Ramiz Merko: North Macedonia’s Mayor on US Corruption Black List

"While serving as Struga's mayor, Ramiz Merko misappropriated funds and interfered with judicial and other public processes, damaging the public's faith in North Macedonia's democratic institutions and officials," the US State Department explained shortly in a press release on Tuesday.

For now, there has been no official reaction from North Macedonia's Prosecutor's office, the State Commission for the Prevention of Corruption or other state authorities as to the exact reason.

Social Democratic Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski said on Wednesday that the allegations against Merko are serious, and that the move showed the US is dedicated to helping the country fight corruption and improve its judiciary. He criticized the domestic judicial system for failing to act before.

"We are talking about several bases [for allegations] that our investigative and judicial institutions should examine. At the same time, they should ask themselves, how come the US came to this information … and our institutions did not over all these years?" Kovacevski asked.

An additional answer that the US State Department's Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, Richard Nephew, gave to the Albanian office of Voice of America on Tuesday, did not shed much more light.

Nephew said the US had "credible information" that Merko was involved in major corruption, but he could not disclose specific evidence due to the nature of the case.

Merko was mayor of the lakeside Municipality of Struga from 2005 to 2014 and an MP from 2014 to 2016 as part of the then parliamentary majority supporting the VMRO DPMNE-led government.

In 2017 he won a third mayoral mandate in Struga but, he was later that year appointed a minister without portfolio in the first...

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