Former Albanian minister imprisoned for complicity in drug trafficking
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — An Albanian court on Friday sentenced a former interior minister to more than three years in prison for abuse of power over his ties to a criminal drug trafficking network.
Saimir Tahiri was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.
Judge Engert Pellumbi of the Special Court of Appeal for Corruption and Organized Crime said that Tahiri had benefited from “unfair services and gains and at the same time, with his abuse of office, he abused legal interests”.
Tahiri declared after sentencing that he was innocent.
“I am morally calm. I did not break the law. I loved every day of my job,” he said on Facebook. “I am happy to have engaged my work in the best possible way. It is simply an injustice. »
Prosecutors had linked Tahiri’s case to two brothers who were related to Tahiri. They have been arrested or imprisoned for drug trafficking in Italy and Albania.
Pellumbi said prosecutors had proven their case with documented evidence. Tahiri was ordered to begin serving her prison sentence.
Tahiri was unresponsive to reporters in the courtroom, only rushing to make a phone call.
Tahiri’s lawyer, Maksim Haxhiaj, said they would appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court, calling it “legal nonsense”.
“The verdict was just to smear Tahiri,” he said.
In September 2019, Tahiri was sentenced to three years probation for abuse of power and was acquitted of charges of involvement in drug trafficking.
Last year, the Supreme Court ordered a new trial due to improper procedures taken by judges and prosecutors.
Tahiri, who served as interior minister from 2013 to 2017, resigned as a ruling Socialist Party lawmaker in May 2018 and was briefly placed under house arrest.
Albania was once known as a European hub for marijuana trafficking, but now there are more cases involving the trafficking of heroin and cocaine to other European countries.
The fight against corruption has been a major problem in post-communist Albania, strongly affecting the country’s democratic, economic and social development.
“We urge justice institutions to continue to demonstrate that no one, regardless of party, position or wealth, is above the law. No more impunity,” tweeted US Ambassador Yuri Kim.
The embassy had followed the trial closely.
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