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News 14 Mar 12

Macedonia’s A1 TV Owner Jailed for 13 Years

A Skopje court sentenced the owner of the now defunct pro-opposition A1 TV Velija Ramkovski to 13 years in jail on four charges of tax evasion, criminal association money laundering and misuse of office.

Sase Dimovski, Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Skopje

Velija Ramkovski | Archive photo

The high-profile trial that started a year ago was one of the largest and most controversial in recent years.
 
The court jailed 18 of the the 22 other co-defendants in the same case, gave one a probation sentence and acquitted three people. Sentences vary from 2 years and 3 months to 7 years.
 
“The court found that the defendants conducted criminal acts from 2006 onwards through the accounts of A1 TV and several other companies”, said Judge Pavlina Hristova while pronouncing the verdict.

The court ordered that all the property of the defendants be frozen and that they pay a solidarity fine of a million euros in total.

Ramkovski’s defence said it will appeal the verdict in a higher instance court.

Ramkovski pleaded not guilty to all charges. He claimed he was set up by the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski for political reasons.
 
He insisted that the evidence against him was forged as the computers and documentation from his firms were seized outside legal procedure.

The closures last summer of his A1 TV station and his three daily newspapers were widely blamed on government pressure.

Gruevski has denied this, saying the government had nothing to do with it. Tax inspectors said the outlets owed large sums in unpaid taxes.

Ramkovski and seven of the 22 accused have spent almost 15 months in detention after police arrested them in December 2010.

Most of the others were released after spending several months in detention after rights groups voiced concern for their wellbeing.

Police are still searching for Ramkovski's son Hedi and five others wanted in relation to the case.  In absentia Hedi received a 7-year sentence in jail.

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