Given the importance of the developing racketeering scandal in Macedonia, Republika has prepared full background and analysis of the events so far.
The Special Prosecutor’s Office was formed in 2015, as part of the negotiations over the major political crisis which erupted in Macedonia when opposition leader Zoran Zaev began publishing segments from a large cache of wiretaps that contained conversations between officials of the VMRO-DPMNE led Government. Zaev insisted that the recordings contain evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and top Government officials, including election rigging, corruption and attempts to cover up murders. The SDSM party used the wiretaps to fuel protests that at times included tens of thousands of people. Zaev was charged with blackmail and undermining the constitutional order for attempting to overthrow the Government with the help of former UBK secret service chief Zoran Verusevski and other rogue UBK officers who were charged with performing the wiretapping over a number of years.
Some of the tapes also touched on exceptionally emotional issues, such as the 2011 murder of a young VMRO supporter by a police officer and the 2013 car crash which killed prominent right wing journalist Nikola Mladenov, both of which were fashioned into conspiracy theories by the SDSM party which were meant to portray VMRO in the worst possible light (both these cases were recently thoroughly debunked but served their purpose to fuel the Colored Revolution protests).
The attack on the city of Kumanovo, by Albanian terrorists in 2015, at the peak of the first wave of Colored Revolution protests, was also declared a “false flag attack” by SDSM and some of its supporters in the international media, as was the 2012 Good Friday massacre, when three Albanian islamists killed four Macedonian youngsters and an adult on the eve of Good Friday in an apparent attempt to spark a religious war. This attack created a full blown crisis in Macedonia and sparked the first in the series of Government reshuffles.
Under significant international pressure from the diplomatic corps in Skopje, the US State Department and the European Commission, talks began in the EU Ambassador’s residence in Przino, between VMRO-DPMNE, SDSM and the Albanian DUI and DPA parties. One of the results of the talks was to create an office led by a prosecutor chosen by all four parties, who will investigate the cache of wiretaps and use it as a basis to bring criminal charges against office holders and businessmen suspected of crimes. On the part of VMRO, it was expected that the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) will also investigate the wiretapping and will carry on with the charges against Zaev and Verusevski, while on the part of SDSM, the main request was that the SPO will bring corruption charges against Gruevski and other members of his Government.
Katica Janeva, an unknown prosecutor from the small border city of Gevgelija, was selected in September 2015 among a group of well known prosecutors and law professors who applied for the job. Her SPO office received significant funding and began hiring staff from the existing OJO/PPO state prosecutor’s service lured by the promise of high salaries and prestige that comes with being the main actors in the political crisis. Diplomats and international visitors made the SPO office an obligatory stop on their tours of Skopje, and kept insisting that the Gruevski Government respects its independence, doesn’t obstruct its investigations and that the courts and the police acts on its arrest warrants. International media outlets fawned over Janeva, and her two younger assistants, Lence Ristoska and Fatime Fetai, who were jointly the faces of the organization. Zaev publicly delivered boxes of wiretaps and transcripts to the SPO office, claiming that the entire cache, its one and only copy, is now given to Janeva, so she can begin poring over the tapes herself. The office was given until mid 2017 to examine the tapes and bring charges, a clause which emphasized its temporary nature.
Despite being elected by consensus, Katica Janeva quickly moved to appoint prosecutors, investigators and other assistants exclusively from the left. Several prosecutors who were announced as part of her team were quickly sidelined because they were seen as leaning to the right. Those who remained included a close acquaintance of one of Zaev’s lawyers Filip Medarski, and a prosecutor whose father was dismissed as judge after a corruption investigation initiated under the VMRO Government giving her an ax to grind (Lence Ristoska). Janeva moved to hire organizers and activists of the SDSM led Colored Revolution as her staff, including some who would support her actions in public appearances at SDSM affiliated media outlets, dropping hints and leaking details of the investigations, often under the guise of independent commentators. Besides being an SDSM activist, the other way of getting hired by the SPO was nepotism – Janeva’s relatives, her son’s girlfriend, the daughter of one prosecutor, the daughter of another SDSM official, they were all placed on the short list. Shortly after her appointment, the impression of an impartial prosecutor who would go against powerful people in both major Macedonian parties and also (perish the thought) the ethnic Albanian DUI party, was gone.
Janeva revealed her first charges in February 2016, accusing several of Gruevski’s ministers of election tampering. She continued to press charges exclusively against VMRO officials – one set of charges alleged that Gruevski and Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska violated internal regulations when they ordered the purchase of an armored Mercedes to carry visiting foreign dignitaries. Another set was based on a wiretap in which Gruevski and Transportation Minister Mile Janakieski discuss percentages while talking about the negotiations to build two Chinese funded highways, to allege that they are talking kick-backs (the Government insisted that the percentages applies to the level of involvement of Chinese vs Macedonian subcontractors which was being negotiated as part of the contract). Gruevski’s cousin, UBK chief Saso Mijalkov, was charged with torture after the allegedly overly rough arrest of former Interior Minister Ljube Boskoski, who was caught receiving an illegal campaign contribution from a foreign businessman in 2011 while promising to change Macedonia’s name if elected President. All SPO case files began with the letter T, leading to various speculations about the symbolism, and prosecutor Fetai would add to the theater with dramatic reading of the charges, including curse words used by Mijalkov.
The Colored Revolution supporters were entranced. T-shirts with the images of the three prosecutors were printed out, memes of Fetai cursing and rolling her eyes spread on SDSM supporting Facebook groups, friendly journalists would happen by when Lence Ristoska would receive a “spontaneous” applause when walking into a cafe in Skopje… In general, a major propaganda campaign was put in place to promote the SPO, leading to rumors that Fetai may run for President in 2019, or maybe sooner if she manages to indict President Ivanov before then.
Meanwhile, the one case not named with the letter T – the Coup charges which were filed against Zaev, Verusevski and other accomplices by OJO Public Prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski, was also handed over to the SPO, as the law adopted under international pressure required. The case was quickly turned on its head, as Janeva withdrew the charges against Verusevski and his accomplices, and insisted that it was Mijalkov and other top UBK officials who ordered the wiretapping, despite the fact that it implied that Mijalkov had himself recorded, and the leaders of the VMRO party he belonged to, and had agents sympathetic to SDSM perform the wiretapping. Two of Verusevski’s accomplices who were sentenced, one of whom pled guilty, were released from prison and were quickly declared heroic whistleblowers by the Colored Revolution activists. Left wing journalists and commentators insisted that it makes perfect sense that the two agents obeyed Mijalkov’s orders to wiretap himself, his cousin Gruevski and other officials of his own VMRO party, but then the two gave the recordings to Zaev to reveal this auto-destructive behavior.
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski resigned in the winter of 2015, as provided in the Przino agreement, which planed for spring elections organized by a Government which included a new VMRO appointed Prime Minister and several SDSM ministers. But SDSM kept postponing the elections, demanding that its international supporters, prominent in the European Commission, in socialist parties across Europe and also among US diplomats of the Obama administration, exert pressure on Gruevski and VMRO to accept elections at a later date, giving Janeva time to do as much damage to the conservative party as possible.
In April 2016, President Ivanov insisted that this situation is placing Macedonia in a subservient position, indicating that it is all being done not for the sake of justice or to fight corruption, but simply to force Macedonia to accept a damaging deal with Greece on the long lasting name dispute. Ivanov said that he can’t allow top Macedonian politicians to be held hostage by vague charges based on illegal wiretaps and gave a broad amnesty which covered Gruevski and his main associates, but also Zaev and Verusevski, Albanian politicians… practically everybody involved in the scandal. The Colored Revolution, which has lost steam by then, was re-energized, its activists burning down a downtown office of the Presidency, and US and EU diplomats reacted with outcry, forcing politicians to push through a new law that introduced the option that persons who have received a Presidential pardon or amnesty are able to ask the President to withdraw his decision. Under international pressure, all who were pardoned asked Ivanov to do so and the amnesties were considered annulled, at least for the time being.
Janeva also initiated cases against some of the most outspoken VMRO supporting journalists. The choice of the “crimes” was apparently meant to humiliate them – in one, a female journalist was charged with tax fraud over a petty purchase of laundry written off as a business expense for a marketing agency she also ran, which employed models. Cue endless salacious reports about the “panties” of the journalist in the SDSM affiliated press. More serious charges that affected media outlets included an SPO case against against two businessmen who ran TV stations that support VMRO, Sitel and Nova, which influenced their editorial policy, and even led to Nova being shut down a few years later. This case was later grossly abused to force two members of Parliament to vote in favor of renaming Macedonia. Kosta Krpac, the owner of the Netpress news site was questioned by the SPO in a separate case and was exposed to early morning raids disturbing his family. Krpac committed suicide in a state of despair, after initially firing at a van parked in front of his apartment which he believed was an SPO team following him.
By mid 2016, the plan to hold early general elections was in serious jeopardy, as SDSM insisted to remain part of the broad Government meant to prepare elections but kept postponing the vote, hoping that Janeva will deliver the death blow to the still very popular VMRO leader Gruevski. This arrangement was broken off in May, when the Parliament was pressured by foreign diplomats to re-assemble after initially voting to dissolve and hold elections in June, as provided in one of the deals SDSM violated. This led to the removal of the SDSM members from the Government and the re-appointment of a Government made up of the VMRO-DUI coalition, but still without Gruevski as Prime Minister. The two ruling parties declared their intention to serve out their term in full, until 2018, declaring SDSM as an unserious party that refuses to accept its only obligation under the Przino bargain – to participate in general elections. But a month later, again under the still on-going Przino talks which included the US and EU Ambassadors, an agreement to hold elections in December 2016 was reached, and SDSM returned to the Government, while Janeva ramped up her work in order to support the SDSM campaign.
In the pre-election campaign, Zaev would go on Albanian language media outlets promising all sorts of concessions, all the way up to praising the Swiss federal model which all but announced his intent to carve out an Albanian territory within Macedonia – promises he would deny when speaking to Macedonian language media so as not to disturb his ethnic Macedonian voters. The elections were a win for VMRO, but a share of Albanian voters moved from DUI toward SDSM which allowed Zaev to significantly narrow down his losing margin compared to the 2014 elections. Gruevski was given the mandate to form the next Government, but amid clear international pressure, and overt interference from the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, DUI and other parties representing ethnic Albanians declared they will not join him in a coalition, leaving Zaev and SDSM as the only available option.
This sparked protests by ethnic Macedonians and VMRO supporters, who demanded another round of early elections on the pretext that Zaev did not declare he will accept the so-called Tirana platform of Albanian nationalist demands written under the auspices of Prime Minister Edi Rama, when he ran in December 2016. Attempts by SDSM and DUI to elect a new Speaker which would lead to the creation of a new Government were met by Parliament filibustering by VMRO until April 2017, when SDSM and DUI forced a vote after the Parliament was dismissed for the day, prompting VMRO supporters to storm the Parliament. A small group of them assaulted Zaev and other representatives, primarily Albanian MP Ziadin Sela who had frequently insulted ethnic Macedonians in his remarks, and was badly injured during the incident. The EU and the US recognized Talat Xhafer, a former Albanian terrorist commander during the 2001 insurgency and a high ranking official of the DUI party, as the new Speaker that same evening, paving the way for the creation of the SDSM – DUI coalition and the Zaev Government. Zaev then moved quickly to order arrests of VMRO officials based both on the SPO charges, and on charges brought by the new SDSM appointed Public Prosecutor Ljubomir Joveski and organized crime prosecutor Vilma Ruskoska, who were going after opposition officials in cases not covered by the wiretaps.
In all, it’s estimated that hundreds of VMRO officials and activists were charged. This includes about 12 member of Parliament and a similar number of Mayors. Gruevski and his closest associates – Mijalkov, Ministers Gordana Jankuloska, Mile Janakieski and Vlado Pesevski, all faced multiple SPO charges and would frequently spend days in a row at the courthouse, barely having time to prepare for the next trial. One case alone, which Janeva used to order a freeze on the property owned by VMRO, had hundreds of party activists questioned by the police simply for donating small sums of money to the party.
Gruevski would often, in detail, explain the lunacy of the charges against him. As the crime of “abuse of office” requires that it be proven that the official who is charged has gained something from his actions, and as the SPO could not prove that Gruevski made material gains in any of the cases, in the case focused on the construction of the two “Chinese highways” against Gruevski it was claimed that his gain is in that he would “receive a popularity boost if the highways are built on time”. In another case, which prompted his eventual flight to Budapest, Gruevski was charged with ordering the purchase of the still very much in use armor plated Mercedes, and his gain from this “abuse of office”, the SPO claimed, was in that he would get to be driven in the vehicle from time to time. Not only were the funds for the vehicle not stolen, it was used to chauffeur the likes of Angela Merkel during her 2018 visit to Macedonia to urge the voters to support the name change.
The courts were pressured to accept unwarranted wiretaps as evidence, due to pressure from both the Zaev Government and the diplomats in Skopje. Some of the defendants, such as two UBK agents, fled to Greece where in May 2018 they eventually won a case before the Greek Supreme Court that declared President Ivanov’s 2016 amnesty as still very much valid. Many of the defendants in Skopje then evoked this decision insisting that the amnesty should be considered still valid for all defendants, but the Macedonian courts kept accepting arrest warrants from the SPO.
Another venue of defense is in the fact that Janeva and SPO continued to open new cases even after her legal right to do so expired in the summer of 2017. This includes the now fatal “Empire” case, which Janeva launched against businessman Jordan Orce Kamcev, as well as the “Talir” case which Janeva used to freeze VMRO’s property, and which the opposition party declared an all-out attempt to ban the party, leaving Zaev without any check on his power.
Meanwhile, as Zaev was able to appoint Ljubomir Joveski as the new OJO Public Prosecutor, and Vilma Ruskoska as the new organized crime prosecutor, the importance of the SPO began to fade. More and more of the arrests mandated by Zaev’s campaign of political persecution against VMRO were ordered by the OJO prosecutors, who could begin new cases without any time constraints, and without having to fish out a wiretap in Zaev’s cache that would spark an investigation. Most notable among these cases were the broad charges over the April 27th 2017 incident in the Parliament, which followed the already well known SPO blueprint – accusing Gruevski and other leaders of the VMRO party of outrageous crimes – in this case of ordering a terrorist act – but actually prosecuting lower level officials and activists who would be pressured to testify against the party leaders.
This case was aimed against three VMRO members of Parliament, who were detained and eventually, in coordination with the courts, released from house arrest or detention precisely as the proposal to rename Macedonia was introduced in Parliament in October 2018. The proposal was put before Parliament despite the fact that the referendum held to approve the name change failed – only 36 percent of the voters showed up, and even accomplishing this turnout required significant ballot stuffing in some ethnic Albanian districts. Ljuben Arnaudov, Saso Vasilevski and Krsto Mukoski voted in favor of renaming the country after being charged in the OJO “terrorism” case. Other members of Parliament who switch sides and voted for the “new name” include former Culture Minister Elizabeta Kanceska Milevska, Zekir Ramcilovik and Vladanka Avirovik, who were either directly charged by the SPO, or had close relatives (Avirovik’s son) or political allies (Nova TV owner Sead Kocan) in the SPO cross-hairs. Getting Zaev to the 81 votes needed to rename Macedonia included a series of blackmails started by the SPO, but Janeva’s team couldn’t finish the job by itself – it required the additional charges brought forward by OJO prosecutor Vilma Ruskoska.
After it’s main goal – the name change – was accomplished, the SPO still continued to print out charges against more or less the same VMRO officials and several journalists it targeted from the start, but as time went by, Janeva’s threw a broader net toward a number of businessmen as well. In October 2018 the SPO began an investigation into several mid sized companies which were invited to join in the management of the state owned Postal Bank. The next month, just as Gruevski was secretly heading to Budapest to seek political asylum, Janeva announced the Empire case, involving two major companies – the Orka holding owned by Jordan Orce Kamcev and Pelisterka owned by Cvetan Pandeleski. Also charged was Mijalkov, of course, as well as a number of lower level businessmen, all accused with laundering 11 million EUR. These two cases, along with the investigation into the REK Bitola coal mining contracts announced Janeva’s slow transition from prosecuting politicians to investigating businessmen and gave her a stranglehold over some of the richest people in Macedonia.
Just as the Empire charges were being announced, the flamboyant cross dressing reality TV personality Bojan Jovanovski – Boki 13 announced on his Instagram account his meeting with Janeva, and declared that “something important is about to happen”. Often dismissed as a weird fame seeker with a few petty fraud sentences behind him, Boki 13 started to show off more cash than usual. In April 2018 he started 1TV, a television modeled after the large A1 television, which combined popular entertainment programming with a strong pro-SDSM allegiance and had an eccentric owner who used the political clout given by the TV station to advance his business. But, while A1 grew over years, before it collapse after a tax audit in 2010, Boki 13’s television started spending huge sums of money and drew in some of the best known (and best paid) SDSM supporting journalists practically overnight.
Boki would also often post pictures with Zoran Zaev, SDSM party Secretary General Aleksandar Kiracovski, Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski, Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska, and, naturally, Katica Janeva who would guest in the TV station along with some of her prosecutors. The opening of 1TV, in the grand Philharmonic Hall built by Gruevski, might as well have been a session of the Zaev Government, the SDSM Central Committee and both the SPO and OJO prosecuting units all rolled into one.
Where was the money coming from, the public was asking and the answer was provided in June, when a journalist normally close to SDSM, but prone to supporting factions in the party, Branko Geroski, started running a series of articles which he called the fictional account of a group of criminals, who he portrayed under made up names. One of them, Geroski wrote, is a easily agitated media outlet owner known for his passion for expensive clothes who Geroski named “Koki”. A real head-scratcher, guessing who it might be. Geroski described how Koki, along with a top official of the ruling SDSM party named Kiki, nearly scared the owner of a small hotel in a resort town to death, when they sat him for an extortion meeting and as the man was expecting he’ll be on the hook for some reasonable sum, and offered a few thousand euros, Koki asked for 200.000 EUR in ad buys for 1TV. The second article presented Koki and Kiki pressuring a female Mayor of a city (clearly Natasa Petrovska from Bitola) to give them a piece of publicly owned land, so that they would develop a “charity” project. Geroski insisted that Petrovska refused the request, although Kiki comes from her city and is influential in the SDSM party, but that the scam worked with another SDSM Mayor, and the public land meant to be used for a welfare project was promptly resold for profit.
By the time of the third article the gloves were off and Geroski was describing how Koki is using wiretaps held by Katica Janeva to extort money from businessmen.
On July 15th all speculations about where Geroski’s articles are coming from were dispersed, as it was announced that Boki 13 was arrested while trying to flee Macedonia for Greece, carrying some of his money and having a few of his Skopje jet-set companions in tow. His associate Zoran Mileski – Zoki Kicheec was also arrested and a press conference by Public Prosecutor Ljubomir Joveski and Vilma Ruskoska was announced. Within an hour Katica Janeva tendered her resignation as Special Prosecutor, pending the appointment of a successor. Janeva did not mention Boki’s arrest, but said that she would like to step down so as not to disrupt the chances for Macedonia to open the EU accession talks, given that the opposition is vehemently opposed to her remaining as Special Prosecutor.
Joveski and Ruskoska announced that Boki 13 is arrested because he extorted 1.5 million from an unnamed businessman, promising that in return he will get an unnamed prosecutor to drop her charges against the businessman. It took about as much time to deduce who the businessman and the prosecutor are as it took to connect “Koki” with “Boki”. In a series of subsequent interviews, Ruskoska described how Boki 13 demanded that Orce Kamcev pays eight million EUR, then 7.5, then six and eventually extracted 1.5 million, before even Boki realized that Kamcev is recording their meetings. At times, according to Ruskoska, Kamcev would demand to receive assurances from Katica Janeva herself, and she would be called up and would speak on the speakerphone, allowing him to capture her voice as well.
Janeva was searched by the end of the fatal Monday, with her office and home visited by the police, who demanded that she deliver her phones. She gave up one of them, and insisted she lost the other, but after a few days it was tracked in the possession of the girlfriend of her son Lazar Janev, who works for the SPO. Lazar, on the other hand, works for Boki 13’s 1TV . According to media reports, Boki would take Lazar Janev with him when he would present the exciting opportunity of purchasing 1TV ad space to businessmen who were targeted by Katica Janeva. The police also searched Boki’s and Lazar’s offices in 1TV and carried off their computers.
Both Boki 13 and Katica Janeva were quickly abandoned by their closest circle of supporters. The day after her tentative resignation and Boki’s arrest, Janeva’s team held a press conference in the SPO office to insist that any failures are limited to this one case, for which Janeva had direct responsibility, and all the other cases were led professionally. The press conference was conducted by Lence Ristoska. Fatime Fetai was absent, but several days later she joined in with the other prosecutors, despite the fact that she was defending Janeva as irreplaceable in an interview she gave for 1TV (obviously) on a few months ago. A third prosecutor, Lile Stefanova, who was allegedly questioned over her knowledge about the Boki 13 scandal, defended herself before the press saying tartly that she had no authority to sign anything – directly pointing the finger at Janeva for any decisions to prosecute or to hold back on taking steps against defendants.
Shortly before Boki 13’s arrest, janeva reportedly tried to order that all computers used by the SPO are formatted. This would destroy logs revealing which prosecutor used which computer and when. The process started, and several computers were wiped clean before Janeva’s staff, afraid of adding destruction of evidence on top of other possible charges, demanded that the IT teams back off.
Boki 13 was also quickly dropped by his journalists, even Jadranka Kostova, who was interviewing him just a few days before his arrest, giving him a chance to present counter-allegations and defend himself from Gerovski’s claims. Kostova, the editor in chief Aco Kabranov, Saso Ordanoski and other leading media heavyweights announced that they were part time employees anyway, their contracts had nearly expired, or simply went on vacation and didn’t pick up the phone when the press asked them about Boki 13 and if they ever inquired how he made his money. Borjan Jovanovski, another leading 1TV anchor, quickly condemned Katica Janeva as stupid and a news site linked to him was publishing details about Boki 13’s crimes the very day of his arrest.
It also was reported that Kamcev, a veteran of the Macedonian political and business scene, turned for help to Bulgaria, where he has investments and whose honorary consul he is. According to these reports, put forward by Geroski as well, who said that he has interviewed Kamcev for his reports, Bulgaria provided wiretapping equipment, political backing and even a security detail. Zaev denied the reports that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov called him up and asked him to get Katica Janeva to lay off Kamcev. Prosecutor Ruskoska acknowledged that giving a bribe is as much an offense as taking one, but insisted that, as Kamcev reported the extortion, he should have a more favorable treatment.
During the course of the Empire investigation Kamcev was detained, then allowed into house arrest, then freed but had his passport seized and eventually even the passport was returned, which the public found out when Kamcev was seen celebrating the EHF Champions League title won by Vardar in Germany. A suspiciously timed flooding in the SPO storage room destroyed some of the evidence precisely in Kamcev’s case, prompting outrage and mockery of the institution, with people claiming that “the fix is in”. It is believed that this gradually shifting treatment of Kamcev by the Special Prosecutor’s Office was conditioned by the payments he was making. The fate of the Empire case, thoroughly tainted by Janeva’s actions, is up in the air now.
Ruskoska sternly called on other businessmen who were pressured by the same group to come forward and provide evidence. Only one did – real-estate developer Zoran Azmanov has been accusing Boki 13 of trying to extort 50.000 EUR or an apartment, threatening that he would run a news item critical of Azmanov. Azmanov even briefly pointed to SDSM Secretary General Aleksandar Kiracovski as being involved in another extortion attempt on him, but then quickly withdrew the statement. A Bitola based businessman Borce Markovski, who was also named as a victim of extortion by an SDSM party official, also denied the report. Kiracovski rejected media questions over whether he is “Kiki” from Geroski’s reports and Zaev threatened media outlets who speculate on Kiki’s identity with libel suits.
Geroski alleged that another Bitola based company, the major Siljan Micevski owned Pelister mining and construction firm, was one of the main sourced or “revenue” for Boki 13. The attempt to transfer the money in the form of a joint contract for construction of a stae subsidised home for the elderly hit a road block with Mayor Petrevska, so at one point, Geroski reports, Micevski paid more than 700.000 EUR to Boki 13’s International Association charity, under contract to provide vague defined services. This was supposed to be the first of two equal installments and a similar contract brought Boki 13 more than 200.000 EUR from a Struga based construction company which allegedly wanted to build in Karpos, the Skopje municipality where Boki 13’s close friend Stefan Bogoev is Mayor.
Unable to go after Janeva or others named by Geroski, and with the businessmen still afraid to step forward, Ruskoska’s case quickly lost steam. So far only Boki 13 and Zoki Kicheec remain detained, Janeva has not been charged and SDSM is closing ranks around its suspected party officials. VMRO-DPMNE demands that Janeva is detained to stop her from destroying evidence, and to put pressure on her to reveal the Government officials who cooperated with the group or at least knew about it, especially after Zaev himself acknowledged knowing about the allegations months before the arrests. Geroski announced he will name Kiki and Friki, then dropped the idea, but began announcing a long list of other SDSM officials, again under fake names, which he said he will start writing about in August unless Zaev cleans house by then.
But this lull in the scandal was broken by the Italian newspaper La Verita. On August 8th the paper published the first of the series of video and audio tapes that show Boki 13 and Zoki Kicheec taking a Louis Vuitton bag from the home of Orce Kamcev, after it was filled with 50 and 500 EUR bills. The audio tapes reveal Boki 13 and Kamcev discussing in minute detail how Janeva will sabotage her own case against the businessman. At one point, during a phone conversation, Boki 13 puts Janeva on the phone to assure Kamcev “not to worry”, and that “everything will be well“.
Boki 13 also informs Kamcev that he has discussed the racket with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Especially damning for Janeva is that the course of events supports the audio evidence – Kamcev’s legal team and the SPO went before the Supreme Court in March 2019, and the Court found in Kamcev’s favor and ended his house arrest, just as Boki 13 promised when he discussed that he agreed with Janeva that she won’t use all legal options available to her to keep Kamcev in prison. Prosecutor Lile Stefanova quickly turned on Janeva, and all but confessed that the SPO self-sabotaged the case, laying the entire blame on the chief Special Prosecutor.
Besides the allegations that Zaev knew what was going on, both the La Verita tapes and Geroski’s articles ensnared another top level SDSM party official – its deputy leader, Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska. Geroski reported that the “sister in law of a top SDSM official” was allegedly involved in the corruption scandal through Boki 13’s fake charity. Geroski describes the politician’s sister in law as “one of the key persons in ‘Koki’s’ inntermost circle”. He stops short of naming the politician, but the article heralds a fissure in SDSM far greater than the one that could be caused by the possible arrests of “Kiki” and “Friki”. According to Geroski, another person from Boki 13’s inner circle, Jasna Mandik, is also very close to this female SDSM politician. And the tapes revealed that both Boki 13 and Orce Kamcev were close with Sekerinska and her husband, Diners Club Macedonia manager Bozidar Jankovski, meeting to watch football games together.
Like Zaev, Sekerinska also denied any links with the scandal. What is universally accepted in the public, though, is that there is no way a person like Boki 13 would be able to extort millions from some of the top Macedonian businessman without the approval of high level officials of the ruling party and of the powerful Special Prosecutor.
The scandal dramatically shook Macedonia’s chances of opening EU accession talks. France, already skeptical of the idea, is demanding a thorough investigation, and even one of Zaev’s chief supporters, outgoing EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn was forced to acknowledge the “latest revelations“, while a US diplomat asked that Janeva is investigated. US Ambassador Kate Byrnes jumped in the fray several times, calling for a thorough investigation, especially after the La Verita tapes were made public.
Janeva was finally called up for questioning by Ruskoska on August 20th. She seemed relaxed afterwards, briefly insisted that she is there as a potential witness, not a defendant and went off for lunch. The next day she was arrested.
In a strange development, the police also removed some of her furniture. Soon it was reported that Janeva pressured Kamcev to have a pricey furniture company owned by his sister furnish her house free of charge. Speculations soon grew that, just as the bag with money, the Italian sofa Janeva took was also likely bugged, meaning that private conversations she held in her home could also be made public. Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said that it is clear additional recordings are out there and warned that they will be used to blackmail the Government and all involved.
Janeva was sent to the Sutka prison, where many of her targets also ended up, although the lack of photographic evidence that she is acutally there and her close ties to the prison warden drove speculations that she is actually kept elsewhere.
Prosecutor Ruskoska finally called up her first top SDSM party official for questioning on September 4th. It was Frosina Remenski, widely rumored to be one of the party officials closest to Boki 13. Remenski was named honorary president of Boki 13’s charity – the International Association, but claimed that she was not involved in its operations. At about the same time Ruskoska also questioned the victims of the International Association – developers Micevski and Ardijan Amzovski who paid about a million EUR to Boki 13 for real-estate development opportunities. In a TV interview Micevski acknowledged that the plan was to build retirement villas on the shore of lake Ohrid which would be declared a humanitarian project, and to turn them around into proper commercial estates a few years down the road. “I expected they would sell like hotcakes”, Siljan Micevski told the press, after confirming that he paid more than 700.000 EUR to Boki 13 and that he now wants his money back.
Former special prosecutor Katica Janeva sent a new letter to her staff at the SPO, making several requests. According to Sitel, in addition to getting her personal belongings, she also wrote about the so-called “mutual fund” of the special prosecution, which she personally managed. Unofficially she wanted that budget to be used to cover her defense costs during the criminal proceedings.
Former Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva was brought in for questioning at the Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime and Corruption in relation to the “Racket” on Tuesday. Following Janeva’s interrogation, which lasted less than an hour, her lawyer Irena Frckovska said the former special prosecutor Katica Janeva will give testimony after exercising her right to inspect the evidence, scheduled for Thursday.
Suspect Bojan Jovanovski was brought in for questioning at the prosecutor’s office on Monday. He was in the prosecution for an hour, but he refused to testify before the prosecutors.