Political Scandals and Judiciary Corruption in Macedonia

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  • Tomche Makedonche
    Senior Member
    • Oct 2011
    • 1123

    SDS must be the luckiest political party in the world, for an independent body like the SPO to hold onto and release a bombshell like that just days before an election, I mean just wow, what are the chances!
    “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop, and you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all” - Mario Savio

    Comment

    • DraganOfStip
      Senior Member
      • Aug 2011
      • 1253

      Macedonian independent justice system

      If someone had any doubts left in some corner of his mind that the justice system in Macedonia isn't heavily influenced and indirectly controlled by the ruling party, they're pretty much gone now.
      This is the strongest reason why institutions like the Special Prosecutors are necessary and essential.
      Namely, there were a couple of events in the past week that effectively proved how 2 institutions that are supposed to be neutral and serve the people are firmly controlled (or at least influenced) by DPMNE and only serve to protect their interests and keep them outside the walls.

      Let's start first with the Public Prosecution, an institution that has been tripping and sabotaging the work of the Special Prosecution ever since it's creation (on a sidenote, if they did their job the Special Prosecution wouldn't be formed in the first place).
      A week ago the Special Prosecutors were "combing" the financing of DPMNE, interrogating over 200 DPMNE members about their alleged "donations" to the party.
      The following day, the Public Prosecutor started their own investigation for the financing of SDSM. Coincidence? Maybe.
      BUT, yesterday it was announced that the Public prosecutor is launching an investigation against former officials in Kumanovo,Strumica and Skopje (wasn't specified where,but I'm guessing the only municipality in opposition hands - Centar) about influencing and intimidating voters during the elections in 2014 and the December 11th elections last year.
      The Kumanovo and Strumica local authorities are run by the opposition. No ruling party municipalities are investigated. Another coincidence? Hardly.

      The second, and not less important institution in question is the judiciary.
      The top news in Macedonian media today is the reassignment of over 20 judges in different roles and courts to suit DPMNE in the legal proceedings against them.
      Namely, the very few judges that dared to rule in favor of the special prosecutors have been reassigned to lower courts or to lower positions, so that practically none of them will now be assigned to an organized crime case such as the illegal wiretapping:
      Judge Vesna Dimishkova, who approved the Special Prosecutors' request for a search in the apartment of Kosta Krpac, and their request to search the secret police HQ (after which it was revealed that it was them who conducted the wiretapping), has been reassigned to deal cases involving juvenile offenders.
      Judge Slavica Andreevska, who authorized the detention of Bitola's mayor from DPMNE Vladimir Taleski in the case "Transport",is also reassigned to deal with smaller offenses.
      Judge Olja Ristova, who voted for the wiretapped materials not to be exempted as evidence in the Special prosecutor's cases, suffered the same fate.
      Something similar happened to the 13 judges that petitioned the ex-president of the court Vladimir Panchevski and were later called to give statements in the court council about the matter.

      And if this wasn't coincidental enough, the judges that were mentioned in the tapped conversations as pro-DPMNE have been rewarded with promotions.
      Judge Lidija Petrovska, known as "the Swarowski judge" in the tapped conversations, has been transferred to the organized crime court where the Special Prosecutors' cases are handled, and so is Monika Bahcovanovska - wife of a high ranking DPMNE member.

      Grujo is paving his way to freedom lads, he doesn't want to take any chances. His skin is too precious.

      Биљана Секуловска, НОВА: Судијке Ристова, два пати бевте деградирана, всушност казнета – од Кривичниот суд сте преместени во Судот за прекршоци. Дали отворено ви беа кажани причините за смените? Оља Ристова, судијка: Причините за моето ...
      Last edited by DraganOfStip; 02-21-2017, 02:40 PM.
      ”A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims... but accomplices”
      ― George Orwell

      Comment

      • DraganOfStip
        Senior Member
        • Aug 2011
        • 1253

        The sudden reassignment of a number of reputable judges from Skopje's Criminal Court is a politically motivated blow directed at the Special Prosecution, judges and legal experts say.



        Demoted Macedonia Judges Blame Purge on Politics
        The sudden reassignment of a number of reputable judges from Skopje's Criminal Court is a politically motivated blow directed at the Special Prosecution, judges and legal experts say.
        Sinisa Jakov Marusic
        BIRN
        Skopje


        Recent sudden reassignments of judges from Skopje's Criminal Court are a politically motivated move designed to prevent reputable judges from handling high-level crime cases opened by the Special Prosecution, SJO, some judges say.

        In a move that took many on Tuesday by surprise, the court's temporary head, Tatjana Mihajlova, reassigned some 20 judges from the court.
        "All the ... so-called 'disobedient judges' have been reassigned to sections where the SJO cannot instigate a case. The only logical conclusion is that the reassignments are a blow to the SJO," Criminal Court Judge Olja Ristova said.

        Ristova told NOVA TV that she blamed her demotion on her own disobedience, recalling that last year she had refused vote to discard wiretapped materials of official conversations - released by the opposition - as evidence before the court.

        Judges who last year allowed the SJO to search the apartment of witness Kosta Krpac, who died under suspicious circumstances - and who also allowed SJO to search the premises of the secret police for evidence of illegal wiretapping - are also among those who have been demoted.

        Another is the judge who ordered house detention for Bitola mayor Vladimir Taleski, who is suspected of corruption.

        Significantly, all 13 judges who last year complained of coming under political pressure from their then head, Judge Vladimir Pancevski, were reassigned.

        The former Macedonian judge in Strasbourg, Margarita Caca Nikolovska, said the reassignments highlighted the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party's strong influence on the courts.
        She said the party was concerned about the SJO's cases, which mostly concern its own former or current top officials.

        "Obviously, there is some kind of fear of these cases linked to the wiretapped conversations. This fear reaches such lengths that they are already selecting or assessing judges who might be more favorable for them, and removing judges who, in their own opinion, might abide by legal criteria in determining criminal responsibility," Nikolovska said.

        The Skopje Criminal Court has dismissed claims of acting under political influence and said it was surprised by the scale of public interest in what it called a regular move.

        "The temporary court president has a legal right to assess which judge should be reassigned where," it said, dissmissing accusations of a "purge of judges".

        The main opposition Social Democratic Union, SDSM, accused the VMRO DPMNE party of doing its utmost to avoid facing justice for past crimes.

        "All attempts and hopes of the criminals to avoid justice are in vain," the SDSM wrote in a press release on Tuesday,
        It reiterated that if the party forms the next government, it will launch a "complete re-election of judges" to eliminate political influence from the judiciary.

        The VMRO DPMNE party also published a press release accusing the opposition of influencing the courts, insisting that the judiciary must resist such pressures.

        The controversy in and over the court comes against a background of a deep political crisis in Macedonia, which was not resolved, as some had hoped it might be, by elections on December 11, 2016.

        The result was a near-tie between VMRO DPMNE and the SDSM, and neither party has since mustered enough support in parliament to form the new government, although the initiative now lies with the opposition.

        The crisis revolves around opposition claims that former PM Nikola Gruevski and his close associates were behind a massive wiretapping operation. He denies the allegation.

        The SDSM in 2015 released batches of covertly recorded telephone conversations of top state officials, insisting they contained evidence of many corrupt dealings and crimes.
        As a result, the four leading political parties in Macedonia, at EU-mediated talks in 2015, agreed to form the SJO in order to investigate those claims.

        Initially, VMRO DPMNE supported the formation of the SJO. However, it has since changed its mind, accusing the SJO of turning into an opposition tool and of prosecuting only VMRO DPMNE members.
        The SJO has in turn complained of politically motivated obstruction to its work.
        ”A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims... but accomplices”
        ― George Orwell

        Comment

        • DraganOfStip
          Senior Member
          • Aug 2011
          • 1253

          UPDATE:
          Some of the judges that were reassigned appealed the decision.
          Today 7 out of 8 appeals have been approved and these judges will not be reassigned.
          According to the decision of the Supreme Court, acting president of the Criminal court Tanja Mihajlova violated the procedure when issuing the reassignments.

          Rule of law 1 : 0 Grujo & co.

          ”A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims... but accomplices”
          ― George Orwell

          Comment

          • Albo
            Member
            • May 2014
            • 304

            What the hell is going on in Macedonia?


            What the hell is going on in Macedonia?



            What the hell is going on in Macedonia?
            DAVID STEFANOSKI 3 April 2017
            A maelstrom of scandals, drama, violence and anger has seen Macedonia sliding towards collapse in recent months, with serious implications for the Balkans as a whole.


            The past few years have been increasingly turbulent for the Republic of Macedonia. The country has been stuck in a deep crisis since 2014, with the rare glimmers of hope being quickly extinguished, and few people in the country seeing a future for themselves at home. So how did we get here?

            Macedonia has been ruled by the conservative Macedonian VMRO-DPMNE party and their coalition partner, the self-proclaimed “Marxist-Leninist” Albanian party, DUI, since 2006. Although DUI has nothing to do with the Marxist-Leninist ideology, their partners do employ some conservative thought into creating a new faux culture and identity for the Macedonians. This new identity is mostly based on nationalism, inclusing the revival of lesser known and lesser revered figures from the past such as Andon Kjoseto, a hitman that lived through the anti-Ottoman rebellion.

            This self-stylized reinvention of the national identity has been the bane of many critics for its crudeness and for being based on “alternative facts”, however it had a financial drawback as well – the government began an initiative to reinvent the national identity, which included a project called “Skopje 2014”, among other things. This initiative has cost hundreds of millions of dollars - some estimates even going as far as 700 million - and it has delivered in a big way, putting up hundreds of monuments, mostly in the centre of the capital, Skopje, but also in other cities around the country.

            This nationalistic wave was dulled by the protest movements that started to appear in the fall of 2014. First, as usual, came the students, then the teachers, professors, high school students, part-time workers and pretty much everyone else that had a bone to pick with the uncontrolled “reforms” the government was making. All of these new movements used antinationalist rhetoric, and some of them (Student’s plenum) even negotiated the government into submission after a two week long occupation of the universities. Thus, the cracks in the rock-solid power of VMRO-DPMNE and DUI began to form.

            Following the students, the main opposition party, the SDSM started publishing audio recordings of wiretapped officials. It was a huge scandal, revealing that the national intelligence agency had wiretapped the entire government, opposition, media, all political figures, foreign diplomats and embassies, as well as thousands of other people. It is still unclear who ordered this to be done, and where the recordings would go, but somehow they came into the hands of Zoran Zaev, leader of the SDSM.

            He published them one by one from his party headquarters until 5 May 2015, when a recording of the then-head of the ministry of interior and her spokesperson talking disparagingly about a boy being killed at the victory celebrations after the elections was released.

            The recording sparked a public revolt that had been lacking for years, where a few thousand people, unorganized and unprepared, tried to storm the government building. After a few hours and a few dozen injured, riot police dispersed the crowd. Four days later, the police engaged in a firefight with a terrorist group in the second largest city, Kumanovo, and eight police officers died. This sparked a period of mourning and the protests were either transformed or called off.

            In the following months, the four major political parties at that time, the VMRO-DPMNE, SDSM, DUI and DPA signed the Przhino agreement, implementing a special public prosecutor to investigate the crimes implicated in the audio recordings. The SPP has brought up dozens of new cases over the following months, and while no sentences have been brought yet, the prosecution is working on several cases against high government officials and businessmen.

            According to the big picture presented in opposition media, Macedonia has been ruled by a criminal elite instead of a political party and it is hard to not see the evidence, especially after you’ve literally heard it on leaked recordings. Meanwhile in 2016, a protest movement called the “Colourful revolution”, spearheaded by the SDSM alongside dozens of NGO’s and initiatives raged on for over two months, gathering tens of thousands of supporters.

            The cause for this was the general decree that the President of the Republic, Gjorgje Ivanov proclaimed in April, giving amnesty to any and all politicians in Macedonia from the cases initiated by the special prosecution. After a while, the President withdrew his amnesty and the protests settled down.

            The next big thing that happened were the parliamentary elections in December 2016, where the ruling VMRO-DPMNE fell to 51 MPs, and the SDSM rose to 49, while the main Albanian parties DUI and DPA both lost MPs to the new Albanian parties Besa and the Albanian Alliance coalition.

            After a lot of pressure from all sides and the obvious fact that VMRO-DPMNE could not assemble a majority to form a government, the SDSM provided proof to the public and the President who had asked for it, that it had formed a parliamentary majority of 67 out of the 120 seats.

            SDSM had assembled this majority with the signatures of the representatives from DUI, who turned on their coalition partner, and the new Albanian parties. A small, but important detail here is that a new far-right movement called Tvrdokorni (a name meaning something between “hardcore” and “hardliners”) sprung up and marched through the capital, condemning both SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE as traitors to the national Macedonian interests.

            Amazingly, the President refused to give a mandate to the opposition leader Zoran Zaev saying that, through his coalition with the ethnic Albanian parties, he was following the agenda of neighbouring Albania and thus threatened the territorial integrity of Macedonia. Meanwhile, an initiative supported by VMRO-DPMNE appeared, mimicking the methods of the Colourful revolution in its entirety, protesting in over 20 cities and with thousands of people.

            The only difference between the Colourful revolution and the so-called “Black revolution” is that the latter stands for Macedonian national pride, against foreign influences and Albanian domination, while the Colourful revolution stood for multi-nationalism and rule of law. Both protest movements encapsulate some degree of violence – the Colourful revolution practiced soft violence, throwing water balloons filled with all kinds of colors on government symbols and buildings, while the new movement has started by attacking prominent opposition politicians, supporters and media. This is where we are today.

            However, over the last period, things started to get a bit blurry. The main subject in the media is no longer the crime that had sparked this whole crisis, or the wiretapping scandal. Now, the media is concentrated on nationalism and the erosion of the state.

            This is because of the latest developments in the political situation, where all of the ethnic Albanian parties went to Tirana and created an Albanian political platform that seeks to implement bilingualism in Macedonia, making Albanian the second official state language.

            The VMRO-DPMNE responded harshly to this platform, but DUI officials repeatedly stated that in negotiations for the new government between the current coalition in power, the ruling Macedonian party accepted all of the terms except for the continued existence of the special public prosecution.

            Thus, nationalism from both sides soars after years of silence. One as a veiled irredentist political statement and the other as a self-proclaimed defender of the unitary character of the state, while at the same time being against the opposition and a supporter of the current parties in power.

            Although the situation is incredibly convoluted, there are still positive sides. One of these is in regards to the failure in the rise of the far-right. VMRO-DPMNE, with its infinite wisdom, has sidestepped their only chance at reforming their party into one that would become more powerful, by subduing the Tvrdokorni movement and replacing it with a Colourful Revolution-type one.

            The Tvrdokorni gathered a decent number of supporters in a relatively short period of time, partisan and non-partisan nationalists alike. Through this far-right movement that shares its ideology with the ruling Macedonian party, DPMNE could have reformed into a much stronger and more concentrated force based on ideology instead of the loose technocracy and organized crime base which it has become. On the other hand, the SDSM’s peaceful and reformist ways of non-violence have brought it within grasp of coming to power after 11 years in opposition.

            After all that, we have to pose the question “What effect will this have on the situation in the country and the region?”

            First, we have to take into consideration the cultural standpoints. Macedonia has two major ethnic groups – the Macedonians and the Albanians, but only the Albanian political parties are connected with their peers in Albania and Kosovo. This necessarily implies support from those states and therefore interference in domestic affairs, however it also necessitates caution as all of these parties are very close.

            President Ivanov in his address to the nation, declared that Albania had meddled in the country’s domestic affairs. He received a response from Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama which denied this, however the diplomatic incident stands. Macedonia has been plagued by diplomatic incidents as the VMRO-DPMNE leader, Nikola Gruevski called for the removal of foreign-funded organizations and nosy ambassadors, referring mainly to US Ambassador Jess Baily who has had frequent talks with all party leaders.

            Furthermore, Ivanov mentioned in a subsequent statement that the army of the Republic of Macedonia is ready to defend its borders should need arise, prompting responses from neighboring nations. Newspaper articles fly about, stating that Kosovar forces are on the border, that terrorists are forming in Macedonia and so on, aggravating the situation even further.

            Statements were made by NATO and EU high representatives to calm the situation down and ask Ivanov to give the mandate to Zaev per democratic principle, but the situation still remains unclear. Thus, even though Macedonia is at the centre of the clash of power and cultural differences between its indigenous people, as well as the struggle between globalist, pro-western cultural influences and the local traditions, I would say that the attempts of the ruling party to turn Macedonia’s situation from a “state under occupation by a criminal group” into one of ethnic conflict, have been relatively unsuccessful.

            What is clear though is the support that the Russian government is giving to the current party in power, saying that VMRO-DPMNE is fighting irredentism and foreign influences, instead of the obvious struggle to stay out of prison for the billions of dollars extracted from the state treasury through various means over the last 11 years. Zaev has repeatedly said that all criminals from all parties, including SDSM but primarily VMRO-DPMNE must answer for any crimes they have committed, and that everything can be debated if it is within the constitution.

            With the Russian influence and the American domineering position coupled with the EU’s (uncertain at times) support for the rule of law and democracy, the country is well on its way to change. We can expect a new government soon, as President Ivanov has no power to keep the country in chaos by withholding the democratic mandate from the parliamentary majority.

            Sooner or later, he will have to reverse his decision because the country is already falling apart – the government is currently not doing anything, instead choosing to hibernate until disbanded, the parliament has not assembled for two and a half months and the judiciary is experiencing major shake-ups and resignations as SPP cases start to flow in.

            Even more troubling is the postponing of local elections that were supposed to take place in May, but were not called for by any party within the legal time limits. No local government means no paychecks for those employed by it, and these are the thousands of people that will starve should this come to pass.

            So very soon, if nothing changes, Macedonia could have no executive body, no legislative body, weak judiciary bodies and illegitimate and powerless local authorities. It is very unclear what would come from the midst of the chaos, but with the current flow of events, it can’t possibly be good.

            Will it be a nationalist resurgence in far right parties, or a major left uprising through the newly formed leftist party? Will it be an inter-ethnic or an intra-ethnic conflict being perpetuated by the media? Will the rumors of a nationalist Macedonian paramilitary group come true, or will Macedonia just slip back into the mantra of “Euroatlantic integration, peace and cohabitation”?

            Surrounded by the NATO on three sides it is clear that the organization wants this territory in its control, however the question is how are they going to drive the social factors to implement this wish?

            In the end, hope dies last, but right now it is dying quickly, with only one of the possible outcomes being positive – that the new government forms as quickly as possible, shuts down the country’s organized crime which has occupied it, and no blood flows in the process, because we all know, once the Balkans get going, Europe trembles.

            A maelstrom of scandals, drama, violence and anger has seen Macedonia sliding towards collapse in recent months, with serious implications for the Balkans as a whole.

            Comment

            • Albo
              Member
              • May 2014
              • 304

              ANOTHER ARTICLE WITH THE SAME TITLE!!!

              Comment

              • Albo
                Member
                • May 2014
                • 304

                Investigation: Serbia’s Involvement in the Macedonian Crisis

                Investigation: Serbia’s Involvement in the Macedonian Crisis

                Serbian journalist and MP Miroslav Lazanski was involved in a coordinated propaganda campaign along with members of Serbia’s intelligence service, the BIA, aimed at mobilizing public support for Macedonia’s ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Russia in Macedonia. Lazanski describes these claims as false, and says that he was only doing his job as a journalist. The following investigation was conducted by KRIK, TV Nova and OCCRP, who obtained intercepted conversations and other leaked intel from Macedonian intelligence. The original was published in Serbian by KRIK, who have generously given us permission to translate their work and publish it here.

                By: Stevan Dojčinović, Saška Cetkovska, Biljana Sekulovska, Bojana Jovanović, Bojana Pavlović and Aubrey Belford.

                Translation: Sergej Dojcinovic






                On March 3rd, Goran Živaljević, a member of Serbia’s intelligence agency, BIA, made a call to Ivan Stoilković, a Macedonian MP and the president of Macedonia’s Serbian Democratic Party. Živaljević told him that he was hosting a journalist named Miroslav Lazanski in Skopje who could do them a favor.

                “Hey, I’m hosting [Lazanski], and briefed him on the column he is supposed to write today in [Serbia’s] Politika daily newspaper. We are going to see the protests, and then when we go sit somewhere tonight, I will give you a call,” Stoilković told Živaljević, according to a transcript obtained by KRIK.

                The conversation continued the following day and now featured a mysterious journalist. Stoilković stated that he was to bring Lazanski to a meeting with the leader of Macedonia’s ruling party VMRO-DPMNE, former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

                “At 20:45 I’ll pick up Lazanski from the hotel, and then I’ll take him to Gruevski, so wait for us at the hotel until we return,” Stoilković said.

                The day after this meeting, Lazanski, a journalist and MP in the Serbian parliament, published a column in Politika titled “We are not giving Macedonia away”. In it, the author writes about his support for Gruevski, who at the time was trying to prevent Macedonia’s main opposition party SDSM — which had formed a coalition that had enabled it to form a parliamentary majority — from entering power.

                “New elections are the solution,” Lazanski wrote in his article for Politika, an opinion in line with Gruevski’s own official stance at the time. Lazanski also compared Zaev to Hitler. “Hitler also won power through informal elections. With that I am not trying to say that Mr Zoran Zaev, leader of the (opposition) party SDSM, is such a character.”

                Everyone involved in the operation was satisfied with the job Lazanski had done. The same day the column was published, Živaljević and Stoilković spoke on the phone again.

                “Lazanski just called. He says that his article is breaking records in Serbia,” Stoilković said.

                “Great, great,” Živaljević replies, who was the main orchestrator of the operation, per the content of the conversations.

                “He is very happy and gloating and says ‘F… Ivan, all the readership records have been broken in Serbia’. He is happy and satisfied”.

                “Ok”.

                “Tonight I am going to RTS (Ratio Television of Serbia), for the statement we recorded today, it will be on the news,” Stoilković ends the conversation.

                Propaganda actions

                These transcripts were a part of the material Macedonian intelligence collected by following and wiretapping Živaljević and Stoilković. KRIK, TV Nova, and OCCRP journalists gained access to intelligence reports, transcripts, audio, and photo material. The documents claim that the Macedonian courts allowed them to conduct the monitoring.

                The evidence collected, the intelligence agency claims, demonstrates that “through information gathered from Živaljević and Stoilković from March 2017, journalist, military analyst and a member of the ruling Serbian party SNS (Serbian progressive party) was brought to Macedonia to collude on propaganda”.

                The goal, as described, was to promote Russia and Gruevski’s influence, and also to strengthen Macedonia’s opposition to NATO membership.


                After 10 years in power, Gruevski proved himself an autocrat who didn’t support democratic processes or media freedom. During the decade of his rule, secret services wiretapped more than 30,000 people, and leading newspapers were prohibited from criticizing his government. The opposition, led by Zaev, published recordings or “bombs” of Gruevski’s conversations with his subordinates which revealed his government was involved in corruption and election fraud. Gruevski and his allies were put under an investigation for money laundering, election fraud, illegal wiretapping and theft of government funds. More recently, Gruevski has found support from Russia.

                Aleksandar Vučić and the authorities in Belgrade never lent direct support to Gruevski, but Serbian pro-government media ran campaigns against Zaev, the leader of the Macedonian opposition who won the mandate to form the new government.

                The documents show that BIA agent Živaljević gave instructions to Stoilković, who then briefed Lazanski on who to meet and which topics to talk about in the media. Stoilković was present at some of the meetings, including the time Lazanski met Gruevski.

                There is also a list in the documents that shows which of Lazanski’s articles were marked as propaganda, most of which were published in Serbia’s pro-government tabloid Informer. Some of them were written by Lazanski, and in them he outlined Russian military power, argued for increased cooperation with Russia rather than NATO. Lazanski also wrote that the demonstrations in Macedonia were directly organized by the West, claiming that they were provoked by the US to prevent the building of the Russo-Turkish gas pipeline.

                Enthralled by Putin

                Lazanski is famous in Serbia for his pro-Russian stance. Throughout the years he has meticulously constructed a macho, military-political analyst image for himself, who besides writing for newspapers, also votes at beauty pageants and poses for pictures wearing military equipment. In 2014, he interviewed Vladimir Putin, an experience which left him “stunned”.

                He became an MP in 2016, and was listed 8th on the SNS’s list as an independent. He stated that Aleksandar Vučić had a vision and that he was the best option for Serbia’s future.

                “Vučić called me personally and asked me if I would be willing to help as an independent member. I couldn’t reject his call,” he said.

                In a conversation with KRIK, Lazanski claims that he was only doing his job as a journalist in Macedonia.

                “I am neither a member of the state intelligence, nor its spokesperson,” he said. “I wasn’t there as an MP; I was there as a journalist from Politika and also as someone covering the situation for a television station from Republika Srpska,” he claimed.

                “Throughout my career as a journalist I’ve had contacts from all the major intelligence services such as the KGB, CIA, French and German services. Usually, when I arrive in a foreign country, I make sure the Serbian embassy knows. Mr Živaljević is a legitimate and accredited member of BIA in Skopje.”

                He confirmed he met Gruevski, but described the meeting as a “failed attempt to get an interview.”

                “I talked to Gruevski as a journalist, the same way I talked to Živaljević and the leader of Serbian Democratic Party in Macedonia. It was supposed to be an interview, but Gruevski postponed it, and later, as time passed, it became uninteresting to me.”

                Selfie

                Goran Živaljević is a long-time member of the intelligence services, and from January 2003 to March 2004 he was BIA’s deputy director. Since 2005 he has been a part of the diplomatic service, working as an adviser to the Serbian embassy in Macedonia.

                The documents claim that as the political situation in Macedonia worsened, his diplomatic duties turned into intelligence duties.

                Once the Macedonian services started observing his movements, they found out that Živaljević met many politicians and businessmen in Macedonia.

                It was also revealed that the agent was present in the Macedonian parliament at the time when masked men entered and physically attacked members of then-opposition parties. Several members of parliament, along with Zaev, ended up receiving severe injuries. Footage from security cameras showed that the men were let into the parliament by members of Gruevski’s party. Not long after the incident, the international community pushed the president to allow Zaev to form a new government.

                Živaljević marked his presence in the parliament with a selfie as masked men beat members of the opposition, which journalists from KRIK, TV Nova and OCCRP found in the documents. It is unknown whether Živaljević published the selfie somewhere or the intelligence services found it while searching through his documents.

                Serbian PM Aleksandar Vučić and FM Ivica Dačić claimed that Živaljević was doing his job in the parliament at the time of the incident.

                “His job is to inform us about what is happening in Macedonia. Živaljević is the official representative of the BIA in Macedonia; he isn’t there illegally,” Dačić said.

                Information from Macedonian intelligence services tells a different story.

                “From our investigation, it can be concluded that Goran Živaljević, a member of the BIA in Macedonia, was using methods outside of his boundaries that diplomatic status gave him… which then questions the legitimacy and legality of his actions.”

                Goran Živaljević declined a request for an interview, saying he did not want to comment.

                Russian influence

                Stoilković became a member of Macedonia’s parliament in 2002 as a member of the Serbian Democratic Party in Macedonia (DPSM).

                Macedonian intelligence describes him as a nationalist who conducts actions in accordance with President Tomislav Nicolić’s cabinet, other Serbian officials, and members of the BIA.

                His meetings with Živaljević were frequent whenever “there was an important vote in the parliament or a government meeting”.

                The Macedonian intelligence documents stated that, “Findings from his [Stoilković’s] contacts with Russian diplomats and other activities confirm that his political orientation was in fact based on Russian influence in the Balkans, with the goal of shutting down Euro-Atlantic integration and Western influence.”

                As the president of the Serbian Democratic Party, Stoilković signed a document in 2016 called “The declaration of the formation of the neutral military zone in the Balkans” alongside Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia.

                Documents show that Stoilković had been under surveillance since 2013. Despite that fact, Gruevski accepted him as a coalition partner.

                He did not want to talk to our journalists, and was irritated when asked about his connections to Živaljević.

                “Did I ask you who you communicate with? How are you not ashamed? Ask me a normal question,” he said.

                He hung up before we could.



                Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) is a non-profit organization established to improve the investigative journalism in Serbia. The organization was founded by a team of journalists who for years has been engaged in exposing crime and corruption, and who have received many awards for their work.

                Comment

                • Tomche Makedonche
                  Senior Member
                  • Oct 2011
                  • 1123

                  Macedonia's Wiretap Whistleblower Hails 'Fairytale' Ending

                  In his first public appearance, one of the whistleblowers who exposed the illegal wiretapping scandal in Macedonia says the fall of Nikola Gruevski's government was like a 'fairytale' ending to the drama.


                  Macedonia's Wiretap Whistleblower Hails 'Fairytale' Ending

                  In his first public appearance, one of the whistleblowers who exposed the illegal wiretapping scandal in Macedonia says the fall of Nikola Gruevski's government was like a 'fairytale' ending to the drama.

                  Gjorgi Lazarevski, one of three former Macedonian secret policemen who are credited with handed over wiretapped recordings of official conversations to the then opposition leader, Zoran Zaev, said he was delighted that his actions had exposed and ultimately brought down the government of Nikola Gruevski.

                  "I am still recovering. I am simply not the same man any more. But the satisfaction I drew from the fact that we managed to uncover this systemic evil is very important," Lazarevski said in his first public appearance, in an interview for NOVA TV.

                  In February 2015, the then opposition Social Democrats, led by Zaev, began releasing batches of covertly recorded tapes that they said proved Gruevski's government was behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including ministers, politicians, businessmen, journalists, scholars and others.

                  The opposition claimed the tapes proved that top government members and their associates had committed other crimes as well, including schemes to rig the 2013 local election and the 2014 general and presidential election, manipulate the justice system, keep a tight grip on media and cover up the murder of a young man by a police officer.

                  Many of these allegations are now being investigated by the Special Prosecution, the SJO, or already resulted in charges being brought against top former officials, including Gruevski.

                  At the time, the then Prime Minister claimed the whole affair was a political set-up instigated by unnamed foreign intelligence services.

                  After a prolonged political crisis, Zaev's Social Democrats, SDSM, finally formed the new government in May, ending the 11-year reign of Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE party.

                  Lazarevski said he first found out that the secret police – for which he worked from the 1980s onwards – was illegally wiretapping a massive number of people in 2008.

                  He said he then spent three years with a colleague, Zvonko Krstevski, documenting these illegal activities. "Zvonko and I shared the same dissatisfaction from what was going on," Lazarevski said.

                  He said he decided that the compromising materials should be stored after finding out that even the then Interior Minister, Gordana Jankuloska, was among those being wiretapped.

                  "When I first found out that that even the Interior Minister was being wiretapped ... and when I heard the content of such conversations, I told Zvonko, 'We must keep this,'" Lazarevski said.

                  Later, they decided to hand the materials they had collected to the former secret police chief, Zoran Verushevski, because they trusted him. Verushevski then handed them to Zaev.

                  Lazarevski added that, at that time, when the secret service was headed by Gruevski's cousin, Saso Mijalkov, they did not trust the system or their superiors.

                  In 2015, soon after the opposition started revealing the tapes, Lazarevski, Kostovski and Verushevski ended up behind bars after being accused of illegal wiretapping and of espionage on behalf of unnamed foreign secret services.

                  The charges were part of a case codenamed "Coup", in which Zaev was accused of trying to blackmail Prime Minister Gruevski into resigning by threatening to publish the compromising tapes.

                  Kostovski later made a deal with the prosecution, admitting guilt and getting three years in jail.

                  However, Lazarevski, who spent 11 months in detention, said he was put in a solitary confinement after refusing to sign a similar deal.

                  "I spent the first month in detention. I cannot complain of pressures although being isolated was pressure by itself. The first month, I spent communicating frequently with the prosecutor in charge but after I refused to sign the confession, I was put in a cell that looked like a solitary confinement," he said.

                  Regarding the change in power that took place in May, Lazarevski said he still could hardly believe that what he fought for had come about.

                  "This is like a fairytale for me. What happened is the exact same thing I was hoping for because at one point I was in despair, thinking that this [past] regime will never crumble and that they had got it all covered," he said.

                  "Probably, it is worth it living through this experience in your life. At least you can say to yourself that you did not live in vain," Lazarevski said.

                  In January, the SJO, which was formed to investigate alleged wrongdoings associated with the wiretapping affair, dropped all charges against Zaev and the others involved in the "Coup" case.

                  This came after the SJO in November 2016 said all the evidence suggested that other people from the secret police – and not foreign secret services, as Gruevski claimed – had carried out the illegal wiretapping activity.
                  “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop, and you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all” - Mario Savio

                  Comment

                  • Risto the Great
                    Senior Member
                    • Sep 2008
                    • 15659

                    Macedonia is having lots of fairytales lately.
                    Risto the Great
                    MACEDONIA:ANHEDONIA
                    "Holding my breath for the revolution."

                    Hey, I wrote a bestseller. Check it out: www.ren-shen.com

                    Comment

                    • Tomche Makedonche
                      Senior Member
                      • Oct 2011
                      • 1123

                      US Urges Accountability for Macedonia Wiretapping

                      Establishing who was responsible for alleged mass wiretapping is critical for Macedonia's aspirations to join NATO and the EU, said US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee.


                      US Urges Accountability for Macedonia Wiretapping

                      Establishing who was responsible for alleged mass wiretapping is critical for Macedonia's aspirations to join NATO and the EU, said US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee

                      Establishing accountability for the illegal mass surveillance allegedly conducted under Macedonia’s previous government will be a "critical step" towards the country convincing the European Union and NATO that it is ready to join, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee told Alsat M TV on Monday.

                      "We call on all actors... to do what they can to ensure that justice is done, the rule of law is observed, that the Special Prosecutor [set up to investigate high-level crimes] is given the support necessary to do its job and that there is not political pressure, influence over the prosecutors, over the judges," Yee said in an interview on the ‘360 Degrees’ political show.

                      Asked to comment on the fact that none of the 20 cases launched by the Special Prosecution against officials from the previous VMRO DPMNE party-led government have yet come to a legal conclusion in courts, Yee said that these cases must not drag for a long time.

                      Yee also spoke about the importance of judicial reform that would ensure rule of law and trust in the country’s institutions.

                      But he noted that the new government led by the Social Democrats, which came to office in March, is "still relatively new", and that the US will support it.

                      "Our intention is to continue working very closely with this new government, help them make the changes by assistance, doing whatever we can to help the government move forward," Yee said.

                      He called on the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party to play a constructive role in the reforms ahead.

                      "We look forward to VMRO, to all parties in parliament, to play a constructive role, to seek compromise where there are disagreements," Yee said.

                      "We'll be watching very closely, I think the EU will do as well, and for those parties or individuals who are clearly obstructing for the sake of obstructing or for personal or other intentions, we will hold them accountable," he added.

                      The US official praised the recent signing of a friendship agreement between Macedonia and neighbouring Bulgaria and the new Macedonian government's commitment towards strengthening ties with neighbours in general in order to remove obstacles to its membership of NATO and the EU.

                      He said he was an optimist about a possible solution to the longstanding ‘name’ dispute with Greece.

                      "We are optimistic that if both sides continue to operate with goodwill, looking for solutions, it will be possible for Macedonia and Greece to find a solution for the name issue and for Macedonia to move forward with its goal of joining NATO," he said.

                      Yee strongly dismissed past allegations by former Prime Minister and VMRO leader Nikola Gruevski that the new Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of the Social Democrats was elected because of a Western conspiracy to make Macedonia give concessions to Greece on the name issue.

                      The US official also warned against what he called Russia's "malign" influence in the Balkans, urging Macedonia and other countries in the region to strengthen their resilience by building stronger independent media and decreasing their energy and arms supply reliance on Russia.

                      "In the Balkans we have seen, unfortunately over the past year, Russian activities, malign influence, the worst case being Montenegro, where Russia attempted to interfere with the elections and probably much worse. We see Russia trying to discourage the accession of countries in the Western Balkans to NATO and also to the EU," Yee said.

                      He said that while the US is not questioning a legitimate Russian role in Europe, the Western Balkan countries should be left free to decide on their future security alliances and strengthen their resilience against various misinformation coming from Russia and elsewhere.
                      “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop, and you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all” - Mario Savio

                      Comment

                      • Starling
                        Member
                        • Sep 2017
                        • 153

                        Didn't the US basically pull a Russia and contribute to the political mess in Macedonia? I'd rather they stay out of other countries' affairs until they sort out their own. Drumpf's been overdue for impeachment since the day he was put in office against the popular vote. He pretty much ruins anything he touches and is in Russia's back pocket.

                        Comment

                        • Coleman
                          Junior Member
                          • Aug 2017
                          • 16

                          that is nonsense. the us does it all the time.

                          Comment

                          • DirtyCodingHabitz
                            Member
                            • Sep 2010
                            • 835

                            Originally posted by Coleman View Post
                            that is nonsense. the us does it all the time.
                            Every country does it to its citizens and to foreign countries Cyberwarefare <---> Five Eyes.

                            Comment

                            • Tomche Makedonche
                              Senior Member
                              • Oct 2011
                              • 1123

                              Macedonia to Trim Secret Police's Eavesdropping Powers

                              Macedonia&#8217;s secret police, UBK, will no longer have unchecked powers to place people under surveillance, under a set of bills that form part of EU-recommended reforms of the security sector.


                              Macedonia to Trim Secret Police's Eavesdropping Powers

                              Macedonia’s secret police, UBK, will no longer have unchecked powers to place people under surveillance, under a set of bills that form part of EU-recommended reforms of the security sector

                              A set of government proposed bills in Macedonia, aimed at improving civilian control over the security services, which Brussels has noted in the past as a serious issue, will enter parliamentary procedure this week.

                              One of the main novelties contained in the bill on communications surveillance, prepared by the Interior Ministry, is that the secret police will no longer be in charge of the technical process of surveillance.

                              Instead, the country will form a new Operational Technical Agency, OTA, which will be independent from the secret police and under much firmer civil control.

                              Its work will be monitored closely by the Prosecutor’s Office, the bills envisage.

                              Additionally, five institutions will monitor surveillance activities to prevent any repeat of past abuses and breaches of people’s privacy and other human rights, the government has proposed.

                              Parliament, the directorate for classified information, the personal data protection agency, the Ombudsman’s Office and a newly formed civic council will all be engaged in the OTA’s monitoring work.

                              As part of the system of checks and balances, OTA will only be in charge of collecting surveillance data, and will not be able to listen to and analyze them. Its chief will be appointed by parliament and will have to possess at least ten year's work experience in the police.

                              The UBK will only be able to analyze the collected data but will no longer have the ability to eavesdrop itself.

                              The current law allows the UBK to eavesdrop without seeking a court’s permission and without notifying the telecom operators.

                              As part of the reforms, mobile operators will no longer be obliged to provide technical equipment to the UBK, with which it could easily penetrate their systems for surveillance purposes.

                              The reforms in the security sector come as part of the new government’s drive to curb misuses of surveillance, after a mass illegal surveillance scandal rocked Macedonia in 2015, causing a long political crisis.

                              Former Prime Minister and VMRO DPMNE chief Nikola Gruevski and his cousin, former secret police chief Saso Mijalkov, were accused of masterminding the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including government ministers.

                              They denied the charges. The crisis only ended this May with the election of a new Social Democrat-led government.

                              In November 2016, the Special Prosecution, SJO, which was formed as part of an EU mediated agreement between Macedonia's parties and tasked with investigating allegations of high-level corruption, confirmed that the secret police ran the illegal wiretapping operation.

                              As a result, Mijalkov and other former senior police officials are currently on trial for the illegal surveillance operation and for trying to destroy evidence of it.

                              In October, Greek police arrested two runaway former Macedonian secret police employees whose testimonies in court, after their extradition to Macedonia, may shed additional light on the mass illegal wiretapping.

                              If it carries out all the most urgent reforms, Macedonia's new government hopes to open acession talks with the EU next year.
                              “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop, and you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all” - Mario Savio

                              Comment

                              • Tomche Makedonche
                                Senior Member
                                • Oct 2011
                                • 1123

                                UK sale of surveillance equipment to Macedonia raises questions over export licence

                                The UK government approved the export of controversial surveillance equipment to the Republic of Macedonia, despite concerns over the country&#8217;s human rights record, documents obtained by Computer Weekly show.


                                UK sale of surveillance equipment to Macedonia raises questions over export licence policy

                                The UK approved an export licence for the sale of surveillance equipment to Macedonia – while the country was engaged in an illegal surveillance programme against its citizens. A senior minister was consulted on the decision

                                The UK government approved the export of controversial surveillance equipment to the Republic of Macedonia, despite concerns over the country’s human rights record, documents obtained by Computer Weekly show.

                                The Macedonian government that acquired the equipment subsequently collapsed after an outcry that followed revelations of widespread illegal surveillance of citizens.

                                Gamma International (UK) Limited, a company that specialises in exporting surveillance equipment, won approval to sell six surveillance devices, known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers, in October 2012, while Macedonia was engaged in an illegal mass surveillance programme.

                                Macedonia’s former coalition government, led by Nikola Gruevski’s right-wing VMRO-DPMNE party, was ousted in December 2016 after leaked audio tapes showed the Macedonian secret services had illegally spied on the country’s citizens, including politicians, civil society activists and journalists, since at least 2011.

                                Between 2008 and early 2015, the Administration for Security and Counterintelligence illegally intercepted conversations from nearly 6,000 phone numbers affecting more than 20,000 individuals.

                                The public discontent that followed the revelations contributed to a change in leadership, when the VMRO-DPMNE lost public support and found itself unable to form a new government after more than a decade in power.

                                How the British sold surveillance equipment to Macedonia

                                Senior officers of the Macedonian UBK made a trip to London in 2010 and reportedly agreed the purchase of surveillance equipment from the British company Gamma International, part of the Gamma Group.

                                Emails from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), obtained by Computer Weekly, confirm that Macedonia bought “interception equipment from Gamma” the following year.

                                And in May 2012, the UK government approved an export licence to Gamma International to supply six sophisticated devices, called 3G-N 2F IMSI catchers, with a 3G Blind Call function.

                                David Lidington, the then minister for state for Europe and current secretary of state for justice, was consulted on the decision. He did not wish to comment when approached by Computer Weekly.

                                Gamma International

                                In 2015, the Canadian research group Citizen Lab found that another Gamma-marketed product, FinFisher, was used in Macedonia.

                                No export licence appears to have been issued for this specific software. One of the email conversations released by the FCO – dated 17 March 2016 – which refers to the UK's approval of an export licence for Gamma's IMSI catchers to Macedonia - states: “there were no other licences issued apart from one, which appears to be to enable export of goods under warranty/for repair”.

                                In 2011, The Guardian reported on Gamma offering spying equipment to Egypt’s regime. Media and privacy campaigners’ attention has been high ever since. More recently, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found Gamma to be in breach of human rights guidelines – the first time in history this has occurred for a surveillance software company.

                                According to Gamma International’s UK filings, the company is currently 100% owned by Louthean John Alexander Nelson, born 1961, a British national who lives in Lebanon and works there as a security consultant. It is managed by two directors, Nelson himself and William Louthean Nelson, born 1932. The company is at present in poor financial health, having negative equity of Ł242,662. However, Offshore Leaks has shown Louthean John Alexander Nelson to be a shareholder in two British Virgin Islands companies.

                                Gamma International (UK) Limited did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
                                The IMSI catchers were capable of capturing and recording mobile phone voice calls, SMS messages and covertly recording details of mobile phone calls made within the range of their antennas – on a huge scale.

                                The customer was the Ministry of Interior (MOI) in Skopje, the government department responsible for the policing of organised crime, and the Security and Counterintelligence Administration (UBK), Macedonia’s equivalent to MI5. The UBK was later implicated in the surveillance scandal that shook the country from early 2015.

                                The Foreign Office’s Arms Export Policy Department (AEPD) and Human Rights and Democracy Department (HRRD), together with the British Embassy in Skopje, considered the human rights record of the Macedonia government before recommending approval for Gamma International’s export licence.

                                Surveillance equipment needed to tackle organised gangs

                                According to an internal report obtained by Computer Weekly, the Ministry of Interior intended to buy Gamma’s surveillance equipment for “geo-locating and tracking” the 3G mobile telephone traffic belonging to organised criminal gangs. “Organised crime remains a significant problem in Macedonia, and there is an operational need for the MOI to have the best equipment to combat it,” the FCO memo states.

                                The document shows that if the Foreign Office team did have concerns over illegal surveillance by the Macedonian government, they were allayed by the Macedonian Parliament’s introduction of legislative controls to limit telephone intercepts to organised crime cases, and discussions in the Macedonian Parliament to improve Parliamentary oversight of surveillance.

                                The report quoted heavily from the latest 2011 EU progress report on Macedonia, which noted that the Macedonian government had stepped up its supervision of the police, and that the Ministry of Interior had been willing “in several cases” to bring criminal cases against police officers involved in alleged criminal offences.

                                However, it failed to mention that the same 2011 EU progress report on Macedonia had raised doubts about the ability of the Macedonian government to carry out effective oversight of the country’s police and intelligence services.

                                The report states that the Macedonian Ministry of Interior unit “is yet to be transformed into an authority that is fully independent from the police with the ability to implement effective investigations”.

                                “Parliamentary oversight of intelligence and counter-intelligence services remains weak. In 2010, only one session of the Parliamentary Committee was convened. There is insufficient cooperation between the Parliamentary Committee and the Bureau for Security and Counterintelligence,” it said.

                                Covert mobile phone monitoring favoured by police forces

                                IMSI catchers are a favoured form of surveillance for police forces around the world because they do not require cooperation from mobile operators to monitor large numbers of mobile phones. They can be used to send automated messages to crowds during protests.

                                They gather data by conducting man-in-the-middle attacks against mobile phone users. The device pretends to be a cell tower and acts as a malicious relay for mobile phones in the area, which gives the IMSI operator the opportunity to eavesdrop on the network traffic.

                                They can be worn on the body or in a backpack to allow police to mix with crowds or protests, and can also be used in cars or mounted in fixed locations. The fixed devices have access to better power supplies, giving them greater range and capabilities

                                Gamma International’s IMSI catchers are capable of capturing and recording mobile phone voice calls, SMS messages and covertly recording details of mobile phone calls made within the range of their antennas – on a huge scale

                                The range of IMSI catchers depends on the power available and the terrain of the area being monitored, but typically they can intercept calls anywhere from tens of metres to 1-2km. In “catch and release” mode, IMSI devices from some manufacturers can acquire metadata and location at a rate of “1,500 handsets per minute across five networks”.

                                Gamma’s 3G IMSI catchers, whose specifications have been leaked online, allow the interception all voice calls and SMS messages either made or received. They can spoof the identity of a target phone to send SMS messages or make voice calls that appear to come from the person under surveillance.

                                They can block calls so they are not received by the target, and divert or edit SMS messages before they are received. The company’s 3G Blind Call capability ensures that the phone can transmit information to the catcher without the target being aware.

                                Gamma International’s catalogue shows the features of its IMSI catchers
                                According to its sales brochure, Gamma’s IMSI catchers are capable of hoovering up metadata, location and SMS data, and phone conversations at a rate of up to 20 simultaneous calls recorded per device.

                                UK government accused of short-sightedness

                                Privacy campaigners have accused the UK government of short-sightedness in approving the export licence.

                                “The UK government has consistently claimed that the current system of assessing licences is robust, but it’s clear here that it has failed to properly scrutinise the legal framework governing surveillance in Macedonia,” says Privacy International researcher Edin Omanovic.

                                “The use of IMSI catchers is considered so sensitive in the UK that the police refuse to comment on them. Yet the government has been licensing their export to dozens of destinations, including to countries with horrific human rights records where surveillance is routinely used to target activists, journalists and opposition members,” says Omanovic.

                                That the UK approved this licence to a department which appears to have been engaging in illegal wiretapping on a mass scale illustrates the huge risks involved and just how short-sighted and counter-productive this is.

                                The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s assessment that Macedonia’s attempts to bring greater scrutiny to the UBK and stronger parliamentary scrutiny were to prove, at best, optimistic.

                                A legal expert told Computer Weekly: “Where there are more red flags, one would generally expect enhanced due diligence to be conducted in respect of licence applications. In the case of Gamma International, this may extend to factors such as Gamma’s track record and Macedonia’s questionable human rights record.”

                                Uranija Pirovska, who was the director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights when the export licence was issued, says that in 2011 – the year before the UK government approved the export licence – there were already clear indications that Macedonians were living in a non-democratic regime.

                                She cites the brutal murder of a young man at the hands of former prime minister Gruevski’s bodyguards on the night of the 2011 elections, and the arrest of opposition politician Ljube Boskovski the day after. It also emerged that the Ministry of Interior had tried to cover up the involvement of Gruevski’s bodyguards in the 2011 murder.

                                When the leaked tapes came to surface in February 2015, Pirovska found she had been wiretapped since 2011. “We [activists and journalists] had the strong suspicion that we were being wiretapped back then, as you could hear that the phone conversation was not clean,” she says.

                                The tapes also exposed several high-profile corruption scandals that are being investigated by the Special Prosecution (SJO). Accusations include money laundering, irregularities in public procurement, the illegal demolition of buildings belonging to political opponents, electoral fraud and more. Five cases involve the former prime minister Gruevski himself.

                                Macedonia promises surveillance reforms

                                Macedonia’s new government, led by the Social Democrats, was formed in May 2017. A particular challenge for the new administration is to prevent illegal surveillance in the future.

                                The EU sponsored two investigations, led by former European Commission director Reinhard Priebe, to tackle systemic failures with the rule of law and widespread corruption in Macedonia. The two inquiries, known as the Priebe reports, were compiled in June 2015 and in September 2017 by a Senior Experts’ Group.

                                They place particular focus on ensuring proper oversight over the Bureau of Security and Counterintelligence (UBK) and strongly recommend that the direct access to technical equipment by UBK should be removed.

                                Responding to Computer Weekly, the Macedonian government affirmed its commitment to ensure this by following the recommendations set out in the Priebe reports. “Negative political influences have been removed, and the government is undertaking measures to strengthen the surveillance over the system for communication monitoring,” it says.

                                Pressure groups have argued that it should be a key priority for the current Macedonian government to ensure that the country’s intelligence agencies never again get direct access to telecommunications networks, to prevent such abuses from happening in the future. That work, says the Macedonian government, has yet to be completed

                                Why the FCO recommended the export of phone surveillance equipment to Macedonia

                                Why did Macedonia need mobile phone surveillance equipment?

                                There was “an operational need” for the Ministry of Interior to have the best equipment to help combat organised crime, which remained a significant problem in Macedonia, according to a Foreign Office memo obtained by Computer Weekly.

                                “There have been recent high-profile killings in Macedonia, and an extensive effort was conducted to track perpetrators involving telephone intercepts of analysing the motives of the attack,” the memo says.

                                Police operations against toll booth operators and the arrests of large numbers of police officers in eastern Macedonia in early 2012 illustrate the challenges facing police in combating organised crime.

                                Did Macedonia have proper controls and oversight of state surveillance?

                                According to the UK government memo, in 2007/8 the Macedonian Parliament adopted legislative controls that would enable telephone intercepts only in cases of organised crime. Legislative proposals being discussed in Parliament aimed to remove the Minister of Interior’s role in making decisions on interception and to improve oversight.

                                What concerns were there about human rights in Macedonia?

                                The EU and the US have been placing pressure on Macedonia over human rights since the country’s independence in 1991, the Foreign Office memo reveals. The US had raised concerns in its latest human rights report about the high level of complaints over the excessive use of force by police and the potential for “police impunity”.

                                Non-governmental organisations and opposition parties had reported potential cases of arbitrary arrest or detention, and at least one instance of murder of a protester at the hands of the prime minister’s bodyguards. According to the EU’s annual progress report, corruption [in the police force] remained a serious problem and the oversight of the work of the police and intelligence services was too weak.

                                Where were the mitigating factors for the Foreign Office?

                                Despite complaints about excessive use of force by police in Macedonia, the FCO memo states that there had been no acts of unlawful or arbitrary killing. The Macedonian criminal code requires all warrants to be authorised by the investigative judge or a public prosecutor. “Of particular relevance to this licence request, the US report states that the government generally respects the prohibitions on arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence.”

                                What about police corruption?

                                According to the EU’s annual progress report, cooperation between the Ministry of Justice and law enforcement needs to be strengthened, and the collection and processing of information on the extent and nature of corruption remains deficient. Corruption remains a serious problem, it says.

                                What were the mitigating factors for the Foreign Office?

                                According to the EU progress report, quoted by the FCO, the Ministry of Interior was “willing in several cases to bring criminal cases against police officers alleged to have been involved in criminal offences”. This was said to show that the Ministry of Interior had intensified its monitoring of police work.

                                The verdict

                                The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Arms Export Policy Department and the British Embassy in Skopje recommended that Gamma International (UK) Limited should receive a licence to export its “3G-N 2F IMSi catcher with 3G blind call” equipment to the Macedonian Ministry of Interior.
                                “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop, and you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all” - Mario Savio

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