Macedonia’s ex-PM Gruevski faces prison

Macedonia’s Appeals Court has confirmed a two-year prison sentence for former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, for the illicit purchase of a luxury Mercedes.

The sentence was previously issued by the Skopje Criminal Court earlier this year. In the case, codenamed Tank, the former PM was found guilty of illegally soliciting the secret purchase of a bullet-proof Mercedes worth 580,000 euros from former Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska, which he planned to use for his own purposes. A trial heard he had used his influence over a member of the tender commission to promote one car dealer to supply the Mercedes. Mr Gruevski then received a kickback from the dealer, prosecutors said.

Mr Gruevski led the Macedonian government from 2006 to 2016 with his nationalist conservative VMRO-DPMNE party. The statement of the Appeals Court decided that the complaints of the accused were unfounded and confirmed the original verdict in full.

The former PM does still have the option of appealing to the Supreme Court and seeking the postponement of the sentence. However, this will not necessarily prevent him from being summoned to prison while the Supreme Court considers the case. Prosecutors stated that Mr Gruevski has a two-week deadline to turn himself into prison. In turn, Mr Gruevski told local media he would use “all legal means to fight the prison sentence.”

Three years ago, in May 2015, Macedonian citizens protested against the Gruevski government, after charges were brought against current PM Zoran Zaev, then the opposition leader. Mr Zaev responded by alleging that Mr Gruevski had 20,000 Macedonian officials and other figures wiretapped and covered up the murder of a young man by a police officer in 2011. Gruevski’s government denied responsibility for the wiretapping, blaming foreign spy agencies. The Pržino Agreement then ended the political stalemate and brought Mr Zaev’s SDSM party (the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia) into office.