A new, extended version of the infamous 2014 bribery tape of Zoran Zaev was published today. Journalist Zoran Bozinovski and the Infomax news site published the video tape which presents Zaev, then the Mayor of Strumica, entering the municipal building for a meeting with what is likely businessman Ivo Nikolov Sicevaliev.
The original tape, in which Sicevaliev was working in a police sting operation operated and had a miniature camera, revealed Zaev instructing him to pay an estimated 200.000 EUR to his broher Vice Zaev, and to the “church”, likely a reference to his close ally and business partner, bishop Naum of Strumica. Sicevaliev expressed interest to purchase a large plot of publicly owned land near Strumica for commercial development.
Zaev and his interlocutor exchange pleasantries and then get to business. Zaev discusses the manner in which Sicevaliev is supposed to make the payment, and how he should inform him every step of the way. Sicevaliev tells Zaev that he will pay 70 denars (a little over a euro) per square meter for the land to the public budget, and an additional two euros in bribes.
– That goes to the church. Directly to the church, Zaev replies.
– One euro there, and the other?
– Give it to Vice. You know, he owns a currency exchange place (the implication is that the delivery of money won’t be seen as strange).
– I know, there were others before me, the way they did it.
Zaev then goes on to describe how he plans to win the coming elections. “The fix is in with the Americans, with the Europeans”, Zaev tells the businessman, recruiting him for a plan to start moving businesses and funding toward Strumica, away from Skopje.
Let’s do away with the Skopianers. They consider me a peasant. They keep bothering me. But now I’m at the top of the SDSM party… We need to put in motion a huge capital, you need to get ready for that. I will put my mark on Strumica for the next 100 years, Zaev tells Sicevaliev.
Regarding the name issue, Zaev swears the name away, insisting that it will have to be changed under his mandate.
We work with European money, with Greek municipalities and I tell them that there is a problem with the name of our country, but we need to get the European money in any instance. Our people are in Greece the whole summer, there are their people who invest here, like Michailides (tobacco magnate Alexander Michailides), I’m friends with him. Let’s open the life, let’s live, the time is passing by, where is the value, f… the name, f… it, Zaev shouts.
Zaev was tried for the bribery case in 2018, at the height of his power and influence over the judiciary. Despite the open and shut case, with an admissible video recording serving as evidence, and Zaev’s clear instructions to the businessman to pay a bribe, he was found not guilty by the court. It was the second similar case of local bribery where Zaev avoided punishment – in 2008 he was pardoned by then President Branko Crvenkovski over a crooked real-estate deal involving publicly owned land.