Zaev Lied about meeting with Italian Ambassador to avoid Corruption Trial
Wednesday, 04 January 2017

VMRO-DPMNE held a press conference today to declare that SDSM party leader Zoran Zaev will face justice for the allegedly corrupt business deals in the city of Strumica where he is a Mayor. Zaev avoided a recent court hearing claiming that he was tied up with the Italian Embassy. However, the Embassy denied that they are the reason Zaev was unavailable.

"Zaev shamelessly lied to the court, the media and the public. In order to avoid the court hearing in the bribery case, he first lied that he was meeting Italian Ambassador Carlo Romeo and therefore couldn't make it to the hearing. The denial of this lie came directly from Ambassador Romeo. Then he claimed he met the Embassy consul. This too was denied. Finally, it was revealed that Zaev was meeting with a certain Stojan Vitanov, a person who does not work in the Italian Embassy nor represents it. Zaev is trying to remain unreachable for the Macedonian courts, just as he was in 2008, when President Crvenkovski pardoned him for a similar corruption case", VMRO-DPMNE's Vladimir Neloski said at a press conference.

Zaev is charged with asking bribes from a Strumica businessman to help him land a lucrative land deal. Cooperating with the prosecutors, the businessman apparently videotaped Zaev asking for several hundred thousands EUR in bribes for his brother Vice and for "the church", likely code for the SDSM party. In 2008, President Branko Crvenkovski pardoned Zaev for a deal in which he approved construction of a shopping mall on municipal owned land that was supposed to be returned to its pre-Communist era owners to a company which he has business ties with.

Ambassador Romeo took to twitter to deny that Zaev had a meeting with him when he avoided appearing at court. SDSM issued a press release on Tuesday to say that Zaev never claimed that he met the Ambassador. 

"SDSM already said that our President Zoran Zaev didn't meet with the deputy Ambassador. That was a made up report. As President Zaev responded, he met with an Italian consulary correspondent and nobody else", SDSM writes in its press release in which they blame VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski of ordering media reports on Zaev's missed court hearing. The Italian Embassy was frequently mentioned in media reports with the start of the wiretapping affair that brought about the political crisis of 2015/2016. In communication seized from former spymaster Zoran Verushevski, an Ambassador is mentioned and Zaev later confirmed that he was in touch with an Ambassador of an European Union country led by a social-democratic Government to provide Verushevski with asylum. Verushevski served in Rome as police attache after his son was pardoned by Crvenkovski for a conviction on attempted murder, and therefore rumors were widely reported in the media that he was looking for help from Italy to evade arrest for the unlawful wiretapping.


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