among the main drug traffickers in the Balkans. And it is precisely from Catania that the Albanian political earthquake started. Last Monday, the Guardia di Finanza arrested eleven people in the framework of the Rosa dei venti operation. The next day, MeridioNews revealed exclusive wiretaps and details of the investigation, including some conversations in which Moisi Habilaj discusses money to be returned to a certain “Saimir” that investigators feel to be his cousin in politics.
Now speaking in our newspaper in an exclusive interview is Dritan Zagani, an Albanian anti-drugs police officer who has been forced to take refuge in Switzerland, in a secret location, for some time now, because he is accused of abuse of office in Albania and previously suspected of leaking investigative information to Italy. He was between 2014 and 2015 the first to accuse the former minister of being involved in drug trafficking, also revealing the use of Tahiri’s private car to carry drugs, by his cousins. The same means now quoted by the Guardia di Finanza.
Now in Albania everyone is back to talking about the alleged involvement of the former minister in drug trafficking. How are you?
Italian investigators have made me the most beautiful gift in the world but I still feel bad, I’m not happy about what’s happening in my country. I’ve been away for some years now, and four are under accusation, but there has never been a public hearing. I live with my wife and our three daughters. I’m trying to make a second life in Switzerland, and when I made the decision to leave Albania, I did it mainly for my family.
He has been the head of the anti-drug police headquarters in the district of Fier, near Tirana, a prisoner of his own country. How was it possible?
In 2014 I was investigating a band of traffickers linked to the Habilaj cousins. A very powerful group that trafficked cocaine and weapons. I had also prepared a report but then I was put in jail. During the investigation I also saw the famous Audi that I then found out to belong to then Minister Saimir Tahiri. I noticed it was used to make suspicious trips, but my complaints were not heard.
You ended up in jail. How long have you been detained? What does the work you did have to do with the Italian police?
They kept me in jail for six months and eight days without a lawyer coming to listen to me. No one has interrogated me, they just forgot about me. At that time I also collaborated with Italian investigators, also through informal channels as happens all over the world. And this is what led to the accusation of being the one who sold information.
During these talks he talked with the financier Alessandro Giuliani who for a period was wiretapped. So you ended up in trouble as well, as told in the past by Le Iene [a TV program], for your talk about drugs. The head of Interpol in Tirana, Anna Poggi, could have saved you, but things went differently.
There was only talk about my case, without any evidence. I can say with certainty that I will fight until the end and I will bring these people in front of the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights.
Albania remains the preferred channel for marijuana supplies to Sicily. Over the years have the modes used by traffickers changed?
Until 2014 I had a lot of information about truck trips, but also by sea with fishing boats. I also had news about trips to Calabria. During that time I was transferred and the secret services informed me that the drugs were also taken with small airplanes. They posed a huge risk, carrying 200-300 kilograms of marijuana during each trip. This could only happen with high-level cover-ups.
How much corruption is there in your country? In the Rosa dei venti report Habilaj several times refers to the role of police in drug trafficking.
I have always denounced corruption. But the real problem is when it belongs to law enforcement agencies who also have an interest in drug trafficking. Politicians also used money from crime, even for funding for elections. The whole world knows that they have closed their eyes giving way to the cultivation and sale of marijuana.
Will this ever change?
For Albania to change will take very long. It will take Europe’s hard work or risks becoming a den of crime. Otherwise there is only the revolution as a solution. The mafia is too strong and its basis is in drugs.
Will the parliament, in your view, take such a clear position against Tahiri?
It will vote against, because Tahiri is just a ring in a longer chain that cannot break. Because with him the Albanian government would fall.
First published by MeridioNews, translated by Exit.