Amid the “Racket 2” affair, we talked to Diamed’s owner, Vera Ivanova, whose company found himself at odds with government structures. On the one hand, a successful dialysis center, a special hospital for nephrology and dialysis, and on the other hand, the personal interests of Health Insurance Fund Director Den Doncev and Health Minister Venko Filipce, united in the goal of taking over the company. The prosecution is already investigating this case.

In an interview with “Republika”, Ivanova responds to all accusations made by Health Insurance Fund Director Den Doncev at a press conference in the government building.

Health Insurance Fund Director Dan Doncev has accused that the real owner of “Diamed” abroad is former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and that you have sold the company to a foreign firm.

Ivanova: And based on what evidence is he accusing me, gossip?! When I set up companies abroad, I didn’t get a question from any lawyer there whether I wanted or needed to name a hidden owner, it just does not work that way. Just like in our country, you identify yourself as a founder and that’s it. The companies are entirely mine, with 100% ownership and Den Doncev is very well aware of that having the insight in the documents he presented. It is very well known how one becomes owner or partner of a company – by investing personal funds. I’ve seen Gruevski once in my life when I was bringing a foreign investor to a 2010 meeting. I hope we will get answers to why Den Doncev is manipulating the public. Maybe Den Doncev knows how and where to do it from his own experience?!

As for the sale of my company to a foreign investor, tell me if there is bigger success and confirmation of your work when after three years of analysis by the foreign investor, they will confirm that everything you have worked and invested in for years deserves their attention and your local company becomes part of a world-renown system. I really don’t see what’s wrong here. Every day we see on television how foreign investors are being called on, but unfortunately, in my case, it wasn’t. You also heard at the press conference in the government that Den Doncev “warned” foreign investors.

When the company has a public owner with 100% ownership, why was there a need to open a company abroad? The HIF director accused that the reason is to hide the ownership and to avoid taxes to the state.

Ivanova: Another nebulous claim by Dеn Doncev. A few days after the sale, the sales contract, signed by a Swedish investor and notarized, has been reported to all of our institutions, including the Public Revenue Office. It lists the full amount, public information available to the prosecution. In addition, the Prosecutor’s Office owns both the contract and the tax returns stemming from it. The state is only interested in whether all taxes are fully and properly reported to the PRO. Taxes have been reported, but I still can’t pay them properly because my accounts are blocked. I should not stress that the PRO calculates interest on late payments every day.

Did you report the frozen ban account in Monaco to the PRO?

Ivanova: Yes, exactly. My company’s bank account in Monaco is not a secret, as all its extracts and transactions since its opening until today. The Financial Intelligence Service did not disclose that account. I don’t hide it. The Financial Intelligence Office and Director Blazo Trendafilov from Strumica only manipulate the data just to say that they are working something. Imagine, they went and fined the notaries and lawyers where the sale contracts with the foreign partner were signed because they did not report suspicious sales.

Den Doncev also accused that the tender procedure was not conducted legally, that the price was high, that is, the profit was high, that you had taken functional equipment…

Ivanova: When you participate in an open call issued by the state, you are sure that the state took care of the legality of the procedure. It gives you the confidence to start with investments that, believe me, are huge, to invest in six new dialysis centers and to completely renovate three existing ones. These are serious amounts. The requirements of the state were rigorous and demanding (to replace all non-functional equipment, beds, etc.) in order to raise the level of treatment for dialysis patients at European level. And I did it in just one year.

As for the cost of dialysis, there is only one essential difference that Den Doncev deliberately failed to share with the public. Currently, the price of 90 euros (which is still the lowest in the region and beyond) refers to dialysis with specialist consultations and transportation of patients to the place of residence. And here’s his whole manipulation with the public. Allegedly earlier the price was € 70, which is not true, it was € 80, and the HIF paid plus 10%, ie € 8 per dialysis for specialist check-ups on an allocated budget, plus for transport of patients on special invoices, depending from the place of residence. A total of 92 to 95 euros. I know this because I worked in the same way with the HIF in 2010 when I was the director of the first private hospital for nephrology and dialysis Diamed in Skopje. And what did patients get for that money? Dilapidated machines with 100,000 working hours. Stay for 5 hours in basements where feces flowed during every rainfall. Lack of medicines legally required for any dialysis. After the 2014 takeover in some cities, there was not even medical documentation for patients, people could not remember when they last took laboratory tests, which is necessary for proper treatment.

The taken equipment was leased by the public health institution until it was replaced with new equipment, although Dеn Doncev publicly stated that it was given for free, which is incorrect. More than 200 new modern dialysis machines were purchased, as many as new hospital beds and everything else.

How did you manage to do all this in such a short time?

Ivanova: With a lot of work and continuous investment of all available funds. The advantage of the private sector over the public is the opportunity to directly import medical supplies yourself or negotiate lower prices for products imported by other wholesalers. And here management skills are needed. The more you mare good at it, the greater the difference you will make in order to have room for what you have saved from importers to invest in patients and employees. Unfortunately, it turns out that you should not be successful in your business and that you do not have to honestly report your savings and pay the state tax, because you will attract the attention of some officials who will deal with you, not by working on health policies. I would agree that Den Doncev to spend time analyzing and comparing why dialysis in the private sector works, and has not worked the same way in the past, and where the money was spent earlier. Not in order to chase witches but to identify and overcome system failures.

Why is he accusing you of monopoly?

Ivanova: What monopoly? In Skopje you have two entities in private healthcare and two in public healthcare and another in Struga, which perform the same activity with the same funds.

How is your case with the Organized Crime and Corruption Prosecution going?

Ivanova: I do not have accurate information about the status of the case whether it is under pre-investigation or investigation, and also my lawyer still does not have such information. Den Doncev’s press conference revealed that the case was under pre-investigation and is now under investigation. Where did Den Doncev get this information from, I do not know and I think we are yet to seek answers where did the HIF director get official information from the prosecution.

You filed a lawsuit against Den Doncev and Venko Filipce for abuse of power.

Ivanova: I have nothing special to add to what has been written and released in the public, but I can only confirm that we have evidence that explicitly indicates that Den Doncev and Venko Filipce attempted to prevent foreign investment from entering Macedonia by making false statements and by manipulating the investor. It is true what Den Doncev said at the press conference that the state did not prevent the entry of foreign capital, but did not say that he personally with the help of Venko Filipce for personal gain, abusing their powers and the state preventing the entry of foreign capital in the country.

Den Doncev made many nebulous claims. He himself admitted, among other things, to the crime I am accusing him of. Now he is trying to manipulate and say he did not tell investors that an investigation was being conducted at a time when there was no investigation, but that he had warned them that an investigation would be launched. Even so, and it is not so, there is no essential difference. I don’t know what foreign investor chasing looks like. What else was he supposed to do? Was he supposed to beat them or take out a gun to drive them away! On the basis of the evidence, the prosecution should assess whether they abused their office and damaged me, as well as the Budget of the Republic of Macedonia. On the other hand, not only did Den Doncev and Venko Filipce not report back then, but they have not done it to this day.

What do you mean they haven’t reported it to this day?

Ivanova: Well, the report in the prosecution is not theirs, although they had to do so ex officio on such suspicions. The report comes from upon receipt of information the day after the sale. I can’t claim, but I suspect Den Donhev is hiding behind that because the “Nefron” association denied it.

Do you have information that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev knew what Den Doncev and Venko Filipce were doing? 

Ivanova: I can’t say to what extent and what the Prime Minister knew. The investor’s statements show that the Swedish ambassador was also informed, but to what extent he was manipulated by the Director of the Health Fund and the Minister of Health, I cannot say. In any case, I can say that the Prime Minister was very benevolent and cooperative in looking at foreign investment, but I still think Den Doncev and Venko Filipce’s influence on him was greater than the real situation, so he himself said that maybe in the whole process there is a conflict of interest alluding to the possible involvement of the former prime minister’s godfather. Risto Novacevski has worked as a development director for several years and he is a professional in his job. He never raised the amount Den Dencev spoke about at the press conference. Imagine, 12 million denars at the ATM! He certainly received his salary all the contributions to the state, but no cash. There is no room for nepotism in the private sector as politicians are used to. One cannot succeed in the private sector in that way, or you have the knowledge and want to work or you don’t have it, that’s the criterion. I have never asked a single employee of nearly 300 people for political affiliation or kinship with a politician, and I claim this most responsibly, and I am sure that there are such relationships given the size of our country.

Doncev avoided answering journalist questions about whether he knew the second suspect in the “Racket” case, Zoran Mileski-Kicheec. More precisely, he said that he knew him from television. Do you have any other information?

Ivanova: Under the full moral and criminal responsibility I claim that they know each other very well and see each other, and are in contact. Why Doncev said what he said, let him explain elsewhere.

Finally, a straightforward question – are speculations that Doncev openly asked for half of “Diamed” correct?

Ivanova: It is up to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime to find out the answer to this question first.