By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonia’s former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is appealing against his recent two-year jail sentence but is also awaiting court rulings in four more ongoing cases against him.
The recent two-year sentence handed down to Nikola Gruevski Macedonia’s former conservative Prime Minister and ex-leader of the right-wing VMRO DPMNE party – for involvement in the illicit secret purchase of a luxury Mercedes – is not the end of his judicial troubles.
Gruevski currently faces criminal charges in four more cases, three of which have already gone to trial.
Apart from the Mercedes case, codenamed ‘Tank’, the Special Prosecution, SJO – in charge of investigating allegations of high-level crime – also indicted Gruevski in the cases codenamed ‘Titanic”, ‘TNT”, ‘Traektorija’ (‘Trajectory’) and ‘Shamari’ (‘Slapping’).
In all of these cases, Gruevski’s defence insists he is innocent. Gruevski has repeated on many occasions that he sees the trials as politically motivated by the current Social Democrats-led government.
In the first case, codenamed ‘Titanic’, seen by judicial experts as the most complex, the SJO indicted Gruevski and other top-ranking VMRO DPMNE officials for allegedly masterminding electoral fraud in 2013.
In this case, Gruevski is charged on three counts: criminal association, for which he is faces a jail sentence from one to five years; misuse of assets during an election campaign, for which the lowest sentence is five years, and violation of the freedom of voters, for which the minimum jail sentence is three years.
In the second case, codenamed ‘TNT’, the SJO has indicted Gruevski for misuse of office, for which the maximum sentence is three years in jail.
In this case, he is suspected of ordering the demolition of a building that was being constructed by his former political ally, Fijat Canovski, as an act of political retaliation after Canovski’s small party, the Party for European Future, PEI, quit the former ruling coalition led by Gruevski.
In the third case, codenamed ‘Traektorija’, Gruevski is indicted for exerting unlawful influence, which could bring a jail sentence of one to three years.
In this case, the SJO has indicted Gruevski and several of his associates who are believed to have broken the Public Procurement Law by awarding a 570-million-euro contract to construct two highway stretches to a preferred Chinese construction company.
In the fourth case, dubbed ‘Shamari’, Gruevski is already on trial, accused of ordering an attack on an opposition mayor and his municipality HQ in 2013. He is indicted for inciting a criminal act against public order, for which the sentence runs from six months to five years in jail.
Gruevski also remains the main suspect in at least one other large and complex investigation that the SJO launched in May last year under the codename ‘Talir’ (‘Silver Coin’).
In this case, Gruevski and ten other VMRO DPMNE members are suspected of illegally financing the former ruling party through money-laundering.
All of these cases stem from the content of illegal wiretaps that the former opposition Social Democrats released in batches during 2015.
The airing of these secretly-recorded tapes of officials’ conversations, along with the then opposition’s claims that they originated from within the secret police – and that Gruevski had orchestrated the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people – created a deep political crisis.
After 11 years in government, Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE party was ousted from power in May last year.
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