The return of the 'Babale case'

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 9, 2018 12:11

The return of the 'Babale case'

Story Highlights

  • According to the prosecution, the entire audio-surveillance might have been staged and involved were Albert Veliu, who said he’d spoken with the minister’s brother, and Fredi Alizoti, who is suspected of having impersonated Xhafaj’s brother, Agron.

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Court approves arrest warrants for two people involved in Xhafaj audio-surveillance case

The court in Albania accepted on Sunday the request by the Serious Crimes Prosecution to issue arrest warrants for two individuals involved in the audio-surveillance record made public a few months ago, according to which the brother of Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj was recently involved in drug trafficking.

According to the prosecution, the entire audio-surveillance might have been staged and involved were Albert Veliu, who said he'd spoken with the minister's brother and is known as 'Witness X' and Fredi Alizoti, who is suspected of having impersonated Xhafaj's brother, Agron.

Jetmir Olldashi, the journalist who publicly admitted of having conducted the surveillance in context of his investigation of ties between drugs and politics in Vlora and having reached Veliu as a middle-man, has also been issued 'obligation to appear in front of the court.'

Veliu is currently located in Kosovo, where he was arrested for illegally trespassing the border and where he has sought political asylum. All three are being accused of 'false denunciation in cooperation."

Head of the opposition's Democratic Party Lulzim Basha reacted to the arrest through a tweet, saying "nothing more was expected by the prosecution Rama-Xhafaj-Marku-Prela."

According to Basha, the only reason Agron left to Italy to undergo his sentence there is so that he wouldn't have to face the ongoing investigation of the case here.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said he hopes these two arrests are just the beginning of this "orchestrated masquerade."



The prosecution's evidence

So far, local media has reported from the file the prosecution submitted to the court, that Alizoti has admitted he impersonated Agron, in return, according to him, of an amount of 200 thousand euros, that Veliu had told him they would receive from Democratic Party MP Ervin Salianji.

It has been also reported that the latter stated during the first hearing, on June 1, and finally on September 27, in the presence of his lawyer, that Veliu had asked him to stage a conversation where he pretended to be Agron, the minister's brother.

The conversation, according to him, took place in a cafe opposite the one Agron was staying, and lasted three minutes. He added they had practiced a couple of days before the staging and that Veliu had instructed him what to say.

Alizoti confessed that before the conversation was made public, he had gone to the Democratic Party headquarters several times, where Veliu had met Salianji.

The prosecution included among its evidence transcripts of phone calls made by Alizoti, whose name has been under surveillance since May under the court's orders.

Alizoti appears to have admitted at least three times in these phone calls that he impersonated Agron, while he has also shown disappointment for not receiving the promised amount - for which Veliu, from Kosovo, has told him to be patient.

As for Veliu's claims he met Agron in a cafe to ask him for help in sending a marijuana amount to Italy to make some extra money, the prosecution says Veliu and Agron have only had two phone calls of 20 and 29 seconds each respectively, but have never met.


Video-recording of Alizoti initiates new round of accusations

In a video-recording published on Tuesday night by DP MP Ervin Salianji in local media TV show, Alizoti is seen telling another, unidentified, person that he was accompanied by the Head of the State Police Ardi Veliu himself at the Serious Crimes Prosecution.

According to Alizoti, this happened on the first, without mentioning a month, after he'd told the head of the Fier Police Department that he'd impersonated Agron. Alizoti said, in the video-recording, that Officer Veliu had tried to provoke him during the ride at the prosecution and that he'd asked him about his political affiliations.

Through a statement, the state police denied Ardi Veliu was ever in any kind of contact with Alizoti.

"The accompaniment of Alizoti was done in accordance with the order of the prosecutor of the case. This procedural action was made by the Local Police Directorate of Fier," states the police statement.

In the video released, Alizoti also mentioned meeting a person named Taulant, who he claimed to have asked him to support the majority and offered him money. Though he does not mention his last name, it was interpreted by the media as the SP MP Taulant Balla.

Referring to Alizot's conversation, Basha said that Rama has created a privately-owned state to fabricate and manipulate truths.

"When the state attacks its opponents, its journalists, its denunciations, its honorable policemen, its political opponents, to protect criminals and politicians related to crime, we are in the context of a mafia dictatorship," Basha said.

Rama, on Wednesday, said he's raised a work-group to verify the entire issue and the ties between organized crime and state corruption.

"Albanians will get to know from start to finish, not just with institutions, but with names and surnames, who is involved in this coup d'etat conspiracy," Rama said.


The Xhafaj case

Initially, it was the DP that made the conversation that had developed between Veliu (called Conspirator X) and Agron public.

The transcript of the conversation insinuated an agreement to transport a quantity of marijuana to Italy between Agron and Veliu.

Then Veliu himself appeared in an interview where he admitted having met Agron, talked to him, and that he was the one who helped him to transport the drugs.

Although Veliu's statements were contradictory to begin with, more contradictory layers were added to the story when journalist Olldashi came forward and publicly accepted he was the one responsible for Veliu's surveillance and his conversation with Agron, as he was conducting an investigation on the ties between drugs and politics in Vlora, where Agron was living.

The story was accompanied by strong controversy, opposition demands for minister Xhafaj to resign and accusations that he has been defending of a brother who had been arrested in Italy in 2002, and then convicted of participating in a criminal organization which was dealing with drug trafficking.

Agron declared that he had no ties with Veliu and that he'd been leading a calm life for a long time and left to Italy to undergo his punishment.


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 9, 2018 12:11