Macedonia Special Prosecution Probes Procurement Scam

Macedonia’s Special Prosecution, SJO, launched a new investigation on Wednesday, probing whether four Interior Ministry and counter-intelligence staffers committed grave financial crimes.

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Macedonian special prosecutors

Macedonia’s special prosecution, SJO, says it suspects that four Interior Ministry and counter-intelligence operatives illicitly acquired hundreds of thousands of euros of budget money for procuring and then maintaining telecommunications surveillance equipment for the secret police between 2010 and 2015.

They bought the equipment from an unnamed company in Britain – but then sold it on to the police through a Macedonian firm called Finzi dooel – Skopje at a far higher price, the SJO alleged.

“There is a reasonable suspicion that between July 2010 until 2012, the first three suspects misused their office and secured material benefits for the company [Finzi] of more than 577,000 euro,” deputy Special Prosecutor Fatime Fetai told a press conference in Skopje.

The SJO said the fourth suspect helped the group pull off the illicit deals by preparing the legal paperwork.

“Instead of acquiring [the equipment] directly from Britain, they [the suspects] went through the firm registered in Macedonia whose director was a blood relative of the third suspect”, Fetai said, explaining that this was done to then sell it on to the police at far higher prices.

The SJO says it has the original procurement deal and the additional two annexes by which the Interior Ministry paid the full sum to the company.

In addition, the SJO said that the first and second suspect again misused their office between July 2015 and the end of 2015, squeezing another 285,000 euros from the budget by signing a deal with Finzi for maintenance of the equipment.

According to Fetai, this was not necessary and Finzi was not equipped to undertake such maintenance work anyway.

Finzi dooel – Skopje, which also owns NetPress news portal, is not unknown in Macedonia.

The public first heard of the company in 2014 through media reports investigating the media ownership structure in the country and the money being poured into some outlets through government advertisements.

According to the central registry, Finzi was established in 2009 by a company with the same name registered in the United States, which in turn is managed by another company in the tax haven of Cyprus.

The real owner of the US-based Finzi company has never been identified.

“This will be part of our further investigation,” Deputy Special Prosecutor Lence Ristoska told Wednesday’s press conference.

On April 27, Kosta Krpac, 40, who is still registered as manager of the Macedonian Finzy company, was found dead having been shot in the chest in his apartment in Skopje. The death was officially pronounced suicide.

But the SJO then revealed that Krpac had been a witness for them and had reported threats being made to his life.

The SJO has again confirmed that Krpac was a witness in the newly opened investigation but has again declined to comment on who might have threatened him, in order to protect the ongoing investigation.

Krpac’s firm worked was also connected to another suspected corruption case involving the procurement of Israeli surveillance equipment in 2011 for the police.

The latest investigation is the sixth opened by the SJO. The special prosecution was formed last year under an internationally brokered crisis agreement reached last summer to end the political crisis in the country.

The crisis revolves around opposition claims that the head of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski were behind a mass illegal surveillance of over 20,000 people.

All investigations opened thus far have concerned senior members of the ruling party and their associates.

In September 15, the SJO also raised the first indictments in two cases but said that many more cases are in the pre-investigation phase.

Balkan Insight

28 September, 2016