COUNTRY OF RICH LEADERS
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A modest house with little furniture, 1987 Volkswagen Beetle and other assets worth only 2 thousand dollars. This is the declaration of assets of the President of Uruguay, José Mujica, who is famous for being the world’s poorest president.
In Macedonia it is difficult to find such a modest declaration of assets. Although the data entered is not complete, officials in Macedonia still have a lot to “boast” with.
Full bank accounts, term deposits, land, stocks, houses and apartments appear as assets of the leaders of the main political parties in Macedonia: VMRO-DPMNE, SDSM, DUI and DPA.
Gruevski has no assets in his name, but lots of cards and deposits
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski got in through the back door in Macedonian politics as Minister of Economy, a portfolio that almost had no budget and assets to work in 1999.
In 2003 he was elected president of the VMRO-DPMNE, and only after three years he became PM. Since 2006 he has been Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia.
SCOOP-Macedonia researched whether the PM owns assets in his name on the whole territory of Macedonia. The Agency for Real Estate Cadastre of the Republic of Macedonia, at our request under Free Access to Public Information said that “The person is not registered as a bearer of right in the Real Estate Cadastre”.
Also, no company registered in the Central Register of RM is related to the name of the PM, which means that he personally does not own any businesses.
It is an open secret that Gruevski, together with his family, lives in one of these apartments, on Pavel Shatev Street but it is an enigma what name the apartment he allegedly lives is in.
Although the research of SCOOP-Macedonia showed that in cadastral documents he owns neither land nor real estate, his bitter rivals from SDSM twice with documents claimed that not only his cousin, director of SIA, Saso Mijalkov is a rich man, but also his mother Nadezda. On June 1, 2011 SDSM presented documents according to which Gruevski’s mother owned even 4 flats in Skopje and the very next day the opposition claimed that the Gruevski family had two other apartments. Everything was bought from 2000 onwards. The Prime Minister immediately responded that his mother had bought the apartments on credit, but SDSM asked how a retired nurse could pay an installment of 7.050 Euros a month for four flats. So the discussion ended.
SDSM demanded the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption to prosecute the Prime Minister because he had not declared the entire property. Besides the apartments, recently SDSM attacked Gruevski that he had wanted to buy a plot on Vodno worth even 17 million Euros. In the so-called Bomb 13 SDSM claims that he allegedly “lied about his plots on Vodno”. There was no reaction from the Prime Minister other than the standard statement of VMRO-DPMNE that “Zoran Zaev works for foreign services”.
Gruevski has declared a fairly long list of assets he owns to the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption. The list includes over thirty denar and foreign currency deposits, savings accounts and cards. In 2007 the Prime Minister stated that he owned 12 credit cards and deposits, savings books…With the difference that Gruevski then reported that he owned 31,000 Euros, 6,100 francs, 1,200 US dollars, 565 pounds and 85.000 denars or 40,179 Euros.
The Prime Minister has now also reported that he holds cards and deposits, and for half of them he “gave no data” in the column on the origin of money and assets. Namely, the information about the origin of the money is not specified for about 15.400 Euros bank deposits, 1.6 million denars or about 27 thousand Euros, 1.312 Swiss francs, 204 US dollars and 246 British pounds.
With grounds referred to as “acquisition in other manner” as bank deposits Gruevski has declared that he owns 6.6 million denars or about 108 thousand Euros, 31,928 Euros, 4,984 dollars, 1,054 francs and 595 pounds. In total, as bank deposits Gruevski has declared 48,839 Euros, 5,188 dollars, 2.366 Swiss francs, 8,330,542 denars and 841 British pounds. Calculated in Euros, the total assets of Gruevski reported in SCPC results in 200,433 Euros (according to today’s exchange rate of NBM), which compared to 2007 is five times more. At least compared to what was then written in the media citing the SCPC.
Zaev “weighs” about 750 thousand Euros
Even before being promoted as head of the Social Democrats, Zaev was considered a man to whom politics was a luxury because of the status of a rich man from Strumica. The media linked him with several companies of his close relatives, but he will be remembered after the statement he placed himself with in the middle class:
“Personally, I still belong to the middle class, but I come from a wealthy family which has 820 employees. The capital is estimated at six to seven million Euros, in loans also five or six million Euros, absolutely entered to prove to the society, trying to give regular salaries and pay taxes to the state and to generate new products, new productions, which means new investments. Everything we have is here in Macedonia. My declaration of assets is actually available to the public. My personal assets along with mine and my wife’s vehicles is worth 60-70-80 thousand Euros”, said Zaev in the pre-new year’s interview on MTV last year.
However, the figures in his declaration of assets then and now speak something else. In the declaration of assets, as common assets Zaev has declared a house worth 18.450.000 denars or 300,000 Euros, then an apartment worth 1.854.000 denars or 30.146 Euros and land worth 2.460.000 denars, or 40,000 Euros.
In addition, Zaev has declared that he owns business premises worth 3.690.000 denars or 60,000 Euros. Common assets are also the shares of 12 million denars or 195.121 Euros as well as 616,506 denars or 10 thousand Euros in revenues from the sale of a motor vehicle. As personal assets Zaev has declared claims based on a loan of 4.300.000 euros or 69,918 Euros, and term foreign currency deposit of 984 thousand denars or 16,000 Euros. His wife has income from the sale of a motor vehicle in the amount of 92,250 denars, and has a term foreign currency deposit of 153 thousand denars. His children also have a term foreign currency deposit of 1.233.000 denars.
Calculated in Euros, Zaev “weighs” about 750 thousand Euros (or 744,496 Euros under the present exchange rate of NBM), of which 431 thousand are real estate, about 20 thousand Euros securities, about 12 thousand on the grounds of “other income” and about 40 thousand Euros bank deposits.
SCOOP-Macedonia researched how much Zaev possesses. In the Central Registry of RM his name does not appear in the ownership structure of any company or NGO. According to the Agency for Real Estate Cadastre of RM, Zaev does not own any assets in his name. “The person is not registered as a bearer of right in the Real Estate Cadastre”, it is said in the answer received under the Law on Free Access to Public Information.
In July 2008 the opposition leader Zaev was arrested along with five other men, all along accused of financial mismanagement in the construction of the object “Global” in Strumica. Two weeks later, the then Head of State Branko Crvenkovski signed a Decision to amnesty Zaev and his associates.
Ahmeti is “shorter” for over 300 thousand Euros
The leader of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), Ali Ahmeti, owns about 140 thousand Euros (or more precisely 138,276 Euros), of which real estate worth 120 thousand, about 12 thousand Euros in bank deposits and movable assets worth 7 thousand Euros. This is his wealth that he has declared in the declaration of assets to SCPC Macedonia. As real estate he owns agricultural land with an area of 700 square meters in Albania worth 30 thousand USD and a house in Kicevo of 254 square meters, which is valued at 100 thousand USD.
Ahmeti has declared bank deposits worth 758,482 denars, stated that “acquired in other manner”. He has not declared that he owns a motor vehicle, but only Volkswagen Polo since 2010, worth 7 thousand Euros as his spouse’s assets.
Unlike 2013, Ahmeti is shorter for over 300 thousand Euros. The latest declaration of assets does not have the house in Skopje, with an area of 803 square meters, worth 150 thousand Euros, as well as the agricultural land in Kicevo which was valued around 153 thousand Euros.
And the documents that SCOOP-Macedonia provided by the Agency for Real Estate Cadastre of the Republic of Macedonia say that Ahmeti neither appears as “holder of the right to assets” nor is related to any legal entities in the Central Registry.
According to a report by the State Audit Office in 2006, Ahmeti’s brother reportedly concluded a contract with “PE Pastures” in the amount of 120 thousand Euros (funds of the Ministry of Agriculture) to build four sheepfolds, for which media wrote that it was about luxury villas. For each sheepfold, on the basis of “modernization”, from “PE Pastures”, as stated in the report of the State Audit Office, about 30 thousand Euros were paid.
Only Thaçi is registered in the Real Estate Cadastre
More than 20 years active in the political scene, the leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), Menduh Thaçi weighs more than half a million Euros. He owns exactly 613,406 Euros (according to today’s exchange rate of NBM) as immovable, movable assets and bank deposits, data registered in the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption (SCPC).
About 75 thousand Euros are reported as debt based on credit.
From the reported to SCPC, in his name appear two houses in Tetovo, the first of which covers 1.186 square meters and worth 213 thousand Euros, while the second has a total capacity of 205 square meters and is worth 750 thousand Euros. The first house was acquired by inheritance, and the second by a purchase contract.
As movable assets he reported two vehicles, of which in his name appears the 1996 “BMW”, worth around 50 thousand Euros, while the 2005 “Peugeot” worth about 7 thousand Euros is registered as his wife’s assets. Both vehicles are reported to have been acquired by a purchase contract.
Thaçi has also declared that he has claims on the basis of a loan given in the amount of 23,300 Euros. These assets are stated to be acquired “in other manner”.
As bank deposits, in his name, he has declared about 173 thousand Euros, of which 1,463,198 denars on his bank account, about 99 thousand Euros foreign currency deposit, while 3,134,416 denars are reported as assets in his savings account. For all these bank deposits he has given no data of their origin.
On the other hand, according to the document that SCOOP-Macedonia obtained from the Agency for Real Estate Cadastre of RM, Thaçi “is registered in the Real Estate Cadastre” in eight title deeds, all in Tetovo. Of these, six are in the cadastral municipality of Tetovo 1, one in Tetovo 2 and one outside the city.
By DUI, Thaçi is indicated as a secret owner of the company “Interpromet” from Tetovo, which owns a big part of the public assets of Tetovo. The company was privatized in 1999, when DPA was in power with VMRO-DPMNE. In March 2014, the DUI announced criminal charges against Thaçi for “criminal privatization of Interpromet by Thaçi” who, according to this party, “monthly gives over 200 thousand Euros only for rent”.
The charges were brought before the parliamentary elections, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office later denied that DUI filed the charges against Thaçi.
Real wealth of unknown origin
Dragan Malinovski, former president of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption, doubts the presented figures concerning the leaders’ assets. In particular, he is astonished by the fact that in some cases the origin of part of the assets declared is not stated.
“They are legally bound to give that data. The declaration of assets is to be completed according to the form. No provision of this information implies start of an administrative procedure before the PRO. If property is located that is not declared, or property whose ground on acquisition has not been determined, then the PRO taxes it with a progressive tax rate of 70%. If there are elements of a crime then the prosecution would be included”, said Malinovski. “Be careful, here it is about a property of the whole family of the official, not only his personal”, he adds.
According to him, SCPC should take measures, i.e. initiate legal proceedings, then an administrative procedure before the PRO, and if there is evidence of a crime – to report to the Public Prosecution.
Malinovski says not completing the column of assets origin is a benign part of the problem with the absence of transparency of officials.
Vanja Mihajlova, expert on anti-corruption, also says that not completing the column of origin of money or other assets violates Article 36 of the Law on Corruption Prevention. According to her, not only in some of the key officials of the state, but not reporting the origin of assets is present in almost all officials.
“In almost every declaration of assets there is some data missing. SCPC should have so far initiated procedures against it, it is required under Article 36 of the Law on Corruption Prevention”, says Mihajlova.
Sladjana Taseva, president of Transparency International Macedonia, says party leaders need to declare the assets of their closest relatives, not only their personal. She believes that the declared assets of the leaders are quite realistic as it is verifiable.
“Transparency allows citizens to comment and give opinion or report that the data is incorrect”, Taseva adds.
The silence of SCPC: who do they protect?
Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP-Macedonia went through an ordeal of trying to get basic information from the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption during the presidency of Gjorgi Slamkov. SCOOP-Macedonia repeatedly tried to obtain information on the politicians’ assets, as well as the current procedures run by the Commission.
Here are the questions that in the past months were sent to the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption:
– How many initiatives were submitted for criminal and misdemeanor procedures for officials in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014?
– How many public warnings for officials were imposed in the previous five years and what officials were concerned?
– What stage are the procedures at that the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption announced, referring to Silvana Boneva and Radmila Sekerinska?
– What was the monthly income of the members of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption individually in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014?
– What is the monthly income of the members of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption individually in 2015?
– A copy of the assets of the officials listed below, at the beginning of their functions:
- Ali Ahmeti, Member of Parliament
- Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia
- Zoran Zaev, Mayor of Strumica
- Menduh Thaci, Member of Parliament
All the answers were given in the same manner:
“Your request does not contain all the necessary elements for which the bearer of information, under the provisions of LGAP, regarding Article 14 paragraph 2 of the Law on Free Access to Public Information, is careful ex officio. Given the above, it is necessary to recomplete your application in terms of Article 16 of the Law on Free Access to Public Information and the provisions of LGAP so that:
-in the request submitted the authorized person representing the association in the legal system will be stated, and he will sign the application and verification of the signature with the stamp of the association;
-You will provide proper power of attorney naming the person on whose behalf you have submitted the application, in the application referred to as a person requesting the information “.
In the past period SCOOP-Macedonia used the right to free access, contacting more than fifty institutions. Only the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption demanded a power of attorney and we were given three days to deliver it. Regarding this, SCOOP-Macedonia filed complaints and directly contacted the Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information. We asked the Commission why the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption asked for a special power of attorney when the person who required the information was an authorized person of SCOOP-Macedonia. From the Commission they said that for them such behavior of the Commission was illogical when the purpose of the Law on Free Access to Public Information was to enable unimpeded access to public information and not to limit it.
(The story was is supported within the NED project “Raising Awareness about Corruption through Investigative Reporting”)