Monday, May 14, 2018
Albania Minister's Brother Has Crime Ties, Opposition Claims
After the opposition Democratic Party on Monday published an intercepted phone call, which it claimed shows the Interior Minister's brother is engaged in drug dealing, the government accused it of sabotaging the country's image at a crucial moment.
Gjergj Erebara BIRN Tirana
The opposition Democratic Party on Monday published an intercepted phone call which it claims shows the brother of Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj is engaged in drug dealing. The governing Socialist Party claims the attack on Xhafa aims to forestall the country's EU integration.
DP officials showing alleged interception on 14 Maj 2018. Photo: Democratic Party
Albania's opposition Democratic Party on Monday followed up its week-long attack on Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj by claiming that his brother, Agron Xhafaj, who has a previous conviction in Italy for drug dealing, is still in the same business.
On Monday, the party's MPs published an undated intercepted conversation, which they claimed showed the brother of the minister speaking with a criminal.
In the conversation, the criminal asked Agron Xhafaj whether he could provide something to which the latter agreed.
Taulant Balla, head of the parliamentary group of the ruling Socialist Party, claimed later that the so-called intercept might be false and added that the attack on Xhafaj was intended to damage Albania at a crucial period, when EU leaders are expected to decide whether to open membership negotiations with Albania and Macedonia. Balla also urged prosecutors to investigate the matter.
Minister Xhafaj took up his post last year after leading the Justice Reform process, a widely praised reform process that aims to clean up the country's notoriously corrupt justice system. However, the Democratic Party claims Edi Rama's government is in fact merely taking control of the justice system through the guise of reforms.
Last week, the Democratic Party published an Italian court verdict showing that Agron Xhafa had been sentenced to seven years on jail for drug dealing.
Fatmir Xhafaj acknowledged the existence of the verdict but said he could not be held responsible for his brother's actions.
"I am unable to understand what problem can arise for me from what my brother did 15 years ago," Xhafaj said, claiming that his brother had only been 25 at the time, and was "in the wrong place accompanied by the wrong people".
"What is important is that this government doesn't shield anyone from the law," Xhafaj added.