The Criminal Court sentenced the former prime minister and former leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, in the court case “Tank”, to two years in imprisonment, for the procurement of the luxury bulletproof “Mercedes” which costs 35 million and 266 thousand denars, i.e. 575.000 euros.

Gruevski, who did not appear in the courtroom to hear the verdict, was charged for “receiving a reward for illegal influence” ie illegal lobbying.

This is the first verdict concerning Nikola Gruevski amongst the many cases that the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office (SPО) are conducting against him.

Former Assistant Minister of Public Procurement within the Interior Ministry, Gjoko Popovski, who was charged for abusing his position and authority, was sentenced to six years and six months.

Nevertheless, both are expected to pay court costs, which amounts to 325,584 denars.

Former Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska is facing the same charges, however the case was made separate due to a “risky pregnancy”.

“It is without doubt that the “Mercedes” vehicle was purchased and the defendants were aware that it was an extremely expensive car. At Gruevski’s behest, Jankuloska carried out an official act that she was not permitted to do and she prompted Popovski to commit the crime which is an abuse of official position. Defendants favored the economic operator “Mak Autostar”, said Judge Dobrila Kacarska before announcing the verdict.

According to Kacarska, from the presented evidence among which are wiretapped conversations that have not yet been released, the court discovered that as early as February 2012, two months before the tender was made public, in a telephone conversation between Gruevski and Gordana Jankulovska, he had said that he had seen all three prospects and was only interested in the one that “begins with M”. Then, on the 30th of March, the same year, a month before the tender was made public, the person in charge at “Mak Autostar” in the import department booked the vehicle at the headquarters in Stuttgart, and then in another email ten days later, he informed them that the job would be arranged for the vehicle to be delivered.

Kacarska added that it was apparent from the evidence that defendant Gjoko Popovski was already in communication with “Mak Autostar” and asked them for an exact specification of the “Mercedes” and that it be placed in the public tender, which undoubtedly shows that the tender was set up to get the car Gruevski wanted.

Regarding the explanation of the verdict, it was said that from the other evidence, it was obvious that in constant coordination by Jankuloska, Popovski and the employees of the Ministry of Interior who wrote the tender, everything was done to exclude the possibility of another competitor appearing, i.e. she carried on saying, similar vehicles were offered such as, a “BMW” and an “Audi”, but the tender was written for a specific gearbox, rear-wheel drive and engine power as well as for other technical equipment.

Jankuloska and the former government general secretary, Kiril Bozinovski, communicated intensively regarding the procurement from March to July, and he was precisely informed that the job was arranged for Gruevski to get the Mercedes he wanted.

The “bomb” regarding the procurement for the luxury bulletproof “Mercedes” was released over three years ago, on the 13th of May. In January, 2017, the SPO’s investigation began, and in January 2018 the trial started. SPO Prosecutors asked for a conviction, because the procurement of the vehicle was purchased with public funds and it was the capricious wish of the former prime minister to own the luxury car.