by Aggelos Skordas
Two FYROM nationals wanted by their country’s authorities were arrested on Thursday by Greek police after reaching the airport of Thessaloniki using forged Bulgarian passports. The two men face charges of illegal wiretapping and are involved in a scandal that helped bring down the previous government of Skopje. Goran Grujevski and Nikola Boskoski, who previously served as officers in FYROM’s secret police and counterterrorism department, were on the run for three months and the neighbouring country’s authorities have issued a warrant for their arrest, while a similar warrant was also issued by Europol on charges of setting up a criminal organisation and for technology-related crimes.
The two former police officers, 51 and 35 years old, were arrested trying to flee Greece, from Thessaloniki Airport, to another European Union country which remains unnamed. They are expected to be tried for these charges on Friday. After being led before a prosecutor for deportations, the two denied all charges, and expressed the fear that if they are returned to FYROM their life will be in danger. The Appeals Council of Thessaloniki is responsible for deciding on whether they will be deported to their homeland or not.
It should be noted that the wiretapping scandal surfaced in FYROM in 2015. Then-Main Opposition Social Democrat Party (SDSM) leader and today Prime Minister Zoran Zaev released tapes that contained illegally recorded phone conversations of about 20,000 citizens of FYROM. Among those taped were prominent politicians, state officials and journalists and the scandal triggered a political crisis that eventually led to December 2016 parliamentary elections, which saw the government of then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski brought down. On his behalf, Gruevski insisted that his conservative party VMRO DPMNE was not involved in the illegal wiretapping and accused the intelligence agencies of foreign countries, which he never named.
According to FYROM’s media, the Justice Ministry will initiate a procedure for their extradition from Greece once it receives an official Interpol notification over their arrest.