Macedonian ex-PM Gruevski appears in court in demolition case

Macedonian ex-PM Gruevski appears in court in demolition case
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje June 12, 2016

Macedonia's former prime minister and leader of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, appeared in court in Skopje on June 10 after being summoned in relation to the demolition of a €58mn residential complex in Skopje, a project being developed by one of his political opponents.

Gruevski was summoned after President Gjorge Ivanov recently rescinded the pardons he previously issued to politicians including Gruevski, allowing the Special Prosecutor Office (SPO) to resume its work. Prosecutors launched an investigation, dubbed "TNT" related to the illegal demolition of the Kosmos residential building, a project launched by Fijat Canoski, in April. Gruevski was not accused at the time because of Ivanov's pardon.

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 Gruevski, Janakieski and Trajkovski, as requested by the SPO, broadcaster Telma reported. Gruevski's hearing lasted one hour.

Canoski, a businessman, politician and former Gruevski ally, told bne IntelliNews during a recent Colourful Revolution anti-government protest that he suffered losses of €58mn due to the demolition of the building.

Canoski is the leader of the small Party for European Future (PEI), which was part of the coalition government established by VMRO-DPMNE in 2006, and a former MP. The complex was demolished in August 2011 after PEI left the coalition and partnered instead with the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). 

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

The municipal authorities, which carried out the demolition order, 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.

Gruevski denied any wrongdoing in a party statement issued on June 10 and hinted that the SPO is working under the influence of the opposition SDSM.

“Today I was summoned to court because Katica Janeva [head of the SPO] expressed doubt that I will leave the country and won’t appear before the court. I do not know if anyone believes such a thing,” Gruevski said in the statement.

According to Gruevski, any questions will be made clear after the upcoming general election.

“The election that will be held, and whenever it takes place, will be the clearest response to the SDSM political leadership,” Gruevski said.

Early elections were scheduled for June 5, but later were postponed as there were no conditions for a free and democratic vote. German special envoy for Macedonia, Johannes Haindl, recently called on Macedonian leaders to agree on a date to hold the election as soon as possible.

Despite the daily anti-government protests in Macedonia, according to the latest polls, conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI), VMRO-DPMNE leads the SDSM with 27% support against 18%. Gruevski is supported by 21% of respondents while SDSM leader Zoran Zaev has 9% support.

In a survey published on June 8, IRI said that political instability in Macedonia is escalating, while confidence in democratic institutions is falling.

Almost daily anti-government protests started in mid-April following Ivanov's decision to pardon 56 people, including top politicians under criminal investigation, which was later annulled following huge domestic and international pressure.