Macedonian court issues arrest warrant for ex-PM Gruevski

Macedonia's former prime minister Nikola Gruevski enters a court in Skopje, Macedonia, on Oct 5, 2018.
Macedonia's former prime minister Nikola Gruevski enters a court in Skopje, Macedonia, on Oct 5, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

SKOPJE (AFP) - A Macedonian court on Monday (Nov 12) issued an arrest warrant for the country's former prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, after he failed to turn himself in following a corruption conviction.

The warrant, announced by the interior ministry, came after a court in Skopje upheld a two-year sentence against him for abuse of power on Oct 5.

Authorities will issue an international arrest warrant if they fail to locate Gruevski by Tuesday (Nov 13), an interior ministry spokesman said.

"For now there is no international arrest warrant. If we can't find him in the country within the next 24 hours, we will seek him internationally," Toni Angelovsvki said.

Gruevski, 48, was convicted in May of using a 600,000-euro (S$933,000) Mercedes for personal travel even though it had been bought with state funds.

Following the October appeal conviction, the court issued the warrant after a two-week deadline expired for the deputy to give himself up. Gruevski has now exhausted all avenues of appeal.

The former leader of the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE dominated the political landscape of the Balkan country for nearly a decade, until 2016.

He resigned after a scandal emerged over tapes that appeared to show widespread wire-tapping by his administration.

He now faces a number of graft cases, with the Mercedes charge the first to go to trial. Gruevski has denounced this first conviction as politically motivated.

In the spring of 2017, the party he once led was voted out of power, beaten by a coalition led by Social Democrat Zoran Zaev, who won the backing of parties representing the country's ethnic Albanian minority.

While in power, Gruevski took a hardline stance in a long-running name row with Greece, which has its own province called Macedonia.

But the Macedonian parliament last month voted to start the process of renaming the country North Macedonia.

That brings Skopje to breaking the deadlock with neighbour Greece, which has blocked Skopje's entry into Nato and EU over the issue for nearly 30 years.