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News 25 Apr 16

Macedonia President Denies Offshore Wealth Claim

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov has denied any financial impropriety after the opposition presented papers linking his relatives to a firm in Panama.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov | Photo by: president.gov.mk

Macedonian President Gjorgje Ivanov has denied claims that either he or his family have exploited secretive offshore tax regimes in Panama to conceal their wealth.

His cabinet on Sunday described accusations from the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, as an "attempt through lies and manipulation to portray Ivanov's family as part of a criminal gang". It said the President was willing to see those accusations tested in court.

On Sunday, SDSM spokesperson Petre Shilegov said Ivanov's close family was directly linked to businesses registered in Panama.

Shilegov presented documents from the Macedonian central registry that he said show that Saso Tonevski, the President's brother-in-law, had business relations with the firm LIP Corp Panama City and that LIP Corp was a founder of the Macedonian firm Delfino Travel Balkans.

"Just days ago, when the [so-called "Panama Papers"] scandal about money laundering in Panama began to spread, Delfino Travel ceased to exist and has been deleted from the [Macedonian] central registry. What is Ivanov's family hiding?" Shilegov asked.

Ivanov's cabinet did not deny the existence of the said firm or its links to the President's family, but said that Delfino Travel was inactive and had not been used for any dubious activities.

Ivanov's cabinet called on the SDSM to "publish every transfer of money through that firm and to reveal all who have been involved in any way in that firm, which by the way was established in Skopje and never started trading".

In April, media outlets started publishing leaked documents that revealed how numerous world leaders, politicians and celebrities have exploited the offshore tax regime in Panama to hide their wealth.

The claims made about the Macedonian President comes at a time when he is under increased pressure from the US and the EU to withdraw his April 12 decision to stop criminal investigations against country's top politicians and their associates.

Ivanov's controversial decision has sparked massive anti and pro-government protests. Critics accuse him of undermining the rule of law and the work of the Special Prosecution, which is tasked with investigating high-level crime, mostly among the ranks of leaders of the ruling parties.

The crisis in Macedonia revolves around opposition claims that the government formerly led by Nikola Gruevski was responsible for the illegal wiretapping of over 20,000 people as well as other crimes.

Gruevski, who took power in 2006 and resigned as Prime Minister earlier this year under the terms of the EU accord reached last summer, claims that unnamed foreign intelligence services “fabricated” the wiretapping tapes and gave them to the opposition to destabilize the country.

President Ivanov, who is now in his second term in office, was nominated as presidential candidate by Gruevski's ruling VMRO DPMNE party.

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