German media publish wiretaps alleging ties between Socialist officials and criminals

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 7, 2019 07:48

German media publish wiretaps alleging ties between Socialist officials and criminals

Story Highlights

  • The leaked wiretaps are part of a prosecution investigation on the Avdylaj criminal group based in Shijak, close to Durrës, the second biggest city in Albania and they take place in the months before the general 2017 elections in Albania.

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TIRANA, June 5 – German newspaper Bild has published interceptions between the Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako and the leaders of the criminal gang Astrit Avdylaj, arrested for cocaine trafficking in October 2018.

The leaked wiretaps are part of a prosecution investigation on the Avdylaj criminal group based in Shijak, close to Durrës, the second biggest city in Albania and they take place in the months before the general 2017 elections in Albania.

The prosecution had initiated an investigation into the criminal group suspected of international drug trafficking and other charges, while several members of the group were arrested in 2018 and are now facing charges in an ongoing case.

However, interceptions have revealed that the group was in close connection and collaboration with the governing Socialist Party officials, in particular with Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako on several criminal activities unrelated to the initial investigation.

In one of the conversations, criminal group leader Astrit Avdylaj appears to decide on who will be the Socialist Party candidates for MPs.

He talks with the Mayor of Shijak, Ardian Kokomani, telling him that he has set a meeting with Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako and others the next day. Avdylaj demands the Mayor to be present at the meeting, as they will finalize the appointment of Ilir Ndraxhi as Socialist Party candidate to Member of Parliament. Ndraxhi is supposed to represent the interests of the Avdylajs, and in exchange they will give full support to the PS campaign in Durrës.

Several days after the phone call, Ilir Ndraxhi is confirmed as SP candidate for MP in Durrës. Before that, Astrit Avdylaj talks with Ndraxhi’s brother and asks him whether they called Ilir Ndraxhi to confirm his candidacy. The brother says that they are waiting to get that confirmation from him (Astrit Avdylaj), to which Avdylaj replies that Mayor Dako has told him that it will be confirmed the next day.

“Astrit Avdylaj: Ok, ok, I’m still waiting. To put it in one word: tomorrow he [Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako] told me it will be done. […] We have it in our pocket [It’s a settled affair].”

Ilir Ndraxhi has been a member of Parliament since 2017.

Astrit Avdylaj further explains that they pushed with Mayor Dako for Elton Arbana, then PS Chair for the Shijak Municipality, to be included in the PS candidates list for PM, but that his ranking in the list won’t be very favorable.

“Astrit Avdylaj: [Mayor Dako] told me [it will be decided] on the 25th [of that month]. Elton [Arbana] was there too. He told Elton that he had put him 10th or 11th.”

Later the deal was changed, and Elton Arbana was not included in the list but was promised “something better.” He is now the PS Candidate for Mayor in Shijak in the 30 June 2019 elections.

Avdylaj further says he has worked very hard to secure votes for the PS, and that they will be very proud in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama when he sees the results. Avdylaj promises that the PS will get the parliamentary seats for all 10 PMs from their region.

“Astrit Avdylaj: We have to be very proud even to the one high up [PM Edi Rama], who should see what we are up to, you know.

We will deliver him [Edi Rama] a 10 to 0 victory, and he himself will be surprised.”

In another wiretap, ringleader Astrit Avdylaj is talking with the Head of the Water Management Agency in Durrës. Avdylaj tells the official that he met with Mayor Dako and the local Head of the Socialist Party last night, and orders him to prepare a list of employees suspected to vote for the opposition Democratic Party. Avdylaj orders the Director to have them all summoned the next day at their workplace, as Avdylaj would go there to threaten them to vote for the Socialist Party. The Director says that he has already prepared the list of those employees, and that he will do as asked. He also thanks Avdylaj for the great work, telling him “you are great!”

“Astrit Avdylaj: You need to summon them and I will give them a good shake.

Director: I see. There is no question about it.

Astrit Avdylaj: Either they keep working and vote for us, or they go home.

Director: You got all [names] ready, separated. I have prepared everything.”

In another call, Astrit Avdylaj talks with a voter, making sure that he and his family will vote for the PS MP candidate Ilir Ndraxhi, while also promising him money in exchange for the votes. The voter agrees.

“Astrit Avdylaj: I called you for the vote, as you know. So, in one word, you shouldn’t tell to no one, including Gon Duka (opposition candidate in Durrës). […] We are for the SP, for Ilir Ndranxhi.

[…] You know what I mean, right, you will get a coffee [slang for payment for votes].”

In another conversation, gang leader Avdylaj appears to decide on changing Mayor Dako’s agenda in order for the later to meet Avdylaj and “finish a job” for a friend (a murder convict) at the Property Register Office. Mayor Dako asks whether Avdylaj is together with the murder convict at the time of the conversation and accepts to cancel his agenda and meet them, according to Avdylaj’s demand.

“Mayor Dako: I’m leaving now to [see] those guys in Ishëm [a city in Durrës county].

Astrit Avylaj: No, you listen now. We’ll postpone that for a little later as I am here now with the guys [with a murder convict and the Director of Property Register Office].”

Criminal group leader Avdylaj seems to be aware of Mayor Dako’s agenda. He asks Mayor Dako about his meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama the night before. In their conversations, Avdylaj and Dako call each other “bro.”

“Astrit Avdylaj: Did you get any sleep last night bro, as you have met Rama yesterday, you spent quite some time, and you had a ball.

Mayor Dako: Hehehe, what’s up?”

In another wiretapped conversation an angry Astrit Avdylaj talks with the Head of the PS in Shijak, Elton Arbana, demanding him to make the necessary calls to cancel a high fine given to a farm by a Durrës Municipality director. Avdylaj says that he can’t contact Vangjush Dako now, as the Mayor is in Switzerland with Prime Minister Edi Rama. He demands Arbana to do what as he was told, otherwise Avdylaj will make the call. Arbana agrees.

“Astit Avdylaj: Tell him: “You son of a bitch, you went there and put fines in the farm today,” like 5 million lek [4 thousand euro] bro.

Gjushi [Mayor Dako] is not there, as he is with Edi in Switzerland, you see what I mean?

You tell him he made a mistake. [Tell him] to retrieve the fines, tell him not to put fines.

Tell him you’re doing wrong, you filthy man! Because I don’t want to call him personally.”

In the article published after the release of the wiretaps, the investigation’s journalist Tiede explains that “the tapping published today is only a small part of the file called 339. The interceptions were made by the prosecution during the 2017 elections but they have not yet been fully investigated.”

Also, the German journalist criticizes the prosecutors of the case who have remained silent about the investigation of this file.

Bild writes that Albania is being governed by drug money and that the mafia has entered politics by appointing MPs on the list and buying votes.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Laws Commission Ulsi Manja defended on Wednesday Mayor Vangjush Dako for the wiretaps

In a statement to the media, MP Manja said that in the wiretaps made public today are not explicitly mentioning vote buying. He said the content of telephone conversations is getting bigger and worse to destabilize the country.  

“In all the tapping materials I have not heard of either votes or money, for permission or for tenders. We are on the ground of rumors and gossip. A political environment with untruths or half-truths that lead to destabilization of the country will not be endured.”

Manja sought identification and punishment of prosecutors or prosecution employees who gave the German newspaper BILD intercepts between Dako and the Avdylajs gang.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 7, 2019 07:48