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News 19 Oct 16

Macedonia Prosecution Seizes 'Skopje 2014' Documents

Macedonia’s Special Prosecution, SJO, has seized documents from the Culture Ministry linked to the construction of the government-sponsored grand revamp called 'Skopje 2014' - which could lead to a criminal investigation into the whole project.

Meri Jordanovska
The Museum of Macedonian Struggle weighs 16 million euro. Photo by: BIRN

Documents that Macedonia's Special Prosecution, SJO, seized on Tuesday with a court order from the Culture Ministry refer to a million-euros-worth tender to build the Museum of VMRO and Macedonian Struggle for Independence, BIRN has learned from informed sources.

The museum, which opened in 2011, was one of the most expensive projects in the disputed revamp of the capital, pushed by the government led by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

According to the contracts and documents obtained by BIRN for its database, “Skopje 2014 Uncovered”, it cost more than 16 million euros.

Although originally estimated at a far lower price, BIRN’s database shows that over the years the price of the museum rose sharply.

This was mainly due to the signing of 123 contracts with firms and individuals for its construction, many of which were annexes to the original contract.

One or more of these contracts may be in the focus of one of the new criminal investigations that the SJO is expected to launch.

The SJO has announced a press conference for Thursday, when it says it will reveal the start of two new investigations.

If one refers to "Skopje 2014", it will be the first-ever serious criminal investigation into this costly project which, according to BIRN’s database, has cost 667 million euros already.

The biggest sum of money for the construction of the museum went to the Macedonian construction company Beton - Stip, which has earned 54 million euros in all from the Skopje 2014 project.

For the museum alone, the company signed contracts with the Culture Ministry worth 6 million euros.

The SJO, which was formed last year to investigate high-level crime as part of an internationally brokered political crisis agreement, has so far launched six investigations.

On September 15, it raised its first indictments in two cases, but many more cases are in the pre-investigation phase.

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