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Nikola Gruevski: Former Prime Minister of North Macedonia convicted of money laundering

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Nikola Gruevski resigned as Prime Minister after a wiretapping scandal emerged in 2015.
Nikola Gruevski resigned as Prime Minister after a wiretapping scandal emerged in 2015.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski, File

North Macedonia's former prime minister Nikola Gruevski has been found guilty of money laundering party funds.

The Criminal Court in Skopje ruled that Gruevski had unlawfully acquired over €1.3 million from donations to his party from 2006 to 2012, part of the time when he was in office.

Judges also found that Gruevski had used the party donations to buy property through an offshore company registered in Belize.

The 51-year-old -- who has been living in exile in Hungary for three years -- was sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison.

Gruevski was granted political asylum in Hungary after being convicted on separate charges in North Macedonia in 2018.

He has always denied wrongdoing, and his defence lawyers said they would appeal Thursday’s latest ruling.

Four of Gruevski’s associates were also convicted in the party funds case, including his cousin Saso Mijalkov, the former head of the country's intelligence service.

The court also ordered the confiscation of various properties, including luxury apartments in Skopje.

Gruevski was first convicted in 2018 on charges of unlawfully influencing interior ministry officials over the purchase of a luxury armoured Mercedes car. He was sentenced to two years in prison but fled to Hungary before his detention.

In 2020, the former prime minister was also sentenced to 18 months in prison for orchestrating violence in 2013.

Gruevski -- who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2016 -- is facing a further three cases for alleged corruption, election irregularities and abuse of office.

The charges all relate to a 2015 wiretapping scandal when it emerged that the phone conversations of more than 20,000 people -- including politicians, judges, police, journalists and foreign diplomats -- had been illegally recorded.

The scandal triggered an early election in 2016 in which Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE party lost to Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev.

Authorities in North Macedonia have unsuccessfully asked Hungary to extradite the former nationalist leader.