Macedonian Special Prosecution Steps Up Probes

Macedonia’s Special Prosecution is intensifying its investigations into alleged high-level corruption and electoral fraud, summoning three more politicians to give statements.

The Special Prosecution, SJO, which investigates high-level crimes, confirmed that it has summoned ruling VMRO DPMNE legislator Silvana Boneva, opposition Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA head Menduh Thaci and the head of the small opposition Party for Full Emancipation of Roma, PCER, Samka Ibraimovski, to give statements on Monday.

SJO by MIA 123 (1)
Macedonia’s Special Prosecutor

Media cited unnamed sourses inside the SJO as saying that in the last several weeks, its prosecutors have launched some 30 fresh pre-investigation procedures which may result in the opening of formal investigations soon. However, due to secrecy concerns, the SJO refused to comment on these cases in more detail.
The last three politicians to appear before the SJO were all questioned in relation to the wiretapped tapes released last year by the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, that the SJO is tasked with investigating in search of criminal wrongdoing.
Ibraimovski’s party said that it expects its leader to be questioned about allegations of possible “election fraud and discrimination along ethnic lines” in Skopje’s biggest Roma settlement of Shuto Orizari during the 2011 general elections, during which the wiretapped conversations suggest the ruling parties planned to smear him.
In one of the wiretapped conversations, what is alleged to be the voice of former Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska suggests framing Ibraimovski by taking incriminating photos of him.
“There is one gypsy woman that I know through people I have here in the police. She says, give me some cash and I will frame Samka [Ibraimovski], whenever and however you want to photograph him,” Jankulovska allegedly says.

Jankulovska, who is being investigated for electoral fraud, and who neither denied nor confirmed that the wiretapped recordings were authentic, appeared before the SJO last week but said that the prosecutors did not present incriminating evidence against her. The SJO denied this.

After leaving the SJO, Silvana Boneva said that the situation was a “political and media circus” and told reporters that “those who called you here should surely be able to tell you why was I summoned and what was the subject of the conversation”.

What appears to be Boneva’s voice appears on several occasions in the wiretaps. Among other things, what is alleged to be her voice is heard discussing alleged political pressure on private firms ahead of the elections.

In one conversation, Boneva, an MP for the ruling VMRO DPMNE in Strumica, complains to then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski that a large-scale party “racketeering” of firms in the election campaign has had a negative effect on the party’s popularity in the town.

“There is not a single firm in Strumica that avoided the racket,” Boneva’s voice said, adding that the local ruling party MP Slave Gosev had tried “everything, [including] threats to tax even the most unimaginable things to extort money [from companies]”.

DPA leader Menduh Thaci also declined to comment in depth after leaving the SJO. “When the law speaks, politics should be silent,” he said briefly.

The alleged voice of Thaci also appeared in the wiretaps. In one recording, Thaci’s alleged voice is heard swearing allegiance “to the death” to Macedonia’s then secret police chief, former PM Nikola Gruevski’s cousin Saso Mijalkov.

In another recording, Mijalkov allegedly instructs Thaci how the DPA representatives on the Electoral Commission should vote, a suggestion to which Thaci agrees.

The SJO’s escalation of its activities comes against the backdrop of the as yet unresolved political crisis in the country, and amid hopes that by the end of this month, probably on August 31, the leaders of the four main political parties will reconvene to set a new date for early elections.

The polls which some say may take place this autumn are aimed at ending the long-running crisis.

The ruling VMRO DPMNE, whose officials are under the most scrutiny from the released wiretaps, last week criticized the SJO’s announcement that it was stepping up its work as yet another piece “theatre” staged for the public and aimed at smearing its officials ahead of the elections.

22 August, 2016