News 16 Sep 13

High-Level ‘Spy Ring’ Bust Rocks Macedonia

Macedonian police have arrested 17 people including the parliamentary speaker’s top aide on suspicion of involvement in an espionage ring working on behalf of a foreign government.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

“The persons are suspected of espionage and cooperation with a foreign intelligence service, for revealing classified documents… containing state secrets,” police spokesperson Ivo Kotevski told a press conference on Monday, confirming the 17 arrests.

Macedonia's state news agency MIA has reported that the 17 detainees include former police and intelligence officials, politicians and a movie director as well as Marijan Madzovski, the chief of speaker Trajko Veljanovski’s office in parliament.

During the operation, which was dubbed ‘Spy’, police said they seized an archive of classified data contained in laptops, mobile phones and on memory cards.  16 pieces of weaponry were also seized, police said.

Kotevski did not reveal which ‘foreign service’ the authorities believe was involved in running the spy ring, saying only that the suspects’ activities were coordinated.

He said that three other suspects are still at large.

Another prominent figure reported to have been held was Vane Cvetanov, former head of the state agency to combat money-laundering and spokesperson for a small right-wing opposition party called VMRO – People’s Party.

In 2010 Cvetanov publicly accused Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his ruling VMRO DPMNE party of stealing millions of euros from the state budget. Upon recieving documents from Cvetanov, the prosecution never launched investigation.

The police also arrested retired counter-intelligence agency employee Aleksandar Dinevski as well as the former police general Goran Stojkov who led a special police unit during the 2001 armed conflict with ethnic Albanian forces in the country, media reports said.

Macedonian movie director Boris Damovski, famous for his TV animation, a weekly political satire called ‘Ednooki’, which was cancelled last year, was another of those arrested, media reported.

Most of the arrested have, at some point in their careers, been seen as close to the ruling VMRO DPMNE party. However, with the exception of Madzovski, the rest have not held top state offices in recent years.

The opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, described the arrests as politically motivated, claiming they were intended to spread terror among ordinary people.

“The number of political prisoners in Macedonia is growing rapidly. The government is obviously determined to fill up the prisons with people who oppose it. They violently prosecute, arrest, try, lustrate and punish their opponents,” the SDSM said in a statement.

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