North Macedonia’s justice ministry will once again seek the extradition of ex-prime minister Nikola Gruevski from Hungary, where he fled and got asylum almost five years ago to avoid serving a prison sentence, new Minister of Justice Krenar Loga announced on March 27.
Gruevski, who was leader of the now opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, had been tried in absentia and was sentenced to serve two years in prison for the purchase of a luxury Mercedes using state funds. However, instead of serving the sentence, Gruevski fled to Budapest in 2018 and was granted asylum in Hungary.
North Macedonia has made multiple attempts to secure Gruevski's extradition but has been unsuccessful so far. Hungary has maintained that Gruevski's political asylum status prohibits his extradition. This will be the fourth attempt to extradite Gruevski as the previous attempts in 2018, 2019 and 2021 ended unsuccessfully.
Gruevski, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2016, has been implicated in several corruption cases which, aside from the illegal purchase of a luxury vehicle, include misuse of state funds and electoral fraud. He has denied all charges against him and claimed that they are politically motivated. Now he is facing trials in nine court cases.
During a media briefing, Loga said the written request for Gruevski's extradition will mention that Gruevski will be held in the so-called 'Hague cells' both in prison and in detention in Skopje, which were built in line with the highest international standards. Loga expressed confidence that Hungarian institutions will find the conditions acceptable.
"I believe that they will be acceptable to Hungarian institutions, as they meet all international standards," Loga was cited by MIA news agency.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Gruevski had a longstanding political friendship. Orban has been a frequent guest at the electoral rallies of Gruevski's party, VMRO-DPMNE, and expressed strong support for him and his policies.
Loga also mentioned that he will also seek the extradition from Greece of Goran Grujevski and Nikola Boskoski, former employees in the secret police, who are allegedly involved in a wiretapping scandal. The minister informed the Greek ambassador to Skopje, Sophia Philippidou, about this.
Grujevski and Boskoski were detained in Greece in 2017 with false documents. The wiretapping scandal was revealed by the now ruling Social Democrats in 2015 and implicated top officials from VMRO-DPMNE in criminal and corrupt activities, including Gruevski.
Loga noted that it is unacceptable for EU countries such as Greece and Hungary not to help restore trust by returning the fugitives.