Mystery ‘Electronic Device’ Sparks Albania Wiretap Claims

The Albanian president and the country’s opposition alleged that electronic equipment installed at police headquarters is being used for wiretapping, but the force strongly denied the claim.
Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri and the general director of the state police, Haki Cako. Photo: Facebook

The Albanian general prosecutor’s office told BIRN that it has opened an investigation to clarify suspicions about the electronic equipment at police headquarters, which the president and opposition have claimed is being used for wiretapping.

“Tirana prosecutor’s office has opened a case over abuse of power charges after procedural materials were delivered. We are investigating to clarify the situation,” a prosecutor’s office spokesperson said.

The existence of the unnamed electronic device was first revealed in a report on May 11 in the newspaper Mapo.

Police said however that it is not wiretapping equipment but a device that identifies the telephone numbers used in a given area, and was given to them by Italian police as part of a training exercise.

“[Our] Italian partners have come and started to teach the Albanian police how they can use this device in future when we are able to buy one. But this device doesn’t offer you the opportunity to intercept communications,” Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri told Top Channel TV on Monday.

But former Prime Minister Sali Berisha, now an opposition Democratic Party MP, alleged on Sunday that 375 people were being wiretapped by the interior ministry, including the heads of state institutions, leaders of political parties, businessmen and journalists.

President Bujar Nishani also claimed the equipment was used for wiretapping.

“Today there is an illegal device for interception and this is anti-constitutional,” Nishani said on Monday.

Nishani made a second intervention on Tuesday, telling the government that it should stop lying to the public and pretending the wiretapping allegations have any connection with the police’s cooperation with their Italian counterparts.

“The agreement between the police of Albania and Italy in order to fight organised crime have nothing to do with the illegal wiretapping by Albanian police,” he said.

He also called on the Albanian government not to hamper the work of the prosecutor’s office as it investigates the wiretapping allegations.