Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski Accused of Wire-Tapping 20,000 Citizens

Published: 10 February 2015

zoranzaev2Zoran Zaev, leader of Social Democrats

By Saska Cvetkovska

More than 20,000 Macedonians have been illegally wire-tapped in an operation ordered by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the country's main opposition leader has claimed.

Zoran Zaev, who is head of the Macedonian Social Democrat party, claimed at a press conference on Monday that he has evidence of large-scale snooping on opposition politicians, government ministers, journalists, religious leaders, members of civic organizations and businessmen.

Zaev alleges that the scheme was ordered by Gruevski, who heads Macedonia's ruling party VMRO-DPMNE, and executed by Gruevski's cousin Saso Mijalkov, chief of the Secret Police.

"Those two are the only ones that haven't been under surveillance," Zaev said in a news conference. "There has not been a socially important citizen that was not wire-tapped by Nikola Gruevski and Saso Mijalkov." .

The press conference began with Zaev playing an audio tape on which he himself could be heard in conversation with co-workers, party colleagues and his daughter.

Zaev said he believed he was under surveillance for at least four years, including times at which he was not president of the Social Democrats. Legally, the longest period that a person can be wiretapped in Macedonia is 14 months, and it must be authorized in writing by a judge.

Zaev did not say whether the government had applied for court approval in any of these cases.

Another recording appeared to feature the Minister of the Interior, Gordana Jankulovska, speaking with the Vice Prime Minister Zoran Stavrevski, who is also Minister of Finance.

In the 10-minute conversation, they discussed arranging jobs in the state administration for fellow members of the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE, as well as tenders for public procurements. They also insulted colleagues.

"Even [Gruevski's] closest friends and associates were not spared," claimed Zaev.

Zaev said his revelations represented "only an introduction" to a project his party calls "The Truth about Macedonia". In the coming weeks, it plans to hold 15 to 20 press conferences in which additional recordings will be revealed.

The Minister of the Interior, government representatives and those allegedly featured in the recordings played Monday have not responded to specific allegations.

A government spokesman responded to questions from local media with a text message saying: " The government has nothing more to add to what the Prime Minister had already said last week," referring to allegations that Zaev has been at the center of an attempted coup involving foreign spies.

Zaev would not reveal his source but denied the government's claims that he had colluded with a foreign intelligence service. "This kind of massive wire-tapping can only be done by a domestic service with the support of the mobile operators," he said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, Ivo Kotevski, said he didn't attend the press conference, while Gruevski's party's coalition partner Democratic Union for Integration issued a release to say it expected that "all the issues are to be resolved in a transparent and institutional way".

By Saska Cvetkovska