Macedonian prosecutors probe suspected money laundering by members of former government

Macedonian prosecutors probe suspected money laundering by members of former government
Serbian opposition leader Vuk Jeremic claimed 14 Oktobar was one of the companies involved in the scheme.
By bne IntelliNews December 10, 2017

Macedonia’s public prosecution office has launched a probe into allegations that officials from the former government led by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party were involved in laundering money via Serbian firms.

The probe was launched after Serbia’s former foreign minister and leader of the conservative People’s Party, Vuk Jeremic, claimed that officials close to Macedonia’s former prime minister VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski had used Serbian firms as part of a money laundering scheme and as a destination to extract money from Macedonia.

“The pre-investigation procedure was based on articles published by several Macedonian media concerning Jeremic’s statement reportedly for money laundering in Serbia by senior Macedonian officials,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement on December 7.

The probe also involves an alleged connection to individuals and companies from Serbia and the Czech Republic.

The prosecution office said it is taking all necessary actions in coordination with other relevant institutions to uncover any criminal offences.

On December 1, Jeremic told Serbian broadcaster TV Nasa that the schemes involved the illegal transfer of money gained from illegal activities in Macedonia via offshore companies, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic into Serbian businesses, according to his party’s statement.

Jeremic said that that in Macedonia, “the autocratic and deeply corrupt regime of [Serbian president Aleksandar] Vucic's political brother, Nikola Gruevski, was overthrown" this year.

"Then people from this regime, and most of all, Saso Mijalkov, the ex-chief of the secret police and the right hand of Gruevski, started in panic to extract money gained from corrupt activities in Macedonia,“ Jeremic accused.

Gruevski and his cousin Mijalkov are already under investigation in several cases launched by the Special Prosecution Office (SPO) in Macedonia, which is tasked to probe high-level crime. The SPO was set up after illegally wiretapped conversations were published, apparently revealing the involvement of top level officials in corrupt activities, which eventually brought down Gruevski’s government after 10 years in power.

Jeremic also asked the Serbian authorities to investigate links between Vojislav Sparavalo, director of Serbian firm SCMG, who recently bought another local firm, 14 Oktobar, and Gruevski’s former regime in Macedonia. 

The Serbian government announced in October that Czechoslovak Group had taken over 14 Oktobar, a company specialised in the production of heavy machinery and equipment. 14 Oktobar was one of the leading companies in the central Serbian town of Krusevac with over 8,000 workers.

However, Jeremic told broadcaster TV Nasa that it wasn’t true that a strategic partner had been found for the bankrupt 14 Oktobar. He claimed Czechoslovak Group had bought only the head office of the company for €4mn and that the transaction had been made via Belgrade-based SCMG by concluding a direct agreement without a public auction.

“Only the property was taken, but the dismissed workers were not returned to work," Jeremic said.

Regarding the connection between Mijalkov and the Serbian deal, local media reported, citing data from the Czech central registry, that Sparavalo together with Mijalkov has owned a firm in the Czech Republic since 2003, which was liquidated and then re-activated several times.

There are already rumours that Mijalkov, owned several firms in the Czech Republic when he was secret police chief between 2006 and 2015. Also, he  is widely believed to run a number of lucrative businesses in Macedonia, estimated to be worth several tens of millions of euros.

Jeremic urged the Serbian authorities to investigate all corruption cases connected with former Macedonian officials.

However, VMRO-DPMNE has denied all the claims, saying that neither Gruevski nor Mijalkov is connected with privatisations of Serbian companies.