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News 12 Mar 14

Macedonia Prosecutor to Probe ‘Missing’ EU Cash

Macedonia’s Public Prosecutor’s Office says it will check opposition claims that some of the funds approved by the EU for motorway construction in Macedonia have disappeared.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Section of the highway from Demir Kapija to Smokvica

Prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski says he will soon launch an ex-officio probe, even if the two institutions who he says are primarily in charge of such cases, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Financial Police, decline to do so.

“We have not received a notice from these two institutions, although legally they should react first, before we do,” Zvrlevski told Faktor news portal.

“If we do not get a notice by the end of this week, we will launch a procedure based on the allegations made in public,” he added.

The opposition Social Democratic Party, SDSM, on Monday said at least €3.5 million of €290 million, most of which is EU funds, approved for the construction of the highway from Demir Kapija to Smokvica, had gone missing through questionable cash withdrawals.

According to alleged bank documents that the party presented, Greek citizens on several occasions last year withdrew hundreds of thousands of euro in cash from the bank account of the Skopje branch of AKTOR ADG Greece, the Greek company hired to build the 28-kilometre stretch.

The party claims that the money was later given to the AKTOR accountant and had not left the country.

The government started constructing the last remaining stretch of Macedonia’s busiest motorway, part of the pan-European Corridor 10, two years ago.

About €130 million are a loan from the European Investment Bank, EIB, €107 million came from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, EBRD, while another €45 million was granted under the EU's Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, IPA.

The Macedonian government has put in €6 million.

So far, no other Macedonian institution, except for the Prosecutor’s Office, has issued a reaction or responded to media calls to comment.

“The strange institutional silence only confirms that there is a mega-scandal hiding behind the motorway construction project,” SDSM spokesperson Petre Silegov told Balkan Insight on Wednesday.

The EIB, the EBRD and the European Commission have also remained silent.

Macedonia main ruling VMRO DPMNE party on Tuesday repeated that the motorway's finances were in order.

“The European Commission, which provides the finances for all completed activities on the motorway, is being informed on a monthly basis,” Elena Kuzmanovska, from VMRO DPMNE, told a press conference on Tuesday.

The party described the allegations against the government as politically motivated and as designed to coincide with the start of the race for the April general and presidential elections.

“This is just another failed attempt by the SDSM to stain infrastructure projects carried out by the government of VMRO DPMNE,” Kuzmanovska said.

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