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News 30 Mar 16

Macedonia Police 'Destroyed Evidence of Illegal Wiretaps'

Macedonia’s Special Prosecution said it is probing five people, including a former Interior Minister, for alleged illegal destruction of equipment used for large-scale illegal wiretapping.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Macedonian special prosecutors | Photo: MIA

Macedonia's Special Prosecution, tasked with investigating alleged grave crimes on the part of senior officials, told a press conference on Wednesday that it suspects a former Interior Minister, as well as senior officials in the Secret Police, as part of a scheme that destroyed equipment used to illegally eavesdrop.

The prosecution said that in the new investigation, codenamed “Fortress”, it suspects five people misused their office to organize the destruction of surveillance equipment in March, April and May 2015.

Some of them are also being investigated for falsifying documents in order to make it look as if the equipment was destroyed a year earlier, in 2014, before the opposition publicised its claims about mass illegal surveillance.

The Interior Minister was then Gordana Jankuloska. The prosecution confirmed it has issued a search and arrest warrant for one of the suspects, but not for the former Interior Minister.
 
“The investigation is ongoing... We have evidence that other people also may have been involved,” Deputy Special Prosecutor Lence Risteska said.

She added that they hope to gather more evidence that would reveal who masterminded and organized the wiretapping in the past few years.
 
The opposition Social Democrats insist the masterminds were the former Prime Minister and head of main ruling VMRO DPMNE party, Nikola Gruevski, and his cousin, the former secret police chief, Saso Mijalkov.

Gruevski says the tapes were “fabricated” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country.
 
The Special Prosecution said it believed that the suspects destroyed two sets of communications surveilance equipment that the secret police, the UBK, had at the time, one old and a new one, thus causing damage worth more than 10 million euros.

The prosecution said the equipment was first transported out of the UBK into a metal scrapyard where it was pressed.  Afterwards, the same equipment was put into a grinder in another scrapyard.

Last May, one of the suspects allegedly requested that the Finance Ministry delete the destroyed equipment from the official records. Another suspect was tasked with adding false dates to the documents related to the destruction so that it appeared as if it happened on December 31, 2014.

All suspects face sentences that range from five to 20 years in jail if found guilty.

The Special prosecution, which was formed last September as part of an EU-brokered political accord to reolve the political crisis in Macedonia, has thus far launched official investigations into two more cases.

One, codenamed “Titanic”, pinpoints former ministers and senior officials as the main figures suspected of organising fraud during past elections.

The other case, “Torture”, is probing a former secret police chief and several officers for allegedly using torture while arresting Ljube Boskoski, a former interior minister and fierce critic of the government.

In a recent report, the prosecution said it has probed 80 suspects in 30 cases and will soon reveal other cases. The number of cases and suspects may increase, it said.

The Social Democrats started releasing batches of covertly recorded tapes last February. The opposition insists the tapes contain incriminating evidence against many senior officials, including proof of high-level corruption, the government grip’s on the judiciary, prosecution, businesses and media, politically-motivated arrests and jailings, electoral violations and even an attempted cover-up of a murder of a man by a police officer.


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