North Macedonia’s Prosecutor’s Office said it was working on six active cases of suspicions of abuse of position and fraud in relation to the blacklisted Mayor of Struga, Ramiz Merko.
The US put Merko on its corruption black list earlier this week, based on alleged evidence obtained that the blacklisted mayor had been involved “in significant corruption.”
In announcing that Merko was the subject of investigations on six accounts, the prosecution said “there are well-founded suspicions of inaction and unprofessionalism on the part of the prosecutors handling these cases.”
According to the prosecution, it plans to follow the US’ lead and launch “special investigations” into the work of prosecutors who have been cast under doubt by the revelations.
“The Prosecutor’s office will immediately check the legality and speed of their action, as well as the possible impact on the course of these cases, on a case-by-case basis. Criminal proceedings will be instituted against all prosecutors who are found to have acted untimely, unprofessionally and under the influence,” it said.
The blacklisted mayor is a prominent member of the ruling ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI). Merko is the first politician from a North Macedonia’s ruling alliance party to be put on a US corruption black list.
On Tuesday, the US State Department said, “while serving as Struga’s mayor, Ramiz Merko misappropriated funds and interfered with judicial and other public processes.” The announcement has led to widespread speculation as to the nature of Merko’s crimes.
The prosecution has released little detail about the ongoing investigations.
Proceedings for criminal cases are ongoing. One of the current cases was reported by the Financial Police for violating the law as part of an expropriation procedure. Several civil associations have filed a report regarding abuse of official position and authority .
“In recent years, several more procedures have been carried out against the person [Merko] following reports from various authorities and institutions,” reads the report.
North Macedonia’s Judicial Council, a regulatory body that appoints, evaluates and dismisses judges, says it would form its own commission to probe the Basic Court in Struga to see if it had been influenced by Merko. The commission will commence work next week.
Merko has so far remained silent regarding the accusations. He was caught on camera entering the Struga municipal building earlier this week.
Merko’s DUI party said it supported an investigation into the Mayor’s actions, and that Merko himself had “frozen” his membership of the party.
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