Ex- North Macedonia Prime Minister given fourth prison sentence

The former prime minister of North Macedonia has been convicted for the fourth time since 2018 and sentenced to nine years in prison for abuse of power.

Nikola Gruevski was found guilty of ordering the demolition of a multi-million euro residential and business complex in Skopje in 2011.

Prosecutors labelled the incident an act of political revenge and said the complex belonged to the leader of a small party who had just left Gruevski’s government.

Three other defendants were also imprisoned in the case on Friday, including North Macedonia’s former transport minister, the former mayor of Skopje and a municipal official.

The three suspects were found guilty of falsely declaring the construction illegal and facilitating its demolition with explosives.

They had argued that demolition was justified because the complex had not been built properly.

The court in North Macedonia ordered the three to jointly pay €11 million in damages, in addition to the prison sentences.

The 51-year-old former prime minister has been living in exile in Hungary for more than three years.

He fled North Macedonia in November 2018 after he was sentenced to two years in prison for using a €600,000 Mercedes bought with public money for personal use.

Two years later, he was also convicted in absentia of inciting violence and given an additional 18-month sentence.

In April, a court also sentenced Gruevski to seven years in prison for embezzling €1.3 million in party donations.

The charges all relate to a 2015 wiretapping scandal when it emerged that the phone conversations of more than 20,000 people — including politicians, judges, police, journalists and foreign diplomats — had been illegally recorded.

The scandal triggered an early election in 2016 in which Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party lost to Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev.

North Macedonia has unsuccessfully asked Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban — an ally of Gruevski — to extradite the former nationalist leader. / Argumentum.al with Euronews and AFP