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News 01 Jul 13

Former Macedonian PM Jailed for Corruption

Former Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski has been sentenced to three years in jail for misusing state funds while buying spare parts for army tanks.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Vlado Buckovski

Skopje’s criminal court on Monday found Buckovski and four others guilty of the illegal procurement of spare parts for Macedonian T-55 tanks from the company MZT in late 2001. Buckovski was defence minister at the time.

The ex-minister, along with the four other defendants, was prosecuted over the scheme which according to the authorities cost the country’s budget over two million euro.

The former chief of staff of the Macedonian Army, General Metodij Stamboliski, and an MZT manager, Mitre Petkovski, were also given three-year jail sentences.

Former army logistics officer Nelko Menkinovski and a former defence ministry employee, Aco Gjurcevski, were jailed for two years.

This was the second ruling in the case after the appeals court previously scrapped a ruling that sentenced Buckovski to three and a half years in jail.

All of the convicted men have the right to appeal against the latest ruling.

Buckovski, who served as a prime minister from 2004 to 2006, denied the charges that he acquired four times more spare parts for the now-defunct tanks than were actually needed.

Buckovski’s defence insisted that at the time, the parts were necessary because there were genuine security risks to the country. The defence provided the court with written notes from the national security council, which at the time advised that the army should be kept in a state of full battle-readiness.

In 2001, Macedonia went through a short armed conflict between the security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of the Ohrid Peace Accord that provided greater rights for the Albanian community.
The defendants insisted that they did not damage the state budget with the procurement because the parts could still be sold.

In January this year, in a letter to the court, the army’s general staff confirmed that the parts were still being stored in military warehouses.

When the trial begun in 2007, Buckovski, a former high-ranking official from what is now the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, claimed that he was being framed for political reasons.

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