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North Macedonia's President Orders Action On Corruption Scandal

President Stevo Pendarovski (file photo)
President Stevo Pendarovski (file photo)

North Macedonia's new president, Stevo Pendarovski, has demanded that officials return from vacation to continue a corruption investigation.

Television channel owner Bojan Jovanovski and an associate were arrested in July for allegedly being bribed by businessman Orce Kamcev, a suspect in a money-laundering probe.

Jovanovski and Kamcev allegedly agreed to use their influence with Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva to reduce Kamcev's prison term.

A right-wing Italian newspaper, La Verita, recently started publishing audio and video recordings that purported to prove that Janeva was in on the bribe.

Pendarovski on August 12 criticized prosecutors and politicians for leaving on vacation during such an important investigation.

Instead of moving forward with their investigation, "authorities went on vacation as if this was a routine matter, and that's not the case," he told a news conference in Skopje.

Janeva has confirmed that it is her voice which can be heard in one of the recordings but said that the conversation was unrelated to the case.

However, the public has been outraged and the political opposition has called for new elections.

North Macedonia hopes to open accession talks with the European Union in October.

The Balkan state was applauded after agreeing to change its name and end a long-running diplomatic dispute with neighboring Greece.

Pendarovski, who was inaugurated in May, has said that "there won't be rule of law if we don't deal with the criminals from the previous government and this government as well." He is an ally of the current government.

The special prosecutor's office was formed in 2015 to investigate crimes linked to the previous government.

After taking office, Social Democratic Prime Minister Zoran Zaev pledged to root out widespread graft in the country.

Zaev's name was also mentioned in one of the recordings. He has denied any connection with the scandal.

With reporting by AFP