Macedonia: President Denies Family's Involvement in Panama Papers

Published: 27 April 2016

GjorgeIvanovGjorge Ivanov (Photo: State Chancellery of Latvia)

By Igor Spaic

The cabinet of embattled Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov has called on Macedonia's opposition, which has accused the President's family of involvement in the Panama Papers scandal, to publish evidence for these accusations, according to the Independent Balkan News Agency.

As he presented documents from Macedonia's central registry, spokesperson of the Macedonian Social-Democrats (SDSM), Petre Shilegov, said at a Sunday press conference that Ivanov's brother-in-law, Saso Tonevski, had business ties to the Panama registered company LIP Corp., which founded the firm Delfino Travel Balkans in Macedonia. Tonevski, the brother of first lady Maja Ivanova, managed Delfino Travel Balkans.

The company was, according to Shilegov, erased from the registry recently.

"Just a few days ago, at a time when the money laundering scandals in Panama began to spread, the company Delfino Travel was erased from the Central Registry. What is Ivanov's family hiding?" said Shilegov at the press conference.

The Panama Papers are a set of 11.5 million leaked documents resulting in a series of investigative stories that expose how a number of businessman, politicians and celebrities exploited Panama's offshore taxation system in order to hide their wealth and avoid or minimize taxes.

According to local NovaTV, the President's cabinet reacted the same day, saying the accusations posed by the opposition are an attempt to present the family of the President as part of a criminal gang through "lies and manipulations".

"We call upon the political party SDSM to immediately publish any transfer of money through this company (Delfino Travel Balkans) and to disclose all who have been involved in any way in that company, which was established in Skopje but never conducted business," NovaTV quotes Ivanov's cabinet.

Should the SDSM not publish the evidence, Shilegov would have to prove his accusations in court, said the statement.

The SDSM dismissed the denial of Ivanov's cabinet as a "nervous reaction".

The accusations come amid heavy support for Ivanov's resignation across the country, following a controversial decision he made on April 12 – utilizing his constitutional powers to pardonall 56 persons investigated as part of a wiretapping scandal which brought Macedonia into a political crisis last year.

The wiretapping scandal surfaced in the beginning of 2015, after SDSM leader Zoran Zaev started publishing recordings he said were the result of the illegal wiretapping of more than 20,000 Macedonian citizens, ordered by former Prime Minister and ruling party (VMRO-DPMNE) leader Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski allegedly also wiretapped members of his own cabinet.

The recordings also allegedly prove involvement of several top officials of Gruevski's government in influencing the judiciary, nepotism, electoral fraud, abuse of power, illegal government spendingpolitically motivated arrests and attempting to cover up a murder.