| 20:06 - 02.09.2014

Macedonia PM ‘Emotionally Hurt’ by Bribe Claims

Skopje – Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told a court in Skopje on Tuesday he had suffered emotional pain after the opposition leader accused him of taking bribes to expedite the illegal sale of a bank.

During his testimony in court, Nikola Gruevski insisted that he was hurt deep by the “lies” presented against him by the opposition Social Democrat leader, Zoran Zaev. Gruevski was claiming half-a-million euro in damages for slander but his lawyer on Tuesday told the court that his client decided to reduce the sum to 50 thousand euro, as the case was not about the money.

“I feel very offended. Zaev presented lies and damaged my honour and reputation, inflicting great emotional pain,” the Prime Minister said.

Gruevski says the head of the Social Democrats, SDSM, devised a “scenario for an intensive, wide and aggressive media campaign, presenting lies” against him.

“Zaev said that I was the patron of crime, that I consented to bribery and have evaded taxes,” Gruevski added.

“I would not wish anyone to be in my place,” Gruevski added, explaining that the result of the criminal allegations left him feeling uncomfortable, and having to explain many things to interlocutors quizzing him about the affair.

On his part, Zaev told the court that he had reasonable suspicions for making his claims.

“I had no intention to harm Gruevski’s honour and reputation,” he said, adding that revealing alleged evidence about Prime Minister’s wrongdoing was his legal duty.

“I acted as a citizen according to the laws, but also as a president of the largest opposition party,” Zaev said.

In April, during the general and presidential election campaign, Zaev used a press conference to accuse the premier of being involved in the corrupt sale of Makedonska Banka in 2004 to Serbian businessman Jovica Stefanovic, aka Gazda Nini (‘Boss Nini’).

Zaev presented documents of financial transactions as well as legal papers from Macedonia’s Central Bank that approved the sale of Makedonska Banka’s shares to support his claim that Gruevski took a bribe of 1.5 million euro to expedite the deal.

Zaev’s party also released a lengthy recording of a telephone calls during which, the opposition claimed, Gruevski’s voice could be heard discussing the illegal sale.

During Tuesday’s testimony, Zaev for the first time officially revealed that the recording was given to him by VMRO-DPMNE’s then secretary general, Den Doncev, who also confirmed to him that it was authentic.

He said that before publishing it he had consulted lawyers and that after the recording was released he obtained written confirmation of its authenticity from Serbian audio experts.

Zaev used his appearance in court to ask Gruevski whether Doncev had been VMRO DPMNE’s secretary general at the time of the alleged crime to which Gruevski responded positively.

However, Judge Vesna Kalkovska prevented further discussion of the subject, insisting that she could not now allow questions regarding evidence that the court had previously rejected.

Previously, Judge Kalkovska did not accept the tape as evidence, not explaining her reasons for not doing so. The court also rejected the defense’s proposal to invite Doncev to appear as a witness.

On Monday, Stefanovic, who was allowed to testify as witness, claimed he had never met or talked to any of those involved in the affair.

In July, chief public prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski said that “there are no legal grounds for opening an investigation into Gruevski” because more than ten years had passed since the case was reported, which rendered the accusations “out of date”, according to criminal law.

However, Gruevski pursued his slander suit against Zaev, denying any wrongdoing on his part and insisting that the alleged evidence was fabricated by the opposition./balkaninsight/

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