‘The Richest Political Party in Europe’ Gets Its Wealth From Corruption, According to Macedonian Journalists

Macedonia (GV) – Investigative journalists in Macedonia say the country’s ruling party VMRO-DPMNE owns properties that by law it shouldn’t, and that party officials in government positions have abused their power to benefit the party.

The Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP earlier revealed that Macedonia’s main ruling party VMRO-DPMNE is possibly the richest in Europe thanks to a vast portfolio of officially owned real-estate, with an estimated market value of around 60 million euros (66 million US dollars). Now, SCOOP teamed up with another independent outlet called Nova TV and produced a short documentary about the sources of the party’s wealth.

The eight-minute documentary had been published online in Macedonian with English subtitles, making it available to wider audiences.

The documentary states that in addition to its luxurious eight-story headquarters in the center of Skopje, the party owns pastures and apartments. Macedonian law prohibits real-estate ownership by political parties, with the exception of office space. For some of its 15 agricultural properties, VMRO-DPMNE shares the ownership with private individuals and the state.

According to Article 6 from the Law on Financing of Political Parties, they “have the right to ownership of office space, equipment, office supplies, vehicles, and other movable property necessary for achieving their objectives and performing the activities determined by the party statute and the law.” If the parties receive any other kind of property as a gift, they must promptly sell it via court-administered auction.

The journalists’ research found that many of these properties were acquired after 2011, and most of them during 2014. VMRO-DPMNE had been continuously in power in Macedonia since 2006.

Where does the money come from?

The documentary quotes former VMRO-DPMNE President (1990-2003) and former Prime Minister (1998-2002) Ljubčo Georgievski who openly admits that the source is a “large corruption scheme” (although his quote, “Toa e edna golema korupciska shema,” is not translated into English in the subtitles). He alleged that all parties have been receiving cash. However, no other party owns so much wealth, and no other party owns properties forbidden by law with full impunity.

Leaked wiretaps published by the opposition in 2015, containing hundreds of conversations among government officials, journalists, foreign diplomats and human rights defenders that were secretly recorded reportedly on the order of prime minister, offer an indication of what he means by “cash.”

For instance, in one of the leaked conversations, VMRO-DPMNE party boss Nikola Gruevski talks to then-member of parliament Silvana Boneva who complains to him that his underlings had done too much racketeering ahead of elections. The following video provides a subtitled excerpt in which Gruevski explains that it’s only blackmail if one threatens to close down the business — otherwise it’s a simple “donation” to the party. Boneva later became a member of the State Election Commission.

 

This report prepared by Marko Angelov for Global Voices.