Macedonian businessmen to sue ex-PM over demolition of residential complex

Macedonian businessmen to sue ex-PM over demolition of residential complex
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje March 31, 2017

Macedonian businessman Fiat Canoski and his son Sefer Canoski plan to sue former prime minister and leader of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, Nikola Gruevski, over the demolition of the Kosmos residential complex in Skopje in 2011. 

Gruevski’s alleged involvement in the case was revealed by one of the illegally wiretapped conversations released by opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) leader Zoran Zaev in 2015, which sparked a huge scandal and plunged the country into a deep political crisis. 

The Kosmos complex was demolished in August 2011, when Fiat Canoski's political party PEI left the ruling coalition led by Gruevski and partnered instead with the SDSM. 

The wiretapped conversations indicated that the reason for the demolition was political revenge for Canoski’s support for the pro-opposition broadcaster A1, which was closed in 2011 by the tax authorities.

“That man [Gruevski] inflicted immeasurable damage on us,” Sefer Canoski, was quoted saying by online news provider Faktor.mk. Sefer Canoski is general manager at FON University in Skopje, owned by his father Fiat.

“We believe that the institutions can contribute to the democratic development of this country and that, encouraged by this democratic spirit, we have the right to decide about choices we make. My father Fiat, as the president of a political party, decided not to be in coalition [with Gruevski]," Sefer Canoski told Faktor.mk, explaining the moves of his father.

Fiat Canoski told bne IntelliNews last year that he had suffered losses of €58mn due to the demolition of the building.

In April 2016, the Special Prosecution Office (SPO) set up to probe high-level crime launched an investigation dubbed “TNT” related to the illegal demolition of the Kosmos complex.

Macedonia is in deep political crisis and has been without a government after the December 11 election. Daily protests are being organised by civil organisation For United Macedonia, unofficially supported by VMRO-DPMNE. 

The case against Gruevski is not expected to affect the political situation, although it highlights one of the reasons why VMRO-DPMNE is so determined to hold onto power. The party has sought to undermine the work of the SPO, which has launched cases against several of its top officials. 

Gruevski, appeared in court in Skopje on June 10, 2016, after being summoned in relation to the TNT case. Former Transport Minister Mile Janakieski and Toni Trajkovski, the mayor of Skopje’s Gazi Baba district where the complex was located, were also summoned and appeared before the court. However, the judge decided not to take precautionary measures against them despite a request from the SPO.

According to the special prosecutors, Gruevski ordered the demolition of the building, acting in cooperation with the Gazi Baba authorities.

The municipal authorities claimed that the building was not in line with the project plan and was 1.43 metres higher than originally planned. However, according to a study by the Skopje-based Faculty of Architecture, the demolition was illegal, special prosecutors noted at the time.

The local firm engaged to demolish the Kosmos complex was Transmet, owned by Sead Kocan, a businessman and close associate of Gruevski. Kocan was also the owner of TV Nova, a small local broadcaster.

Kocan was recently involved in another SPO case as one of three suspects being probed concerning a €17.2mn coal extraction tender called by state-run power producer ELEM. He is now on the run, but the Macedonian police have issued an international warrant for him.

Sefer Canoski accused Kocan of benefitting from his close relationship with the government and claimed that the Kosmos complex was completely legally built.

“What happened was intentional and someone should be held responsible for the injustice,” Sefer Canoski was quoted as saying by Faktor.mk.

“Maybe [the demolition] was aimed to silence other businessmen and media, that have different opinions, but we will be going through all this and will push the judicial process to the end,” Canoski said.

The Canoski family has also filed a lawsuit with the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“We expect a positive response from the court [in Strasbourg] in 2017,” Sefer Canoski was cited.

 

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