News 19 Oct 17

Macedonia Made Huge Payments to War Crimes Convict

The wife of the only Macedonian war crimes convict, Johan Tarculovski, confirmed receiving payments from the government of 5,000 euros a month during the eight years her husband spent in jail abroad.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Johan Tarculovski and his wife Sonja when he returned to Macedonia in 2013. Photo: AP/Boris Grdanoski.

Sonja Tarculovska, the wife of Johan Tarculovski, now an MP and mayoral candidate from the right-wing VRMO DPMNE party, confirmed on Wednesday receiving 5,000 euros a month for eight years from the former VMRO DPMNE-led government while her husband was in jail for war crimes.

In an open letter, Tarculovska criticised Macedonian media outlets who revealed the government document authorising the payments and dismissed claims that she enriched herself at the state’s expense.

She insisted that the bulk of the money was spent on monthly trips and hotel costs in The Hague, where her husband, a former police employee, was convicted by the UN tribunal of committing war crimes against ethnic Albanians during the 2001 armed conflict in Macedonia.

She said that after all the travel expenses, only some 250 euro of this monthly sum remained to support her family in Macedonia.

“I have no intention of excusing myself to anyone,” Tarculovska wrote in the letter.

“You cannot defame us... We were not defamed and broken by jail, nor by the enemy,” she added.

The alleged document, initially made public on Facebook earlier this week and signed by the then deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Pesevski, dates from February 22, 2011.

In it, the government appears to grant the sum of 5,000 euro monthly “as financial aid to the family of Johan Tarculovski”, who at that time was in The Hague serving his sentence.

The alleged document from 2011 granting aid to Tarculovski's family.

Estimates suggest that the amount spent on supporting Tarculovski’s family over eight years might amount to some 480,000 euros.

By comparison, Macedonia’s average monthly salary is just over 300 euros.

Former PM Pesevski has not yet commented on the validity of the document.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, convicted ex-police officer Tarculovski of committing war crimes during the 2001 conflict.

He was found guilty of leading a police unit that killed Albanian civilians and committed other atrocities in the village of Ljuboten, near Skopje.

The ICTY freed Tarculovski in 2013, after he served eight years of his 12-year jail term.

The VRMO DPMNE government led by Nikola Gruevski staged a hero’s welcome for him in Skopje on his arrival.

The VMRO DPMNE-led government, which was in power for more than 11 years until it was ousted this May, refused to disclose how much it had spent on Tarculovski and on the other Macedonian defendant at the ICTY, former Interior Minister Ljube Boskoski, who was acquitted.

However, a BIRN investigation in 2013 of the amount, based on estimates from officials and insiders, added up to almost 9.5 million euro.

At the 2016 early general elections, Tarculovski was elected an MP for Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE and in the current local elections, he is running for mayor of Skopje’s municipality of Kisela Voda, where a second round of voting is slated for October 29.

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