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News 28 Apr 16

Special Prosecution Witness Death Shocks Macedonia

The unexplained death by gunshot of a Macedonian Special Prosecution witness has sparked debate about whether he was killed - or committed suicide - in relation to a criminal investigation.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonian special prosecutors | Photo by: BIRN

After a Special Prosecution witness was found dead in his apartment on Wednesday, speculation has raged in Macedonia about whether he was the victim of a mafia-style murder or killed himself.

Police found Kosta Krpac, 40, manager of the Finzy company that owns NetPress news portal, with a bullet shot in the chest on Wednesday in his apartment in central Skopje. Previously shots were heard fired into a van parked outside his building.

According to the police report, on Wednesday four to five shots were heard near Krpac's apartment after which police found three bullet holes in a van parked in the vicinity.

Later, police said that they suspected that Krpac fired the shots himself.

Krpac had voluntarily talked to the Special Prosecution - set up to target high-level crime -  and was listed as a witness in one of their investigations.

"Cooperation with the witness was flawless and he was an extraordinary person, so news of his death has struck all employees in this prosecution," the Special Prosecution wrote.

The prosecution added that it "possesses evidence concerning many relevant circumstances [linked to Krpac] , including [evidence] about the pressure which Krpac faced, but since this is extraordinary confidential information, it will not be disclosed to the public".

Pro-government media on Wednesday pronounced the death a probable suicide. However some claimed he had come pressure from the Special Prosecution and might have become mentally unstable because of this.

Krpac is one of the 56 people, mostly top politicians and their associates, whose criminal investigations were blocked by President Gjorge Ivanov on April 12.

The presidential pardon added fresh tension to Macedonia's political crisis, sparking anti-government protests in Skopje and in other towns.

The firm that Krpac worked for was connected to a suspected corruption case involving the procurement of Israeli surveillance equipment in 2011 for the Macedonian police.

The opposition Social Democrats raised the issue in one of their so-called "bombshells", batches of illegally wiretapped telephone conversations of state officials.

The then chief of secret police, Saso Mijalkov, whose voice was heard in the wiretaps arranging the procurement, denied claims that he had sought a hefty bribe to smooth the procurement of the surveillance equipment.

Former Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov said speculation that Krpac might have been killed was pointless at this stage.

"We should be patient and wait for the detailed investigation to finish. I hope the investigation will be impartial and allows us to see the motives for this tragedy," he said.

The death comes against a background of a political crisis in Macedonia that 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 an EU accord reached last summer, claims unnamed foreign intelligence services “fabricated” the wiretapping tapes and gave them to the opposition to destabilize the country.

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