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News 26 Mar 15

New Tapes Show Macedonian PM Fixing Cuts

The opposition says its latest tapes show the Macedonian Prime Minister solicited millions of euros from companies as sweeteners while fixing tendering procedures.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian PM, Nikola Gruevski | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

At the 14th opposition press conference devoted to wiretapping allegations in Macedonia on Thursday, the Social Democrats released tapes that allegedly feature the voices of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his associates discussing taking cuts worth millions of euros.

One batch of tapes reveals what appears to be the voices of Gruevski and Transport Minister Mile Janakieski discussing how to extort a hefty 25 million euro from a company that had been selected to construct two motorway stretches.

The opposition said the cost of the two stretches of road from Miladinovci to Stip and from Kicevo to Ohrid, currently being built with a Chinese loan of 580 million euro, was intentionally inflated so that extra illegal profits could be made.

The opposition said the tapes reveal how Gruevski, after arranging the construction of the first stretch for 270 million euros, later intervened with the same firm to build the other stretch from Kicevo to Ohrid.

The voices of Gruevski and Janakieski can be heard discussing taking a cut of 5 per cent on the cost, or 15 to 18 million euros, for the Kicevo-Ohrod stretch and a total of over 25 million for the two stretches of motorways.

"Will they accept this much?" Gruevski's voice asks. "Well, if we tell them, they will... following the same analogy as before," Janakieski replies. "Try 15, see how they will react and then call me," Gruevski decides.

The two voices appear concerned to keep the matter under wraps. "Be very
 careful... choose your words, so we do not get entangled, so that if they have us on something [recorded], they cannot make a strong case" Gruevski's voice tells Janakieski.

The Macedonian parliament ratified the deal to build the two stretches of motorway, financed by the Chinese loan, on October 25, 2013. Construction began in February 2014.

Opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev told the press conference on Thursday that for the Kicevo-Ohrod stretch alone, the price was finally set at 373 million euro, which was 103 million euro more than the price proposed in a study carried out by Macedonia's Enterprise for Building and Maintenance of Roads.

"Do we need more evidence to realize what kind of actor is leading our country? Gruevski, you still have a chance to resign willingly and release Macedonia," Zaev said.

Another two tapes include talks between Gruevski and Janakieski in which they prepare to fix the tender for the construction of the railway line from Kumanovo to Beljakovce, part of a wider plan to link railways in Macedonia to those in neighbouring Bulgaria.

In the tapes, Gruevski appears to speak using codes, using only the first letters of the countries from where the firms applying for the work come - Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria.

The two men to try to pinpoint one firm they could contact and negotiate with.

Opposition SDSM leader, Zoran Zaev | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

"Can we go with the second one... We should avoid talking to someone and then telling him that he has flaws. In that case, he will start blabbing," Gruevski tells Janakieski.

Construction of the line worth some 50 million euro begun in March 2014 and was awarded to a German company.

Another tape reveals a conversation between Gruevski and what appears to be the head of the State Power Plant in the town of Bitola, Vlatko Cingovski.

Gruevski can be heard instructing Cingovski how to help Goran Ivanovski, the owner of Sitel TV, a prominent pro-government TV station, win a tender for coal extraction.

"Help them somehow... You should see them and organize something so that everyone is satisfied... You know why the man from Kratov [a small town] is so important to us," Gruevski tells Cingovski.

Cingovski's voice later explains that one firm has to be chosen and that the best way to satisfy all the aspirants would be if they all formed a consortium.

Ruling VMRO DPMNE dismissed the latest SDSM revelations saying that "Zaev is trying to distract the public and avoid responsibility for his own scandals and crimes through constructed materials placed in a manipulative context. This will not help him."

"Justice and truth will catch up with him and he won't be saved by some cut materials or foreign centres. Today's allegations by Zaev are utterly tendentious, untrue and completely manipulative," VMRO DPMNE said in a press release.

Zaev started revealing his tapes last month, accusing the Prime Minister and leader of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party of orchestrating the surveillance of some 20,000 people in the country. He maintains that he obtained them from sources in the country's intelligence services.

Gruevski has insisted that the tapes were created by unnamed "foreign secret services" in collaboration with the opposition in order to destabilise the country.

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