SPO has mandate both for investigations and indictments until 2020

 

The law is definite – SPO has jurisdiction to act with its entire realm until the last day of the mandate – 15 September 2020

 

On 23 July 2017, the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, through its representative, Bojan Stojanovski, gave a statement containing manipulative and untruthful elements regarding Special Prosecution Office’s (SPO) acting deadline:

Statement: SPO must not position itself above the law. Pursuant to Article 22 of the Law on Public Prosecution Office for Prosecuting Crimes Related to and Deriving from the Contents of the Illegally Intercepted Communications, this body for selective prosecution must not lead investigations after the expiration of the 18 months from the day of taking the cases and materials under its competence. Each new prosecution and torture that the SPO will expose citizens, members of VMRO-DPMNE to, will be illegal and will serve as a baseline for liability of SPO’s employees.

[Source: VMRO-DPMNE, website, date: 23 July 2017]

 

EXPLANATION:

The first part of VMRO-DPMNE representative’s statement contains allegations that SPO’s acting has political character, something that is yet again ungrounded and something that we have already de-spun and clarified here in Truthmeter. However, the second part contains one more or less schematic and an untruth rarely delivered by the party and experts close to it. This untruth concerns SPO’s acting deadline.

As the public generally knows, the 18-month deadline, prescribed by the Law on SPO, pursuant to which this prosecution office should’ve issued indictments or to order the cessation of already initiated investigations for possible crimes, related to materials deriving from the intercepted phone conversations, published by the opposition, and materials for certain cases that were under jurisdiction of the regular prosecution office, expired on 30 June 2017. In a press conference that took place a day before 30 June 2017, the special prosecutor Katica Janeva announced that they issued three new indictments, that they merged two investigation into one indictment and that SPO has issued 20 indictments in total covering multiple people, which were handed to the judiciary. But SPO’s work does not end there, not only in terms of leading investigations on already issued indictments, but also in terms of further preliminary investigations, investigations and issuing of new bills of indictments. This derives from the law itself, but also from the possible turn of events with already issued indictments.

What if, for instance, during one court proceeding for which a bill of indictment exists, new crimes are committed by the defendants, which are related to the case already in a court proceeding? For example, what if evidence is destroyed or witnesses are intimidated and tortured? In such case, the SPO has the full authority to submit a proposal for issuing an indictment on the newly committed crime and to link it with the existing one, i.e. to expand the indictment in the already ongoing proceeding.

Nonetheless, the substance of the untruth brought out by VMRO-DPMNE contradicts two clear provisions in the law.

The first one is contained in Article 5, Paragraph 5 of the Law on SPO, which explains how the Special Prosecution Office (SPO) will act upon crimes out of its competences, but for which it has information:

(5) All evidence on crimes that are not in the scope of authorizations and competences of the public prosecutor for prosecuting crimes related to and deriving from the contents of the illegally intercepted communications, or are relevant to existing criminal cases, will be handed to the public prosecutor of the Republic of Macedonia and the prosecutor in charge of the case. (Article 5, Paragraph 5 of the Law on SPO)

This means it is possible that during the examining of the wiretapping recordings, (only 45% of the recordings were examined so far, Janeva said) that intimations or evidence of other criminal acts could have been discovered, criminal acts that are not “in the scope of authorizations and competences” of Janeva or might be “relevant to existing criminal cases”, and those information, intimations and evidence will be handed over to the regular Public Prosecution Office or to a prosecutor from the regular prosecution procedure.

For example, during an investigation on illegal funding of a political party, if information has been requested and awaited for from abroad, and that informaion leads to the knowledge of other crime unrelated to the party’s funding, the SPO might and should hand such information to the Public Prosecution Office. This was confirmed by a high profile legal expert who we consulted during the preparations of this article.

Second, Article 22 regulates SPO’s acting deadline in terms of investigations and indictments, and it strictly stipulates issuing indictment or ceasing an investigation within 18 months “after the cases and materials have been taken under its competence”.

The best example for this situation is the “Sopot” case. Janeva and her team were convinced that this case belongs to them because they have indications deriving from the conversations wiretapped in the period 2008 – 2015. Long before 30 June 2017, SPO requested to overtake the “Sopot” case, which is in a phase of appeals submitted by the once convicted 11 persons, from the Public Prosecution Office and the Council of Prosecutors. On 5 July 2017, Public Prosecution Office’s Board, more precisely the Board of the Public Prosecution Office for Organized Crime and Corruption, made a decision to hand over the case to the SPO.

According to the unambiguously clear provisions of the Law on SPO, Article 22, SPO’s deadline begins expiring from the moment when it will physically take the case from the Public Prosecution Office:

Article 22

The public prosecutor managing the Prosecution Office can issue an indictment or to order the cessation of an investigation in a period not longer than 18 months after the cases and materials have been taken under its competence.

It’s completely clear that the legislator had been thinking that materials under SPO’s competence might be received five years after its formation, for instance, sometime in the summer of 2020. Hence, according to the Law, the deadline for the SPO  to do its job and search for evidence, to initiate preliminary investigations, investigations, to issue new indictments is valid within five years after the formation of SPO, until 15 September 2020.

Therefore, due to the aforementioned arguments, we deem the statement brought out by VMRO-DPMNE’s representative regarding the expired competence of SPO to initiate investigations as untruthful.

 

Sources:

 

Assessed by: Teofil Blazhevski


This article was created within the framework of the Project to increase the accountability of the politicians and political parties Truthmeter implemented by Metamorphosis. The article is made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for Democracy(NED) and The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an initiative that supports democracy, good governance, and Euroatlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. The content is the responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, National Endowment for Democracy, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.

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