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News 01 Dec 14

Macedonia Police Doubt Passport Forgery Claims

Police said that video published by a newspaper of the alleged illegal production of fake Macedonian passports might not be genuine.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Frame caption from the video

The Police Ministry said it doubted the authenticity of the video that was published on Friday, insisting that forging of Macedonian passports would be highly unlikely because the country has top-class security systems.

“The footage may be inaccurate or commissioned by a political party,” said police spokesperson Ivo Kotevski.

He added that an investigation will not be launched until weekly newspaper Fokus, which published the footage, officially reports the case to the police.

Kotevski warned Fokus that if it does not report the case, it may be held accountable as an accomplice.

The minute-long video footage shows an alleged illegal facility for the production of Macedonian passports. Fokus said it got the video from an “anonymous citizen”. 

The footage shows what appears to be a private apartment turned into an improvised passport-printing house. A voice in the background of the video says: “Ignore the communist scum. Just press on with your work.”

The daily said that the fake passports might have been used as part of an election fraud scheme during the March-April general and presidential elections.

Ljubisa Arsic, a journalist from Fokus, said meanwhile that the police spokesperson was mistaken because the new Criminal Law clearly stipulates that allegations about such crimes are to be reported to the public prosecutor, not to the police.

“We have submitted all we have to the prosecutors’ office and we received confirmation that they got the material,” Arsic said.

The prosecution has so far said nothing about the case.

If authentic, the video is in line with what the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, has said about the past two election cycles in 2013 and 2014. 

The Social Democrats have been claiming that the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party has been engaged in a massive production of IDs for ethnic Macedonians living in neighbouring Albania who have been given fake residencies in order to vote and tip the election results in government’s favour. The government has rebuffed such claims.

Insisting that VMRO DPMNE party won the last elections illegitimately, the SDSM this year refused to take up its seats in parliament and demanded the formation of a caretaker government to prepare new polls.

The Prime Minister and VMRO DPMNE leader, Nikola Gruevski, who has held power since 2006, has rejected the demand.

The VMRO DPMNE also doubted the authenticity of the video footage, suspecting that the opposition was behind it in an attempt to “produce some kind of alleged scandal”.

“The footage caused us to laugh, as well as everybody else who has looked at it… It would have been humorous if it was not tragic. The creator of this footage either had a bad day, or his capacities are limited,” a press statement from the VMRO DPMNE said.

The OSCE/ODIHR monitoring mission to Skopje said that the March-April election process, while well administered, had failed to meet important OSCE commitments, including on the separation of state and party, on ensuring a level playing field, on the neutrality of the media, on the accuracy of the voters list and on the possibility of gaining redress through an effective complaints procedure.

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