Saturday, June 19, 2021

Former North Macedonia PM Gruevski indicted in corruption case

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North Macedonia’s Organised Crime Prosecution on Wednesday filed charges against the country’s fugitive former prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, and some of his former close associates, in a high-profile case linked to the illicit purchase of building sites.

The charges focus on the alleged purchase and concealment of the real ownership of three valuable building lots in the elite Skopje suburb of Vodno, another building site and two apartments. The charges also cover two building lots in the town of Krushevo.

The prosecution has called for the seizure of the real estate in question, which has an estimated total value of 1.5 million euros.

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Gruevski is the first accused in a case concerning six persons. He is charged with money laundering and illegal acquisition of property, as well as concealing that he was its true owner.

His best man, Risto Novacevski, a well as businessmen Nenad Josifovic, Orce Kamcev and Kamcev’s mother, Ratka Kamceva, are charged with money laundering; Gruevski’s cousin, the former secret police chief Saso Mijalkov, is charged with aiding money laundering.

According to the charges, Gruevski used money drawn from donations made to the then ruling VMRO DPMNE party, which he then led, to purchase the properties, using an offshore company registered in Belize.

Gruevski allegedly obtained some 1.3 million euros between 2006 and 2012 which he used to buy the attractive sites.

The prosecution claims that after Gruevski learned in mid-2012 that a 11,000-square-metre plot was on sale in Vodno, he asked his cousin, Mijalkov, to help him buy it, and also hide that he was the real owner. Mijalkov, then head of the secret police, then included Nenad Josifovic in the scheme.

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“The defendant S.M. contacted defendant N.J., who owned an already registered offshore company in Belize, and agreed that this company would be the founder of a domestic legal entity that would be used to purchase the land. Although he knew that his legal entity would be used to cover up the real owner of the land buyer, defendant N.J. in agreement with the defendant S.M. established a legal entity in Skopje,” the indictment says.

In 2015, according to the prosecution, Kamcev and his family entered the scheme, by having their own company take over the share of the offshore company from Belize in the Skopje company, “although they knew the property was acquired through criminal activities”.

Besides the three plots in Vodno, the indictment covers another construction plot of 2,729 square metres in the centre of Skopje, two apartments in Skopje, as well as two building lots in Krushevo, worth almost 800,000 euros in all. The prosecution claims that Risto Novacevski was only their fictitious owner, and the real owner was again Gruevski.

Gruevski, who ruled the country from 2006 to 2016, fled to Hungary in 2018 to avoid serving a two-year jail sentence for the illicit purchase of a luxury limousine.

In a post on his Facebook, he said the latest case was also politically motivated. “The criminal Zoran Zaev [the current Prime Minister] continues with the politically motivated pursuits and with terror against those who don’t think like him,” he wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.

Gruevski accused his political arch-rival of putting pressure on people to become false witnesses in this latest case against him.

The prosecution first opened an investigation into this case in October last year.

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While Gruevski enjoys political asylum in Hungary, Mijalkov is already in detention, after in a first-instance verdict in February found him guilty and sentenced him to jail for the mass illegal wiretapping of people.

In March, Kamcev was also put in detention, citing the likelihood of possible escape in connection with this case, which his lawyers called ungrounded.

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