Saturday, August 04, 2007

Parliament lifts former Macedonian PM's immunity for corruption probe

Macedonia's parliament lifted the immunity from prosecution of the country's former prime minister Thursday, clearing the way for him to be tried for alleged corruption in an arms procurement deal.

Prosecutors have asked for Vlado Buckovski, who is now an opposition lawmaker, to be arrested for his alleged involvement in the 2001 arms deal, which they say cost the country €3 million (US$4.1 million). But police had been unable to arrest him while he retained immunity.

On Tuesday, former army chief of staff Gen. Metodi Stamboliski was arrested on suspicion of ordering from the Macedonian metal company "MZT FOP" four times the quantity of tank parts required by the armed forces in November 2001.

Buckovski was defense minister when the order was signed. He then served as Social Democrat prime minister from 2004 to 2006, when his party lost an election.

The manager of the metal company, identified only by his initials, M.P., has been detained for 30 days after being questioned in the same case.

The three suspects are accused of abusing their positions by "transferring funds to a company that had no contract ... with the defense ministry."

The arms deal was signed after fighting between Macedonian government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels in 2001 in which 80 people died.

"This is a pure political hunt," Buckovski said Thursday. But he said he would cooperate with the investigation.

Thursday is a national holiday in Macedonia. Police are unlikely to arrest Buckovski before he has been given a chance to appear in court voluntarily.

No comments: