April 24, 2013, By Aleskandar Pavlevski for Southeast European Times in Skopje
The recent arrest of the former head of Macedonia’s security agency on charges of money laundering is being hailed by experts as a significant step in the country’s efforts to combat corruption.
A Skopje court issued a 30-day detention for Slobodan Bogoevski, his attorneys Vasko Tomanovic and Vlado Peshlikoski and two other suspects for laundering 1 million euros and falsifying documents.
According to the police, the group defrauded the Slovenian supermarket chain Merkator, which purchased 19,000 square metres of land in a highly sought location in Skopje in order to build a facility there.
The land was originally sold to the Cyprus firm Central Balkan Investment, but because of prior unsolved legal issues concerning the land parcel, Macedonia’s Transport and Communications Ministry requested the agreement be annulled.
The agreement was annulled, but the next day Tomanovic conducted a deal on behalf of Central Balkan Investment DOOEL Skopje, not the Cyprus-based firm, which he allegedly established three months earlier, and Merkator.
Tumanovic then conducted another agreement with Bogoevski and Interpart kom DOOEL Skopje, owned by Peshlikovski, to mediate the original agreement’s annulment.
“The evidence shows they used the agreement annulment to hide illegally acquired money in the amount of over 1 million euros, and then created fraudulent agreements among themselves with firms they owned to mediate in the annulment of the agreement which was already annulled,” Kotevski said.
“The group is suspected of transferring the money to Central Balkan Investment in Skopje, owned by one of the lawyers, instead of the Central Balkan Investment CBI in Nicosia, Cyprus,” Kotevski said.
“Their problem was how to launder the money and enter it into legal circulation,” Ivo Kotevski, spokesperson for Macedonia’s internal affairs ministry, told SETimes.
Experts praised the police action as sending another signal that Macedonia is serious in dealing with high-level corruption, especially by people in sensitive posts such as in the state security agency.
“It is very important to set an example that abuse of office and misuse of official information, as in the case of Bogoevski, will not be tolerated,” Ivan Babanovski, former head of the security agency’s third department, told SETimes.
While welcome, the police operation was undertaken late and shows the challenges for the prosecution in dealing with organized crime within the security services, Frosina Remenski, a professor at the faculty of security studies in Skopje, said.
“Bogoevski was suspected in several criminal cases … The databases Bogoevski acquired while working the country’s security chief provided him with significant advantages in his private communications and business transactions,” Remenski told SETimes.
“Today, Bogoevski’s arrest showed they can also hurt him, though it is still early to talk about the outcome of the police action, because the prosecution has yet to opine about the strength of the evidence and the charges,” Remenski added.