From: Neritan Sejamini
Five Things We Learned From the Albanian Electiongate Tapes

Wiretaps published by the German newspaper Bild give a dramatic picture of the close collaboration between the Mayor of Durres and local head of the Socialist Party (PS) Vangjush Dako, and one of the most dangerous criminal gangs that are notorious for their involvement in international heroin and cocaine trafficking.

The wiretaps are believed to have been leaked to Bild, by someone from within the prosecution.

The wiretaps establish the following five points:

1. Vangjush Dako colluded with criminal organizations to secure votes

Taped conversations show that international trafficker Astrit Avdylaj, who was arrested for drug trafficking, and Mayor Vangjush Dako colluded in vote-buying. The Avdylaj gang had the de facto role of managing the PS electoral campaign at Mayor Dako’s request which included securing votes in the Shijak and Durrës region.

This role was clear to the point that ringleader Avdylaj promised Dako to achieve the specific electoral results: winning parliamentary seats for all 10 MPs in the electoral race in Durrës and Shijak.=

As part of this criminal collusion between senior PS officials and the Avdylajs, they also discussed the details of the criminal group’s activity to secure votes which included vote-buying, and intimidating and threatening voters to cast their votes for the Socialist Party.

The wiretaps reveal that Dako is friends with the Avdylajs, their relationship is conscientious and they stand on equal grounds. Their conversation shows that they are partners: the Avdylajs speak, coordinate and behave with Mayor Dako with the ease and confidence of someone who is in an equal position with the other, as in a mutual enterprise, as equal partners.

2. The Socialist Party and state are captured by crime in Durrës

Nearly all of top political representatives in Durres are either directly involved in criminal activity or associated with crime. The wiretaps reveal that the Avdylaj criminal group determines who will be the PS candidates to MPs and mayors. Once they are able to run officially on the socialist lists, the Avdylajs provide the votes for their election. They then control the power over Property Register Offices, Tax Offices, public enterprises etc. This adsd to their control of the top political representatives in the region, including MPs and mayors.

The Socialist Party in Durres serves simply as an instrument for the criminal organization of Avdulaj, through which they capture and then put state institutions at their service.

The taps also show that Ivo Doci, head of the water and sewage agency in Durres, as well as head of the PS youth organization FRESSH in Shijak, is the political wing of the criminal group.

Elton Arbana, current mayoral candidate in Shijak and head of PS, is also part of the gang– in the 2017 elections, the gang wanted him included in the PS list of MP candidates, but they promised him “something better” later.

The current Durres MP Ilir Ndraxhi was included in the PS list of candidates with the direct request of the Avdylajs.

We previously learnt that Ergys Cyrbja, an incumbent MP, was a collaborator of the Shullazi criminal group. Also, that Mayor Dako became the guarantor for another ringleader’s bail, Lulzim Berisha, who was convicted of murder and participation in an organized crime group.

3. Crime is penetrating the formal economy by capturing politics

The following well-known scheme is being implemented in Albania: crime provides votes and money for politics, then politicians provide contracts and economic favors for crime– from awarding and developing real estate and public property, to public works contracts. The capture of the economy provides long-term power to crime, which secures its grip on politics by funding politicians and political parties.

Through Mayor Dako, the Avdylajs have control over the Property Registry Office of Durres, where they can easily “finish their jobs”, as they say in interceptions. They also carry out tax evasion, by controlling the heads of local institutions.

4. The reformed prosecution is politically captured

These leaked wiretaps have been in the hands of prosecutors for over one year. Whilst one could have justified their inaction before the justice reform, there is no valid reason for matters to have been delayed for this long.

The case is being investigated by the Serious Crimes Prosecution, headed by Donika Prela, who was both appointed to this position as a result of the justice reform, and also passed the first stage of the vetting process successfully. The same is true for the Temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku, who was vetted and confirmed as prosecutor, and was also appointed in her position as part of the implementation of the justice reform.

These reformed prosecutor offices and vetted prosecutors have not initiated an investigation into Mayor Vangjush Dako yet, let alone requesting his arrest. After much pressure by the opposition, prosecutors questioned Vangjush Dako two weeks ago, and that was all– no action taken.

In fact, the period after the starting of justice reform is the worst period in the history of the prosecution office. No high-ranking politician has been investigated during this time, let alone anyone charged by the prosecution. Those few politicians under investigation, such as Saimir Tahiri, were investigated by prosecutors before Arta Maku was appointed to lead the office.

5. The same alliance between crime and politics is to be found throughout the country

In addition to the clear revelations regarding Durres, today’s wiretaps confirm that the extent of collusion between politics and crime goes far beyond any conceivable image. They show that most probably opposition accusations against Prime Minister Edi Rama and his collaborators are actually all true.

There is no reason to believe that the same thing did not happen in Elbasan, whose Mayor Sejdini’s direct and indirect links with criminal groups in the city are well-known. In addition, Sejdini’s wife’s custom clearance company is under investigation for possible involvement in drug trafficking after a quantity of heroin was found is a cargo handled by her company.

There is also no reason why one should not believe that the same thing happened in Diber, where the opposition has stated that there are wiretaps waiting to be investigated at the prosecution office.