By Artur Korriku
Memorie.al / in 1971, a sensational arrest was made in the city of Durrës, which shocked all the residents of the coastal city. Stathi Cehaef, the polyhedral teacher, of the high school of Music “Mujo Ulqinaku” was arrested. Although his arrest was carried out in secret, by the State Security bodies of Tirana, even those who were questioned about him, were ordered with responsibility that; for those problems that were discussed, to be kept in complete secrecy.
But again in the city it was rumored that; a dangerous agent was arrested, who, in addition to espionage against our country, had worked prospectively to compromise and then recruit young people, whom he approached through various compromising forms, in order that when he came at the moment, they were recruited for the account of the secret services of Eastern European countries.
For this activity, according to the statistics of the investigative file, about 40 young people, aged 15 to 20, from the city of Durrës, most of them his former students, were accompanied to the investigator in Tirana. The arrested agent was Stathi Cehaef, who came to Albania in the late 1940s from Greece, at the time when the so-called “August Provocations” took place in 1949.
Who was Stathi Cehaef and how did he settle in Durrës?!
Stathi Cehaef was born in Kallamata, Greece in 1922. He was the child of Constantine and Andronika. In his youth, he first worked in a personal photography studio belonging to his father. During the Second World War, according to the testimony given by himself after his arrest, he was recruited by the German Abwer Secret Service, while he was attending German language courses organized by this service of the Military Intelligence of Nazi Germany.
And then, the forms of gathering information from him were precisely the courses with young people. After the war, Stathi was taken in cooperation by other services, which “hunted” him, from the archives that remained in their hands. He was recruited as an agent of the Anglo-Greek partner services and, being quite gifted in foreign languages, a highly coveted characteristic for a potential spy, was intended to be thrown into the eastern strongholds.
For this reason, in 1949, preparations were made to send him to Albania as an agent, and from here he would find the opportunity to jump to the German Democratic Republic, with the prospect of his transition to the Soviet Union.
In 1949, in the period known as the period of development of the “August Greek Provocations” of this year, he comes as a Greek soldier and when his military formation is attacked by our forces, he, according to the order given, surrenders as a prisoner war. He stays for a while in a church in the border areas where the captives were grouped and then he is sent to Lushnja, where their concentration camp was also set up.
During the period when he was in Lushnjë, he was recruited by the Albanian State Security and sent to train in Noja in Krujë, in complete secrecy, according to the criteria of the intelligence services of that period, to prepare as an agent of Albania, with perspective, to then send him as a scout to the Federal Republic of Germany.
After recruitment and training, he is sent as a Russian language student to the State University of Tirana. It was his cover as an associate of the State Security that allowed him to act for years, undisturbed, on behalf of other foreign services, in the role of multiple agents.
During the later period, Cehaef is contacted by Eastern European Intelligence and recruited by them, as an agent of the Soviet secret services. His recruiter, according to Stathi’s deposition to the investigator, is East German secret service officer Leopold Zajder. For the exchange of information, he is kept in touch by the commercial representative of Czechoslovakia of that period, Washek, who worked as an iron-nickel specialist, in the Mineral Export Enterprise, in the port of Durrës, ‘MINERALIMPEKS’.
Meanwhile, according to his testimony and the information of the Albanian Intelligence, the Soviet services had made him available to the Intelligence Center, which developed its activity on behalf of the Warsaw Pact Command.
Recruitment of young people
Stathi, meanwhile, had stabilized as a professor at the music school. He was quite talented and possessed knowledge of foreign languages. Stathi mastered 7 languages, while he had knowledge of about 22 others. The last language he was learning, before his arrest, was Chinese. Stathi Cehaef, testified after the arrest that, according to the orders given by the eastern services, he kept in touch with young people and processed them through compromise, with various items that, at that time, were taboo in our country, in order to create under conditions, to recruit them from the relevant services.
Based on the orders given by the “Center” for prospective work with young people, Stathi gathered in his apartment, a room on the 4th floor of a palace in Durrës (known as the Dovan palace), young people of all ages from 15 to 20 years old, under the pretext of different courses, which he developed with them. He served those foreign drinks such as Whisky, Campari, Martini and others, or Marlboro, Pall Mall, Dunhill etc. cigarettes, which at that time was prohibited in our country. He also showed him various magazines, including pornographic ones, which were prohibited by the law of that time.
The number of young people who attended Stathi’s music and foreign language courses was relatively high, but the investigation, due to the great uproar this event had caused in the people, did not question all of them, but it was only enough to draw up their lists taken from Stathi’s depositions, as well as the list presented by the young people’s questions about him, lists which were framed after both, in Cehaef’s investigation file.
Some of them appeared as witnesses in the trial held in the Court of Durrës. In the file, it is also described how Stathi Cehaef had created connections with teachers, various intellectuals, doctors, and together, they developed agitation and propaganda against the communist government. Also, he had a long smuggling activity, with Czechs, Poles and the goods he took and sold in Durrës.
The story of a former student of Stath
Luan Jaupi, now 69 years old, was one of Stathi’s students in those years. He says that he was enrolled in the guitar course at the Palace of Culture, a course led by Stathi Cehaef. Jaupi testified in the trial against his teacher and in this regard, he introduced us to his interview, which we are publishing in full in this article.
Mr. Jaupi, when and how did you meet Stath?
I knew Stath in 1970. At that time I decided to learn the guitar and enrolled in Stath’s course at the “Aleksandër Moisiu” Palace of Culture here in Durrës. He ran the guitar and mandolin course. I was 16 at the time. He knew how to play all instruments, piano, violin, guitar etc.
In addition to them, he knew a large number of foreign languages very well and, for this reason, also led courses for their learning. I registered in Esperanto. He conducted this course in his home, which was a small room in a building in the city of Durrës. He had connections with foreign workers, mainly from Eastern countries, such as: Czechs, Poles and East Germans, who had settled in Durrës, for economic activities, based on the agreements that our country had with their countries.
From them, he provided drinks, cigarettes, chocolates, chewing gum and other items that were missing in our country at that time. He also provided magazines from them, including pornographic magazines that were liked by young people. He also subscribed to a number of Albanian magazines of that time such as: “Ylli”, “In the Service of the People”, “Science and Life”, etc. As the collector that I am, I would buy the entire year’s issues of any magazine. He knew how to make money.
Drinks, cigarettes, magazines, etc., he served to the young people when they went to attend the courses in his apartment. Being one of his students, I remember how we used scissors to cut pictures of naked women from pornographic magazines and secretly show them to our friends. Later, I learned that this was his strategy, to recruit young people, for the purpose of espionage.
In 1971, Stathi was arrested by the State Security. Together with him, Mark and Terezina Dema, husband and wife, were also arrested. In the trial, they appeared in 1972. I was called in that process, as a witness, after I had bought some foreign goods from him.
More specifically, I bought a “Cosmos M” handheld radio from him. My radio was seized by the Internal Affairs Department, thinking that it could serve as a radio transmitter, but after a few months, it was returned to me because it turned out to be a simple radio. I had also bought from him, an office fan. I did not testify about the porno magazines and foreign drinks and cigarettes, although Sigurimi had found out about these things from other sources, which was also reflected in the charge brought against him.
Judgment of Stathi
In July 1972, the trial of Stathi Cehaef began. The judicial body consisted of: Chairman Arzen Leskoviku and members Sopot Rustemi and Pashk Bacja. Llambi Gjoni was the investigator. In this process, about 17 young people testified. The competent bodies of that time had at their disposal the complete list of witnesses in the investigation, as well as in the trial, as well as the list of young people, candidates for recruitment, which Cehaefi had presented for approval. From this trial, Stathi Cehaef was sentenced to 25 years in prison, on the charge of:
– Agitation and propaganda in collaboration with other people.
During the period of imprisonment, he was not mistreated by the investigator. Service police, but also prisoners, have stated that when there was a period of time, in the prison of the Department of Internal Affairs in Durrës, to cook in a special way. Special food was sent to him. He was even kept under the control of a doctor because he was sick with diabetes, a luxury that other prisoners did not have.
Memories of a former Security officer, for Stathin
About the activity of Stathi, a former officer of the Albanian Secret Intelligence Service, with several years of experience working against foreign services, in the Tourism sector, has written down some memories, which also include some of the methods followed, to put under control, his hostile activity against the People’s Republic of Albania.
He states that; Stathi Cehaef has been one of the most prominent agents of foreign powers who have developed successful activities in our country. He remembers that, in order to gather young people, Stathi used the great authority that the teachers of that period had, among students and parents. The acts that were found later were the product of this good faith, as the parents were not bothered by the student’s association with a teacher.
The ex-officer says that the first sign of suspicion about Stathi Cefaef, the bodies of the Albanian counter-intelligence (State Security), received from a parent, who denounced the fact that the teacher had begun to be interested in the transport carried out by the ships of the Fleet Commercial. The person who reported, K.XH. he had been an officer, commissar of a group of anti-aircraft batteries and then, he had transferred to the Merchant Navy. Immediately, as soon as his son had told him what he had discussed with the youth’s teacher, he requested a meeting with the head of the Department of Internal Affairs and denounced the teacher.
“The denunciation, – recalls the now retired former officer, – was kept secret and since then, Cehaefi was kept under constant surveillance. During this period he was followed, photographed and recorded. Agent meetings with Poles, Czechs, etc. were also documented for him. The exchange of information was done on the inner staircase of the former 5-story PTT of that period, in Durrës. One would sit down, the other would go up, and on the stairs, when no one was there, and they would exchange envelopes.”
In his immediate staff, by combination, an agent of the State Security was also introduced. Later, he was processed with two others, father and daughter. “When Stathi was arrested, the investigation wanted to interrogate the agent with his daughter, but since they were collaborators of the Security, it took the intervention of the First Secretary of the District Party Committee, Comrade Iljaz Reka, – recalls the former Secret Service officer, – in order to allow the questioning and then the investigative confrontation, before which Stathi, with all the intelligence that characterized him, remained exposed”. “For a period of time he was underestimated by the employees of the Security, thinking that he was their man, and then he was the one who underestimated them, how capable they were, and from that he suffered defeat”, writes the former officer.
Stathi was arrested on November 5, 3 days before the celebration of the establishment of the Albanian Communist Party, after he had reached the bodies of the Secret Services, (State security), a clue that something was being organized on the occasion of the celebration…! Of all the courses he had organized with young people, we were impressed by the fact that he had only a violin as a work tool at home…! And a booklet in translation above, on the life of Rikard Sorge.
The former Secret Service officer recalls that Stahi was very smart and studied people very well before finding their weak points. A very talented violinist had promised to send him to study in France, but this was not achieved because the information he was looking for had come in advance and this burned him, as he was not included in the list at all.
For someone else, he was interested in getting the right to study, and even spent money to help young people in need. His main interest remained getting to know the children of officers and key cadres, with study and career prospects. He had created connections, even with children of people who were part of the upper layers of the communist nomenclature.
End of agent
Stathi died in 1978 in the prison of Ballshi, during the period when he was working in the library of this prison and was dealing with the translation of professional literature, from foreign services, for the High School of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Albania…! The medical-legal report determines the cause of death as a heart attack, but this is also the last mystery of the spy that many would have wanted dead…!
He remained the most talked about agent in Durrës, for the compromising methods he used with young people. In the view of the officers of the Albanian Secret Services who dealt with his hostile activity against our country, he remains one of the most successful agents who have had espionage activities in Albania. Then it was said that: Stathi was buried inside the prison, but the possibility is not excluded that he was exchanged with some agent who was interested in our country and who was kept by the services of neighboring countries…! Memorie.al