North Macedonia’s former prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, who had been granted political asylum in Hungary, was given a seven-year jail sentence for money laundering, Telex reports, citing news source, Balkan Insight.
In a first-instance verdict, the Criminal Court in Skopje ruled that Gruevski had unlawfully acquired over €1.3 million from donations to his party from 2006 to 2012, partly when he was in office. He then used the money to buy properties in Macedonia using an offshore company registered in Belize.
The verdict, handed down in absentia, in addition to the prison sentence, imposed a fine of €3,200.
Gruevski was tried alongside five of his associates, including his godfather, his cousin, who is also the former head of the secret police, businessmen, and their relatives.
Gruevski served as prime minister from 2006 to 2016. His political downfall was caused by a wiretapping scandal. During his premiership, the phone conversations of more than 20,000 people in Macedonia – roughly one in every 100 citizens – were recorded. When this came to light, a wave of nationwide protests began, and in 2017 the social-democratic opposition led by Zoran Zaev came to power, governing North Macedonia with the support of ethnic Albanian parties.
Gruevski has already been sentenced to prison in his country for other corruption-related offenses.
The politician was first convicted in November 2018 for the illegal purchase of a luxury limousine. He was sentenced to two years in prison but fled to Hungary with the alleged help of the Hungarian government before his detention.
On April 11, the US Treasury Department placed Nikola Gruevski under sanctions. Under a presidential decree, sanctions can be imposed on those who have contributed to undermining peace and stability in the Western Balkans. Gruevski is therefore banned from entering the United States.
Several other criminal proceedings are pending against Gruevski in Skopje. The former head of government claims that in his country the judiciary and the prosecutor’s office have become a tool of political blackmail, used to target political opponents and cover up the failures of the government.
Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI