North Macedonia’s fugitive ex-leader sentenced again at home

SKOPJE – A court in North Macedonia on Wednesday handed the country’s fugitive former prime minister Nikola Gruevski a new prison sentence, this time a six-year sentence for abuse of power in funding his party’s headquarters in the capital Skopje.

It was Gruevski’s fifth conviction since leaving office in 2016 after a decade in power. He has denied any wrongdoing and claimed political persecution. Gruevski fled to Hungary in 2018 before serving his first sentence and was granted asylum there.

On Wednesday, the country’s criminal court also ordered the confiscation of the eight-story headquarters of Gruevski’s conservative VMRO-DPMNE party in Skopje, built during his tenure, as well as dozens of other party buildings.

The court ruled that Gruevski and another former VMRO-DPMNE official abused the services of a construction company heavily involved in a separate, large, government-run development project in central Skopje. It turned out that the company had donated the entire €7 million cost of the party headquarters to VMRO-DPMNE, in violation of party funding laws.

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Gruevski was first sentenced in 2018 to two years in prison for unlawfully influencing Interior Ministry officials to buy a luxury armored car.

In 2020 he got another 1 1/2 years in prison for orchestrating violence against his political opponents in 2013. In April 2022 he was sentenced to 7 years for enriching himself with party funds. A new nine-year sentence followed later this month after a court ruled that in 2011 he ordered the demolition of a multi-million euro building owned by a political rival in Skopje.

At least one other case is pending against Gruevski for alleged corruption, electoral irregularities and abuse of office. These allegations stem from a wiretapping scandal that erupted in 2015 when it was revealed that the phone conversations of more than 20,000 people, including politicians, judges, the police, journalists and foreign diplomats, were illegally recorded.

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The scandal brought down Gruevski’s government and he lost the subsequent 2016 election to the opposition Social Democratic Party.

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https://www.local10.com/business/2022/06/08/north-macedonias-fugitive-ex-leader-convicted-anew-at-home/ North Macedonia’s fugitive ex-leader sentenced again at home

Sarah Y. Kim

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