Albanian politician arrested for Italian drug convictions

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A municipal counsellor with ties to the Albanian government has been detained in his country under an Italian arrest warrant for drug-related convictions, the website Le Courrier des Balkans reports.

Fatmir Kajolli, 47, a Republican Party counsellor in the southwest city of Fier, was arrested on 9 April. He was reportedly under house arrest pending an extradition request from Italy.

Courts in Milan and Rome sentenced him in 2002 to 16 and 24 years in prison, respectively. It is unclear why his arrest has taken so long.

Since the drug trafficking convictions in Italy, Kajolli has undertaken many activities as politician and businessman. He is said to be very close to Fatmir Mediu, the environment minister under Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

According to US cables published by Wikileaks, Kajolli helped to rig the 2009 parliamentary elections, allegedly in collusion with two cabinet ministers at that time.

Under an extradition agreement between Albania and Italy, 30 suspects have reportedly been arrested, mostly on drug trafficking charges.

Two years ago, Berisha told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview that his country was now one of the safest in Europe following a crackdown on organised crime, and economic growth had remained steady despite the global crisis. 

But political life has been largely paralysed due to the refusal of the opposition Socialists to accept the result of the June 2009 election. The European Union has lamented the failures of the Albanian electoral system, urging the EU hopeful to undertake deep parliamentary reform.

The economy has seen a sharp decline and January 2011 saw violent protests, which Berisha compared to a "Tunisia-style" revolt.

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