From: Alice Taylor
Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj Downplays Ndrangheta Wiretap Investigation

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj has downplayed the Ndrangheta wiretaps scandal by saying it is something that always happens before an election.

Appearing on “Time to Wake Up” this morning, Veliaj said:

“Look, every time a project starts, every time we are doing beautiful things, every time we are on the verge of elections, this whole thing starts.”

He said that if they were true, the matter would be in the prosecutor’s office and investigations would be underway.

“If they were true, they would have gone to the prosecutor’s office, the investigations would have been done but this has become a pre-election routine. I am at the stage where I just have fun and want to continue working.”

He said he has talked to the Italian embassy and members of the judiciary. Veliaj said that he doesn’t know the people on the wiretaps and they have never come to the Municipality. He added that if the allegations were true and he and the Municipality had “entered into negotiations with bribe-takers and swindlers, there would have been consequences.”

In fact, Albanian prosecutors are looking into the allegations that arose from the leaked wiretaps. SPAK announced that they are investigating potential crimes of public officials, the operation of a structured criminal group, and money laundering. The investigation was launched on 25 January after media publications in Italy and Albania regarding an investigation by Italian prosecutors into the notorious ‘Ndrangheta mafia group’s activity.

About 50 members of the mafia group were arrested in Italy on January 18, of which 7 were Albanians.

According to publications, the Italian prosecution’s investigation showed mafia attempts to launder money in Albania through public projects and construction.

Then on 4 February, Italian Ambassador Fabricio Bucci said that there are more developments to come in the scandal.

In an interview with Euronews, he said that the as of yet unpublished wiretaps featured references to Albanian officials and entrepreneurs. He added that there is a cooperation between prosecutors of the two countries.

“There will be important developments soon. I cannot speak in detail for reasons you can imagine, but they are working, the two prosecutors are communicating,” said the Ambassador.