The seedy, possibly criminal, behavior of many of Albania's MPs is disturbing and does not bode well for democratic development. It is a widely held view throughout Albania that all parties have MPs with links to organized crime and accept money from organized crime. This is a very troubling phenomenon that we and the international community will have to address at some point in the future.
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SIPDIS DEPT FOR EUR/SCE E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2019 TAGS:
SUBJECT: CRIMINALS MAKING THE LAWS IN ALBANIA'S PARLIAMENT Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN L. WITHERS II FOR REASONS 1.4
¶1. (C) Despite the relative calm on Election Day, it has very much come to our attention that there is a strong undercurrent of people tied to organized crime that participated and/or were involved in possibly manipulating the June 28 elections. The three major parties, the Democratic Party (DP), the Socialist Party (SP) and the Movement for Social Integration (LSI) all have MPs with links to organized crime. While Post cannot legally prove these links, the conventional wisdom, backed by other reporting, is that the new parliament has quite a few drug traffickers and money launderers. During the electoral campaign, one politician, Alex Keka, a local head of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) in northern Albania, was even killed by a car bomb. Keka was suspected of being involved in the trafficking of arms and narcotics. (NOTE: Keka was not running for Parliament, although other members of his party were. END NOTE).
Law Breakers Turned Law Makers
¶2. (C) Some of the more noteworthy MPs with ties to organized crime are:
-- Tom Doshi: An SP MP from Shkoder, Doshi, singled out in the Human Rights Report for physically assaulting a journalist in the Sheraton Hotel, was a key figure in financing SP electoral efforts. He is known as the richest MP, with a declared fortune of more than $15 million and is also suspected of trafficking narcotics. Doshi served in the previous parliament as a DP MP, before switching sides to the SP shortly before the election.
-- Lefter Koka: Representing LSI from Durres, Koka is a member of perhaps the most notorious organized crime family in Albania, with ties to narcotics and human trafficking and other illicit activities.
-- Sokol Oldashi: Olldashi, the current Minister of Public Works, Transport, and Telecommunication and DP MP from Fier, is suspected of smuggling goods and narcotics. Circumstantial evidence links Olldashi and Fatmir Kajolli in Fier to Minister of Justice Enkelejd Alibeaj in a scheme to release prisoners from jails to act as electoral bullies.
-- Lulzim Basha: According to one SP source, FM Basha, who represents the DP in Elbasan, was involved in facilitating the release from prison of a notorious criminal in Elbasan in return for support from the criminal's family. Relatives of the criminal promised to "organize" people in Elbasan to support Basha. The criminal was released on June 29, the day after the elections.
-- Paulin Sterkaj: The 48 year old DP MP from Shkoder is a former professional wrestler with little to no formal education. Sterkaj was previously in the SP and has been accused by a former friend of murdering a politician in Shkoder a few years ago. Sterkaj claims to have business interests in oil, restaurants, and construction, but little is known about his activities.
-- Gramoz Ruci: SP MP and party General Secretary, Ruci has long-standing ties to narcotics traffickers and organized crime. Ruci has also been banned from entering the U.S. since 2005 due to a permanent visa ineligibility.
¶3. (C) Comment: Post is not sure which tack the ODIHR report on the Albanian elections will take once released, but it is widely accepted locally that many MPs posing as "businessmen" are in fact strongly suspected of having ties to organized crime. These individuals are now MPs, have immunity under the law, and are responsible for making the laws that will propel Albania toward further Euro-Atlantic integration. The seedy, possibly criminal, behavior of many of Albania's MPs is disturbing and does not bode well for democratic development. It is a widely held view throughout Albania that all parties have MPs with links to organized crime and accept money from organized crime. This is a very troubling phenomenon that we and the international community will have to address at some point in the future. One bright spot, however, is that there are a few MPs who have begun to recognize that Albania should not have such characters represented in its parliament. How long it will take though to remove these ruffians from power though is another question. After all, money is the lifeblood of politics, and in a poor country with no campaign finance transparency or tradition of small donors supporting their favorite candidates, criminals are an easy source of campaign funds.