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News 23 Apr 14

Macedonia Opposition Files Corruption Charges Against PM

The main opposition Social Democrats have filed corruption charges against Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski accusing him of taking a bribe to expedite the illegal sale of a bank.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonian opposition leader, Zoran Zaev presented documents of financial transactions | Photo by: SDSM

Macedonia's opposition Social Democratic Party, the SDSM, has filed charges against Prime Minister Gruevski on three accounts of taking bribes and tax evasion.

“By law, the minimum penalty for tax evasion alone is a minimum of four years in jail,” the head of the SDSM, Zoran Zaev, told a press conference.

Last week, the SDSM accused Gruevski of taking a bribe of €1.5 million to expedite the sale of Makedonska Banka to Serbian businessman Jovica Stefanovic, aka “Gazda Nini”, ["Boss Nini"] in 2004.

The opposition produced documents of financial transactions as well as legal papers from Macedonia’s Central Bank that approved the sale of the bank’s shares. The SDSM said the papers contained clear evidence of wrongdoing.

In addition, it released a lengthy telephone recording on which the opposition claims that Gruevski's voice can be heard discussing the illegal sale.

The SDSM said it had presented all of these findings to the public prosecutor in charge of fighting organized crime and corruption and expected a swift reaction.

“People are in prison or in detention today for much smaller criminal acts. Gruevski is very much in a position to influence witnesses; Gruevski could also repeat such acts because he is in power. An immediate reaction is needed,” Zaev said.

The ruling VMRO DPMNE last week dismissed the tape, saying the voice was clearly not that of Gruevsk and announced it would file slander charges against Zaev.

Police minister Gordana Jankuloska who is a member of VMRO DPMNE also made a statement, saying that Zaev would be the one to face charges.

“A lawsuit has already been announced for the accusations and slander presented by Zoran Zaev. This means that Zaev will most probably get the opportunity to prove the authenticity of the recording in a case in which he will be sued for slander,” Jankuloska said.

Since the publication of the audio recording on YouTube, mainstream media outlets in Macedonia have ignored the entire affair.

Last week, the State Prosecutor, Marko Zvrleski, said he was not acquainted with the case or with the audio recording. He said he would comment after the Easter holidays.

The affair comes amid a tense election campaign in Macedonia. On April 27, Macedonians will vote in the second round of the presidential election and in an early general election.

The affair could damage the standing of Gruevski, who is otherwise the clear favourite to win the elections and whose party emphasizes honesty as a key virtue.

The alleged criminal sale took place in 2004 while Gruevski was leader of VMRO DPMNE and still in opposition. He came to power in 2006.

The bank in question, which is now defunct, was linked to reports illegal activities long ago.

When Gruevski was Finance Minister from 1999 to 2002 in a government led by his predecessor at the helm of VMRO DPMNE, Ljubco Georgievski, the Social Democrats accused VMRO DPMNE of buying up large assets, including the bank, for party purposes, listing trusted party members as official owners.

Since the law has banned political parties from owning businesses, the bank shares have been sold to several off-shore and local companies. However, the opposition has continued to allege that these companies have remained controlled by VMRO DPMNE.

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