Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako, Mayor of Shijak Ardian Kokomani and Socialist Party mayoral candidate in Shijak Elton Arbana admitted that they had talked with Astrit Avdylaj, the boss of a criminal organization.
All the three senior Socialist Party (PS) officials stated that due to their duties within the party they have to “speak with all citizens”.
They made similar statements a few hours after the German newspaper BILD published wiretaps showing them colluding with criminals in vote-buying in the 2017 general elections.
The PS officials dismissed the collusion allegations, saying that during an electoral campaign they have to speak to many people.
Mayor of Durres Vangjush Dako stated that:
I saw and I heard the wiretaps. This is something absurd, as far as I am concerned. I will reply to any phone call by any citizen because I am a mayor. I have no comment. This is a media issue.
Elton Arbana, the SP candidate for Mayor of Shijak, was also recorded speaking with an angry Astrit Avdylaj, who demanded him to urgently make the necessary calls to revoke a fine. Arbana complied.
Whilst he refused to talk about the details of the conversation, Arbana said he had a duty as head of PS in Shijak to talk to every citizen:
I am the head of Socialist Party [in Shijak], and I have phone calls with every Shijak citizen.
Mayor of Shijak Ardian Kokomani was also recorded in a phone call with Astrit Avdylaj. The latter told Kokomani that he had set a meeting with Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako and others, in order to finalize the inclusion of Ilir Ndraxhi as Socialist Party candidate to Member of Parliament. The crime boss demanded Kokomani to attend the meeting.
Ilir Ndraxhi was elected MP, a position he still holds, with the direct pressure of the Avdylaj criminal group.
Mayor Kokomani said he did not attend the meeting. According to him, this was the reason why he was not selected to run for a second term as Mayor of Shijak, and Elton Arbana took his place.
Kokomani said that he “was compelled to meet him [Astrit Avdylaj] at any time, night or day” as long as Avdylaj was with other party officials.
I am absolutely sure that I did not attend the meeting arranged by Astrit Avdylaj. The fact that I was not part of their [group] excluded me from rerunning for a second term.