After the aborted police raid in Skopje’s GTC shopping mall yesterday, the question of whether politicians close to the Zaev regime are going to be investigated for apparent mining of bitcoin using stolen electricity.

The raid was conducted after the Infomax news site filmed the set of bitcoin mining rigs, that were hooked up in the GTC basement – the large shopping mall has long been run by Government appointees – mainly from the political party close to late Roma politician Amdi Bajram. According to the initial reports, the operation was led by Amdi’s sons, Gabriel and Bajram, while a member of the board of GTC managers is the wife of Saso Tasevski, Zaev’s former bodyguard who is now head of the uniformed police bureau in the Interior Ministry. Tasevski (pictured) is known for firing in the Parliament to protect his boss during the April 27th 2017 incident, for which he was richly rewarded by Zaev. His high rank in the Ministry could explain why the police was promptly recalled while still conducting the raid, and shortly after the Interior Ministry issued a statement claiming that the electricity connection was not illegal and that bitcoin mining is not illegal either.

– The police withdrew from the raid on orders from Minister Spasovski or another high ranking Interior Ministry official. It is an open secret that a coalition partner of outgoing Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is stealing electricity from the GTC grid. The board of the mall includes Trajanka Tasevska, wife of the director of the uniformed police bureau Saso Tasevski and head of the SDSM women’s organization in Kisela Voda. This means that the Interior Ministry is covering up for criminals who are stealing electricity because they are linked to the party, the VMRO-DPMNE party said in a statement.

Electricity is a big factor in the cost of mining bitcoin, and parts of Macedonia where you can avoid paying the electricity bills have become popular with miners. This also goes for people who have access to companies where they can avoid paying the electricity bill. The operation in GTC would have to pay a higher – commercial price – for the electricity, while setting up the same rigs at home would be far cheaper – meaning that those responsible were almost certainly using an illegal connection and spreading the electricity bills between all GTC shop owners.

Amdi Bajram was known for changing sides in Macedonian politics, shifting between SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE. He has been an ally of SDSM since their powergrab in 2017, despite the fact that his son Elvis Bajram was badly beaten by SDSM affiliated thugs only months before. In the latest local elections, Gabriel Bajram was elected as Skopje City Council member on the SDSM ticket and the family practically merged their party with SDSM, winning the city hall in Shuto Orizari together.

The Bajram family claimed that they are refurbishing old computers and exporting them abroad, and that this is the reason why they were using the warehouse. They denied stealing electricity. But EVN, the Austrian owned company that is the distributor of electricity in Macedonia, said that GTC does not have separate accounts for its stores, meaning that all stores are collectively paying the bill. This allows a major consumer to masquerade its bill.

GTC, a large, open complex of shops, is one of the symbols of Communist era brutalist architecture in Skopje, and SDSM campaigned hard to prevent its modernization, enclosure and the appropriated change in the architectural style planned as part of the Skopje 2014 project. SDSM continued to play the nostalgia card with the mall, with public events and with the redesign of its Vardar river quay. But, at the same time, the party approved a huge new residential development right next to the mall, and was apparently stealing electricity from it to mine for bitcoin. The case comes at a time when Macedonia is in the midst of a major energy crisis, with almost no domestic electricity production, and is completely reliant on costly imports.