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News 30 Jun 17

Ousted Macedonian PM Risks Years Behind Bars

Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski could spend up to 27 years in jail if found guilty in all five cases raised against him by the Special Prosecution.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski. Photo: MIA

The head of the right-wing VMRO DPMNE party and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski could face up to 27 years in jail if he is found guilty in all five cases for which he is indicted by the special prosecution, SJO.

Before the SJO’s July 1 deadline to press charges expires, it indicted Gruevski in five cases codenamed “TNT”, “Titanic”, “Traektorija” [trajectory] “Tank” and one dubbed "Shamari" [slapping].

In the first case, codenamed “TNT”, the SJO has indicted Gruevski for “misuse of office”, for which the maximum sentence is three years in jail.

In this case, he is suspected of ordering the demolition of a building that was being constructed by his former political ally, Fijat Canovski, as an act of political retaliation after Canovski’s small party, the Party for European Future, PEI, quit the former ruling coalition led by Gruevski.

The second case, codenamed “Titanic”, is far more complex and indicts Gruevski and other top-ranking VMRO DPMNE officials for allegedly masterminding electoral fraud in 2013.

In this case, Gruevski is charged on three accounts: criminal association, for which he is faces a jail sentence from one to five years; misuse of assets during an election campaign, for which the lowest sentence is five years; violation of the freedom of voters, for which the minimum jail sentence is three years.

In the third case, codenamed, “Traektorija”, Gruevski is indicted for receiving an award for unlawful influence for which the law envisages a jail sentence of one to three years.

In this case, the SJO has indicted Gruevski and several of his associates who are believed to have broken the Public Procurement Law by awarding a 570-million-euro contract to construct two highway stretches to a preferred Chinese construction company.

In the fourth case, “Tank”, Gruevski faces an identical indictment to that in “Traektorija”, which may add another one to three years of jail time, if he is found guilty.

This case centres on the purchase of a 575,000 euro luxury limousine that was allegedly obtained to satisfy Gruevski’s personal wishes.

In addition, Gruevski is already on trial in a fifth case dubbed "Shamari" where he is accused of ordering an attack on an opposition mayor and his municipality HQ in 2013. He is indicted of enticement of a criminal act against public order for which the sentence is from six months to five years in jail.

By adding the maximum jail sentences in all of these cases together, theoretically, could Gruevski face up to 27 years in jail.

He also remains the main suspect in at least one other large and complex investigation that the SJO launched in May 22 under the codename “Talir” [silver coin].

In this, Gruevski and ten other VMRO DPMNE members are suspected of illegally financing the former ruling party through money laundering.

Chief Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva on Thursday said the SJO would not be raising indictments in this case for now, but would continue to investigate it.

“A one-month period was simply too little to investigate all suspicions in relation to this case, which took place over an eight-year period,” Janeva said.

She expressed hope that, after the SJO deadline to raise indictments expires, the case would one way or another be eventually processed in court.

This could happen either through parliament extending the SJO’s deadline or by the regular prosecution, which has no deadlines for pressing indictments, taking the case over.

After Thursdays' press conference at which the SJO launched charges against 94 people in relation to 17 cases, Gruevski - whose party was in power from 2006 until this May - countered that his party was under attack by anti-patriotic forces.

“This is a classic political and anti-Macedonian construction”, aimed at taking down some 100 people from the VMRO DPMNE leadership, he told a press conference.

“The historic responsibility of those who are now riding on a wave of euphoria and think this petty pleasure will last forever will soon be tested,” Gruevski added, saying that his party would also stop being a cooperative opposition.

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