Over 300 firms in North Macedonia face criminal charges over misuse of coronavirus wage subsidies

By bne IntelliNews August 11, 2020

Over 300 company owners are facing criminal charges in North Macedonia over their failure to pay minimum wages to their workers from money received from the state to help them cope during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The government took several measures after the outbreak of coronavirus in March to help firms to cope with COVID-19, including providing money to firms affected by the crisis to pay minimum net wages of MKD14,500 (€236) for several months. However, the authorities discovered that many firms kept the money from the state without paying workers, which provoked strong reactions from the public.

Broadcaster Telma reported on August 10 that that the final list of companies that did not pay salaries from the government subsidies to their workers will be sent to the Public Prosecutor's Office.

The companies owners will have to return the money, can be fined and also face up to 10 years in prison.

The initial list included just under 600 companies, but after some owners started to pay salaries to employees the final list was narrowed to 344 non-paying companies, Telma reported. They misused €180,000 intended for around 800 workers.

The Tax Authority announced that about 3,750 companies paid salaries from government subsidies to almost 53,000 workers, but the total sum paid is €1.5mn less than the money they received from the state. These companies are being checked by the Labour Inspectorate.

Albanian owned construction firm Victoria Invest with 86 employees is at the top of the government list of non-payers after receiving MKD638,000, followed by food company Zito Vardar Group with 17 employees which received over MKD227,000 financial support.

The Prosecutor’s Office will now decide if there are grounds for filing charges against bosses that kept the government’s financial aid for themselves.

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