North Macedonia Convicts Ex-Secret Police Chief of Procurement Scam
The former head of North Macedonia’s secret police, Saso Mijalkov, was convicted of the illicit purchase of telecommunications surveillance equipment for the intelligence service and sentenced to eight years in prison.
The Criminal Court in Skopje found Saso Mijalkov guilty in a first-instance verdict on Tuesday of abuse of office and authority for the illicit purchase of surveillance equipment under the former authoritarian regime led by the secret police chief’s cousin, Nikola Gruevski.
The former head of Mijalkov’s office Toni Jakimovski, and the former Assistant Interior Minister, Nebojsa Stajkovic, were sentenced to five years in jail each for the same offences as Mijalkov.
A fourth former secret police official, Goran Grujevski, who was tried in absentia because he fled the country in 2017, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for helping them.
According to the court, Mijalkov and the other defendants procured equipment from British company Gamma International between 2010 and 2012 through a company called Finzi from Skopje, as an intermediary, instead of buying it directly from the company, which would have been cheaper.
The court found that the ultimate hidden beneficiary of Finzi was Mijalkov. After the equipment arrived, the defendants also paid Finzi on several occasions for training and phoney maintenance of the equipment. This cost the state budget 48 million denars – around 778,000 euros.
The court said that Finzi was originally founded by an offshore company in the United States, and that before being used by Mijalkov and his accomplices for the illicit purchase of the surveillance equipment, it was originally owned by the currently detained businessman Orce Kamchev, which Kamcev has confirmed.
The court found that Finzi did not have a single employee during the time of the illegal purchases, and that it was also completely inexperienced in trading with or maintaining surveillance equipment.
The first manager of Finzi was Vladislav Stajkovic, the brother of defendant Nebojsa Stajkovic, who appeared as a witness during the trial, but whose testimony the court rejected as not credible. Later on, the manager of Finzi was Kosta Krpac, whose death in 2016, although officially registered by police as a suicide, sparked suspicions of foul play.
These suspicions were fuelled when the Special Prosecution confirmed that Krpac had been willing to cooperate with it as a witness.
Due to its suspicious capital and origins, the Finzi company is also part of a much wider investigation in which Mijalkov and Kamchev are also suspects.
The court on Tuesday also ordered seizure of the bank accounts and property of Finzi to the value of 170,000 euros, and ordered the defendants to pay some 600,000 to compensate for the rest of the cost to the state budget.
During the trial, Mijalkov pleaded not guilty, with the defence claiming that he had nothing to do with Finzi, nor did he in any way influence the British company to sign an agreement with it to be the exclusive distributor of the equipment for North Macedonia.
The defence said it will appeal against Tuesday’s verdict.
This is the second jail sentence in less than two months for the once-powerful former chief of the secret police.
On February 26, the Criminal Court in Skopje, in a first-instance verdict, jailed Mijalkov for 12 years for masterminding the illegal wiretapping of thousands of people between 2008 and 2015.
Mijalkov is currently in detention after he mysteriously vanished for two days in February and then reappeared, embarrassing the Interior Ministry and the government.