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Another Scandal Rocks Albania’s Edi Rama, Prompting Calls For Resignation

Edi RAMA, Prime Minister of Albania
Edi RAMA, Prime Minister of Albania. July 2018. (Photo: Nikolay Doychinov)

Shocking taped conversations reveal the extent of corruption and the involvement of organized crime in the Albanian government.

The German newspaper Bild, one of the most important and most read newspapers in Europe, published six wiretapped phone conversations between Astrit Avdylaj, a member of an international criminal organization, and Albanian government officials in the region of Durres, Albania.

During the conversations, Avdylaj comes off not only very close to the mayor of Durres and other high officials, but he seems connected to the Albanian prime minister Edi Rama himself – who is mentioned in one of the conversations. The Albanian public is in shock after the revelations. A criminal, the boss of an international drug trafficking criminal organization, is setting the agenda for the mayor, ordering state officials around, sitting with the prime minister, and controlling voters and impacting elections. It is too much for the public to bear.

The conversations clearly show the manipulation of the 2017 parliamentary elections through vote-buying, intimidation and funding of the Socialist Party campaign. They also show how organized crime has direct access and control over the heads of several local government institutions in Albania, who then repay organized crime with favors and essentially place themselves at the total disposal of the gangs. Furthermore, in one of the conversations published by BILD, it showed how Avdylaj even appointed MPs to the list of candidates for the parliamentary elections.

Albania is under the control of organized crime. The scandals that the country has had to endure throughout the six years of Edi Rama’s government have been far too many.

During his government, throughout the entire country and in every corner of Albania, the cultivation of the illegal cannabis trade exploded, producing an income of 5 billion euros from 2013-2016. Money which was then used to buy votes and provide a criminal network for securing landslide victories in any elections.

During Rama’s government, his Minister of Interior, Saimir Tahiri, was under investigation for involvement in international organized crime. Multiple heads of police were involved in drug trafficking. Some of them are still on the run and their story shocked a country that claims the rule of law is forgotten on purpose and considered water under the bridge.

Under Rama’s government, the International Airport was broken into and robbed twice and millions of euros were stolen – robberies that caused serious risks to national security and endangered a NATO strategic area. Under his government, a cannabis smuggling plane crashed in Divjaka and another in Ishem, only eight miles from Tirana, the capital of Albania. Drug smugglers had even built an airplane runway right under the nose of the authorities who obviously were involved.

Edi Rama’s ministers and high officials have frequently been accused of corruption, favoritism and giving tenders to only a handful of favored people and businesses. Under the new practice of Private and Public Partnership, millions of euros have been given to companies with offshore accounts or companies have been newly created just so to profit from the tenders. With the government’s blessing and favoritism, millions of Euros of taxpayer money made certain suspicious individuals very wealthy.

Under Edi Rama’s government the judicial branch is under a total collapse. This seems to be a well-planned scheme in order to consolidate power and secure everlasting control on the country, the economy and elections, as well as to intimidate the political opponents.

Under the excuse of judicial reform, Edi Rama appointed all his aides and people connected to his party as heads of the judiciary controlling and monitoring mechanism. The Temporary Prosecutor General, a position which is not founded in the constitution of Albania, was appointed only by the votes of the Socialist Party.

The reaction from the prosecutor’s office on the recent publication of the taped conversations by Bild illustrated even further the extent of the control that the government and organized crime has over the judiciary. Immediately after the publication of the conversations, the prosecutors Vladimir Mara and Dritan Prenci issued an order prohibiting the media to publish the tapes. Not only was this act illegal and a violation of freedom of speech and human rights, but it re-illustrated the links that the prosecution has with organized crime. In the past, these same two prosecutors allowed the extradition to Italy of Nezar Seiti on January 25, 2018, in violation of article 491 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Seiti was the finance man of the Habilaj gang which was connected to the former Minister of Interior, Saimir Tahiri.

Regarding Albania’s potential for European Union integration, Edi Rama’s government has undertaken many steps to move the country backward. The parliament of Netherlands recently voted to reinstate a visa requirement for Albanian nationals wishing to visit the country. The move was done out of concern for the growing Albanian drug trade and growing crime in the country.

The Dutch government also sent a formal request to the European Council to consider passing a visa requirement for Albanians to travel throughout the E.U. The same country which pioneered the removal of visas ten years ago is reinstating them back. Other countries might follow, and very soon Albanians might be deprived of traveling in the E.U. zone. Rama’s government doesn’t seem concerned about such a tragic prospect for its people.

Edi Rama’s government has had control even of civil society organizations, whose heads and representatives have been given prestigious board memberships in public institutions and received similar favors. In many sectors such as education, health and infrastructure, Rama’s government seems to have been following a corruption agenda.

Thousands of students rallied in the streets of Tirana. Massive protests are held on a weekly basis by the opposition parties calling for Edi Rama’s resignation. The Albanians seem to have had enough and public opinion is shocked by the frequency and series of scandals that have become the brand of the Rama government. What other scandal is needed for Rama to resign, people ask.

The following days are crucial for the future of the country, as it is on the brink of civil conflict. There are too many serious reasons why Rama should resign from office – not only the scandals of the past six years but many other scandals that are expected to become public very soon.

Throughout the six years Edi Rama’s government has led the country, Rama has done nothing but produce a government of scandals. The sooner Rama accepts his current unpleasant reality and realizes the dire situation he is in and allows a transitory government that will ensure free and fair elections, the better for Albania and the future of its people.

Dr. Francesca Norton

Dr. Francesca Norton is a peer news writer for Citizen Truth. She is a political analyst, human rights activist and author of many articles and analyses in the international media.

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