The ending of the Racket trial could not have been more dramatic: “Look for the money with Zoran and Vice Zaev”, shouted the Racket defendant Bojan Jovanovski – Boki 13, as the judge ordered police officers to shut him up and remove him from the courthouse.
Almost a year after his arrest, Boki 13, the showman turned politically linked businessman and racketeer, finally revealed the worst kept secret in the country – that SDSM party leader Zoran Zaev was the head of the racketeering scandal and that his brother Vice Zaev – the bagman. Boki 13 and disgraced former Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva were put on trial for extorting 1,5 million EUR from Macedonia’s top businessman Jordan Orce Kamcev, in exchange for a promise that Janeva will drop her money laundering charges against Kamcev. It was a tremendous fall from grace for Janeva, who was declared a heroic crime fighter by both SDSM aligned news outlets in Macedonia and international outlets, as well as Western diplomats in Macedonia. Janeva helped bring down the VMRO-DPMNE led Government of Nikola Gruevski with openly politically motivated criminal charges in 2017. The Racket trial revealed that while she was hounding VMRO officials, Janeva had a side-racket – pressuring businessmen with bogus criminal charges until they agreed to pay protection money to her enforcers such as Boki 13 and the third defendant Zoran Mileski – Zoki Kiceec.
Given the paramount position Janeva had for the SDSM party and her close ties to Zoran Zaev, who she practically made Prime Minister by removing his opposition, it was widely assumed that the extortion was closely coordinated and ran by Zaev and other top Government and SDSM officials, and that most of the money, estimated by knowledgeable VMRO sources at over 20 million EUR taken from various businessmen, was shared between Janeva and the ruling party. Kamcev carefully recorded his interactions with Boki 13 and Janeva, and in early 2019 journalists in Macedonia and abroad began to publicize what is being done. Given the weight of evidence against them, Boki 13, and later Janeva, were arrested in the summer. Janeva’s arrest completely collapsed any remaining moral high ground linked to the 2015 SDSM led Colored Revolution, and shortly after her much lauded Special Prosecutor’s Office was abolished. Polls revealed the public trust in the judiciary in the single digits, and the push against VMRO was revealed to be a cynical plot to install a puppet Government in Macedonia that would sign a treaty giving up the name of the country and to open a process to redefine the Macedonian national identity.
Faced with the prospect of spending years in prison, Mileski was the first to plead guilty and received a short, three years sentence, a portion of which he already served in comfortable house arrest. Janeva and especially Boki 13 seemed not too eager to go down that path, and speculation began to circulate that they are prepared to point the finger at Zaev in exchange of a lesser sentence. Boki 13 early on said that he has a lot of evidence on him, especially about where the money, at one point apparently moved around in a Louis Vuitton bag, ended up. Boki 13 hinted that he fears being killed in prison by people who want to silence him, and eventually announced that he will open “Pandora’s box”, while Janeva also alluded to possibly being ready to talk to the future, possibly VMRO led Government.
Prosecutor Vilma Ruskoska, who replaced Janeva as Zaev’s favorite henchwoman in the judiciary, made sure that the trial does not get anywhere near Zaev or any other top SDSM official that was mentioned. In a separate trial aimed at Boki 13 she filed charges against Deputy Parliament Speaker Frosina Remenski, who quickly announced her willingness to talk about other SDSM officials, but the prosecutors was not willing to listen. Ruskoska at one point even tried to distract the press from viewing a surveillance tape admitted as evidence in which Kiceec is shown in the company of Vice Zaev and Zoran Zaev’s personal lawyer – that is the extent to which the court went to avoid expanding the case toward the top of the SDSM party.
Near the end of the trial, as his talks with SDSM apparently failed, Boki 13 revealed that Zaev tipped him off that the group is under surveillance, effectively undermining the investigation and allowing Boki and Janeva to destroy evidence of their extortion attempts against Kamcev. But today’s dramatic finger pointing, and the equally dramatic attempt by the judge and the court police to stop Boki 13 from mentioning Zaev’s name, announced that the Racket case is just beginning.