A former police officer in southern Albania was found guilty of drug trafficking on Friday, linked to a 2017 case that also implicated the country’s former interior minister Saimir Tahiri.
Tirana’s Special Court Against Organized Crime and Corruption found the former chief of police in the village of Dhermi, Sokol Bode, guilty of drug trafficking in absentia. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Bode has evaded authorities since Italian police cracked a cannabis smuggling group known as the Habilaj Brothers.
The group trafficked mass amounts of cannabis to Italy between 2013 and 2017, until Italian police conducted an operation in which a dozen people were arrested- including one of the Habilaj brothers, Moisi.
The first accusations that the Habilaj brothers were guilty of drug trafficking were made by a former employee of the anti-drugs services of the police in Fier, Dritan Zagani. Zagani is also a former employee of the border police in Vlora.
Zagani had been informed about, and began to investigate, the drug trafficking activities of the Habilaj brothers. During his investigation, he passed on information to the officers of the Guardia di Finanza mission in Albania, and data collected was passed on to his superiors.
Instead of the Fier and Vlora police forwarding information from Zagani’s investigation to the prosecution, Zagani was instead accused by the police of leaking his investigation via the exchange of information with Guardia di Finanza.
As a result, Zagani was himself arrested by the prosecution, and put under house arrest by the court until an investigation into his actions was complete. Zagani eventually escaped house arrest, and fled Albania to seek political asylum in Switzerland.
The arrest of the Habilaj brothers as part of a criminal drug trafficking group by Italian authorities eventually shed light on the entire affair, vindicating Zagani and his original investigation.
In Albania, the Habilaj brothers were known to be friends of the then-Interior Minister Tahiri, leading to Tahiri’s arrest and conviction of abuse of power. Tahiri was convicted of abuse of power, and is now serving a prison sentence of three years. He was found not guilty of drug trafficking.
A spokesperson for Tirana’s Special Court Against Organized Crime and Corruption said Judge Flojera Davidhi had sentenced the former police officer Bode to 12 years in prison, granting a reduction based on measures in which defendants acknowledge the proof set out by prosecutors without pleading guilty.
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