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Macedonian Ex-PM Fled In Hungarian Diplomatic Car, Albanian Police Say

Former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (left) welcomes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Ohrid in September 2017.

Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski escaped Macedonia through Albania in a Hungarian diplomatic car, police in Tirana have said after Budapest formally denied any involvement.

Gruevski left Albania on November 11 "at 7:11 p.m. using the border crossing Hani i Hotit, to enter Montenegro," a police statement said.

Gruevski traveled in a car with the number plate CD 1013A, it said.

Montenegrin police confirmed that Gruevski entered the country on November 11 "and left Montenegro the same day," adding that they had "fully respected legal procedures in this case."

Gruevski, the former leader of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, was sentenced in May to two years in prison for unlawfully influencing Interior Ministry officials over the purchase of a luxury vehicle valued at 600,000 euros ($680,000).

Facing jail after his appeal was rejected, Gruevski fled to Hungary, a European Union member, where he sought asylum.

Earlier on November 15, the Hungarian government formally denied having actively provided assistance in Gruevski's escape.

"The Hungarian state authorities had nothing to do with him leaving the territory of his own country," Prime Minister Viktor Orban's cabinet chief, Gergely Gulyas, told reporters.

"The Hungarian state had nothing to do with him leaving Macedonia."

A Hungarian government representative said later that it did not want to comment on the information released by Albania.

In the past, Gruevski has indicated he was close to Orban.

In 2017, Orban offered his public backing to Gruevski during his campaign for municipal elections, in which his party lost to the ruling Social Democrats.

Both have accused U.S. billionaire philanthropist George Soros of stoking illegal immigration -- claims that Soros denies.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa