North Macedonia’s ex-leader Nikola Gruevski was handed a nine-year jail sentence on Friday for ordering the demolition of a former ally-turned-rival’s building in Skopje.

North Macedonia’s Fugitive Ex-PM Convicted of Flattening Opponent’s Building

Former PM of North Macedonia Nikola Gruevski, in Budapest, Hungary, June 2019. Photo by EPA-EFE/ZOLTAN MATHE

The Skopje Criminal Court on Friday found former PM Nikola Gruevski guilty of abuse of power for ordering a building under construction, owned by a political rival, to be demolished in 2011 under the pretext that it did not have a construction permit.

Gruevski, who was tried in absentia, was sentenced to nine years in jail.

According to the indictment, Gruevski, as PM, ordered his then Transport Minister, Mile Janakieski, to help him take revenge on the businessman and former politician Fiat Canoski after his PEI party switched sides, leaving the then ruling alliance led by Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE party and joining the opposition.

Janakieski was sentenced also for abuse of power, to three years’ jail. The former mayor of Skopje’s Gazi Baba municipality, Toni Trajkovski, who also helped in the plot to demolish the building, which lay on his municipal territory, was sentenced to four years in prison.

All three defendants pleaded not guilty.

This is a first-instance verdict in the high-profile case, against which the defendants have the right to appeal.

The verdict in the case codenamed “TNT” comes seven years after the then opposition and now ruling Social Democrats in 2015 revealed the scandal.

They then aired several covertly recorded telephone conversations in which the voices of what appeared to be Gruevski and Janakieski were heard discussing razing the residential building, named “Cosmos”.

Soon the now defunct Special Prosecution, formed to investigate the leaked wiretaps, took an interest in this case. The trial in the “TNT” case began in 2018.

Friday’s sentence is the fourth in a row jail sentence for Gruevski.

The authoritarian ruler of the country from 2006 to 2016 fled to Hungary in 2018 to avoid serving a two-year jail sentence for the illicit purchase of a luxury limousine.

In 2020, the courts sentenced him to a year-and-a-half in jail for inciting a mob attack on an opposition-held municipality in the capital in 2013.

In April this year he was given a seven-year jail sentence for robbing his own political party and using the money to illicitly purchase property. This sentence is also not final.

All except the first verdict for the luxury limousine are first-instance verdicts. If all of his appeals fail, he faces serving 19 years and six months in jail.

Gruevski has insisted that all the cases against him are politically motivated acts of revenge taken by his political rivals, the now ruling Social Democrats.

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