A state sinks into the mafia swamp

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 21, 2019 13:18

A state sinks into the mafia swamp

By Pieter Tiede


A police chief who invents a plan for electoral manipulation with a minister. A minister who calls a nationwide known mafia boss to talk about buying votes. A mafia boss who collects identity cards - BILD are new secret phone recordings of Albanian anti-mafia investigators.

The tapes show an example of the collaboration for election manipulation in 2017 between the highest politicians of the ruling socialists, mafia bosses, police and senior civil servants in Albania.


And they show why the election business pays off for everyone involved:

  • The socialists remained in power.
  • Police leaders were promoted.
  • Mafia bosses got promises of impunity.


It's about:

  • Vote purchase,
  • Cooperation with criminal gangs,
  • Threat and blackmail of voters and civil servants who want to vote for the opposition
  • The use of police and gangs for vote-buying and blackmail.


Involved in this case:

  • Energy Minister Damian Gjiknuri
  • The then police chief of the Diber region, Robert Aga
  • The head of Parliament's security committee, Xhemal Qefalia
  • And the nationwide notorious Imer Lala - a friend of the Prime Minister. According to investigators in Tirana a convicted serious criminal, whose daughter makes career with the socialists.


Police Chief Robert Aga: Yes, mate!

Bekim Krashi: Ah, What you have achieved, what you have achieved, you killed it completely, hahahahaha! You are killing it, you are not letting anything go!

Police Chief Robert Aga: I want to have 1,000 plus [votes]. I do not accept anything under 1,000.


Police Chief Robert Aga: My strategy works!

Bekim Krashi: I know, I know. You have declared it! You are a political commissar, hahahaha!

Police Chief Robert Aga: Yes, yes. Look, is [Ministe] Damian Gjiknuri there with you?

Bekim Krashi: Why, you want me to pass the phone over?

Police Chief Robert Aga: Yes, pass it on.

Police Chief Robert Aga: Hi, boss!

Minister Daminan Gjiknuri: What’s up?


Police Chief Robert Aga: Because you did not have faith in me.

Minister Daminan Gjiknuri: Earthquake! Earthquake! You are the master! You said it… Hahahaha! You are a giant! Cmon, ciao. Don’t speak too much here, right.


For more than 25 years elections in Albania have been "bought" again and again. But never came to real charges. Even after the election in 2017 nothing happened - although the extent was greater than ever before, as experienced investigators report. In 2017, the drug mafia played a decisive role nationwide - she had been able to cultivate marijuana undisturbed in the country for the first time the year before, and had actually shopped into the state!


Police Chief Robert Aga: Hey, I am part of the Socialist Party, and I would not change, not for a million years.


MP Xhemal Qefalia: Gramoz [Ruci] was there, also Edi [Rama] was there. All of them were there. As we were talking… in fact Damian [Gjiknuri] spoke very well about you, also Blerina [Gjylameti], and I said: He needs to get going, you have f…ed him, sent him there [to Dibà«r], he can also do a lot over here [in Tirana]. I also told Ulsi [Manja] in order to reinforce it, because I thought he might object to it. I told them, he can work for me here in Tirana, but the thing is even where he is, he gets things done.

Police Chief Robert Aga: God willing they first move me to Bulqiza.


“In 2016 and 2017 Albania became the drug laboratory of Europe. If oligarchs and local clan chiefs had previously decided who would be elected, then the drug mafia had taken control nationwide, "according to a Western European investigator who was working undercover in Albania. Initially, Rama had really brought the country on a reform path, so he turned Albania from 2015 into a drug republic - the Colombia of Europe. The result: The EU initially postponed the membership talks planned for the summer to October. The president postponed municipal elections scheduled for late June - indefinitely. The government arrested opposition leaders nationwide - role models: Putin Russia and Erdogan Turkey!

After recent BILD revelations raging government opponents stormed the election offices and burned election documents in some regions - there were several injured. The fear: these elections could have been bought.


MP Qefalia: I am here with the Prime Minister and the Ministers!

Police Chief Robert Aga: Oh, no! I assure you I will do whatever you guys want!

MP Qefalia: Let me get the minister for you, talk to him because you are breaking my balls, talk to him. [Talks to Minister Tahiri, who is the chief of Aga] Talk a bit to this friend of mine from the police station.

Minister Tahiri: Hey, Bert! […] Thank you very much for your involvement, you are a giant!

Police Chief Robert Aga: It’s my duty!

Minister Tahiri: You were great! And don’t break your balls about what they [opposition party] are saying because…

Police Chief Robert Aga: I am your soldier!

MP Qefalia: Ulsi says hello too. Talk to Ulsi a bit too…

MP Ulsi Manja: Where are you bro?

Police Chief Robert Aga: How are you doing?

MP Manja: With the Prime Minister now.

Police Chief Robert Aga: I need to go there [promoted to Bulqiza]… for a while.

MP Manja: We are thinking about a higher posting for you […] We are talking about something higher up, because we need you for something bigger.

Police Chief Robert Aga: Ok then, fine.


MP Qefalia: You are my friend, don’t beat my d…ck. Do you want to talk to [Edi] Rama?

Police Chief Robert Aga: Cmon bro… now, that document…


The anti-mafia investigators had listened closely to hints from abroad since 2016. They had - among other things - initiated the investigation case "184 /" - actually, to prove the connections between drug bosses and politics. They caught tons of conversations and collusion between mafia, civil servants and the highest politicians.


Imer Lala speaks with Minister Damian Gjiknuri, who thanks him for the great results achieved in elections.

Minister Gjiknuri: Earthquake! Earthquake! Wow! Wow! Wow! Earthquake! F…k them all!

Ime Lala: You see what the two of us have achived!

Damian Gjiknuri: Earthquake!

Imer Lala: Hey, “The Man” was writing to me.

Damian Gjiknuri: Yeah…

Imer Lala: I told him, are you asleep. No, man, he said, I am stunned, I cannot sleep […] I told him you have not really known Damian Gjiknuri and myself then.

Damian Gjiknuri: Earthquake! Earthquake!

Imer Lala: Cmon, please, let me finish…

Damian Gjiknuri: F…k them all! I think your word of over 1,000 [votes] is proven right now!

Imer Lala: Hey, I mean it, even you have not really known me!

Damian Gjiknuri: Eh, you have known me and I have known you!


But for more than two years, these recordings are unprocessed in the state prosecutor's office. Not one of the politicians or mobsters who clearly speak on the tapes about buying votes and illegal collusion was charged - or even heard only as a witness. The majority of the recordings could not even be written off.


Unknown person: Chairman of the FRD and his people have voted for Sherefedin Shehu [opposition candidate]

Imer Lala: No, that’s not true!!!

Unknown: Yes, I checked it now, cos he voted 20 minutes ago.

Imer Lala: F…k him and al his people!

Unknown: I checked it, because I left someone there, 5 people […] all of them for Sherefedin.

Imer Lala: I will call that piece of shit. F…k him! When I came there I called him. I told him you will go to the headquarters […] and that we are for this one [PS candidate].


There is something exciting to hear. Approximately:

â–º As the Albanian Minister of Energy said after talks with Prime Minister Rama, the chief of police of Diber, that he could count on a transfer to a better post - as a reward for the election manipulation in his home region.

â–º As the head of the National Security Committee of Parliament intervenes.

â–º How a criminal de facto heads the election campaign in a whole region.

â–º How criminals collect IDs from voters of the opposition so that they can not vote.

â–º How the criminal prides himself on having been a "big man", ie head of government Rama.


Unknown: Bro, a certain Basri Veseli, do we know him?

Imer Lala: Basri Veseli, yes.

Unknown: I met him, but he hasn’t received anything [money].

Imer Lala: What do you mean? Nothing?

Unknown: Did you bring him some coffee [slang for “money” ]?

Imer Lala: Yes, I did that sort of thing.

Unknown: But then you are done buddy, but they have not gone there [with the money].


After the recent BILD publication, which showed exemplary, as from the top down government officials were systematically pressured to vote for the governing party, accused the Prime Minister Edi Rama BILD again lies, called on the prosecutor's office to investigate the sources for the Publish the secret recordings and announce their own lawsuits.


Unknown: Shefki Xhura, shall I give back the ID cards to him or not?

Imer Lala: Give them back, give them back.

Unknown: I have finished the thing with him [slang for “payment” ], but shall I still give back the ID cards to him?

Imer Lala: Give them back.


But the recordings, which BILD now publishes, allow only one more interpretation: For the 2017 election, there was a massive conspiracy of high-ranking politicians and criminals to manipulate elections.

The problem in Albania: There is almost no political force that is considered "clean". The government accuses the opposition of accepting funds from Russia. The Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court have not been quorum for a year, because there were hardly any judges who could conclusively declare their income in the opinion of the majority in Parliament. But it is precisely these courts that should judge the electoral manipulations, if it ever comes to prosecutions.


Imer Lala: Yes, I was thinking we can have a coffee, but I was thinking, I have gathered the people here to allocate, the monitoring teams for the tents.

Damian Gjiknuri: By the kiosk, are you there, at your place?

Imer Lala: Yes, don’t be late please.


The Constitutional Court should also decide on the latest case: The ruling party wants to depose the country's president, Ilir Meta. Reason: He had deposed planned for the end of June local elections because he sees the freedom of choice in danger: because of the massive allegations against the ruling party, the mass protests and the fact that the opposition in protest against the last election manipulation in many places no longer own candidates had set up…


*This article was published on Wednesday, June 19,  2019 in the German newspaper BILD.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 21, 2019 13:18