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North Macedonia politician in biometric software scandal sentenced to 8 years

Suspected of procuring own voter identification system
North Macedonia politician in biometric software scandal sentenced to 8 years
 

A court in Northern Macedonia has handed over an eight-year prison sentence to the country’s former general secretary Draghi Rashovski over a corruption scandal involving 6.3 million euros (US$6.9 million) worth of software and equipment, including a biometric voter identification system suspected to have been invented by him. Some of the software was intended for use by the police but the government claims it never agreed to its purchase.

Rashkovski’s sentence was handed down by the Criminal Court in the capital of Skopje last week, Balkan Insight reported

Rashkovski was sentenced for abuse of office and money laundering over four tenders for cameras, vehicle speed detection software, automated license recognition, and booths required for a biometric identification system. After the equipment was purchased by Rashkovski’s office, however, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said that it never requested the software nor does it plan to use it.

The indictment against Rashkovski was brought in December 2021. Aside from the software procurement, the indictment included the payment of royalties to the politician. Rashkovski claimed that he personally developed some of the traffic monitoring software and patented it during his tenure as the Secretary General of the Government from 2017 to 2021. The politician, who holds three master’s degrees and two doctorates, is also a well-known inventor and has patented a biometric voter identification system in the past, which Free Press reports is suspected to be the one contracted.

According to the sentence, the prosecutor proved that the tenders were rigged and that Rashkovski’s office did not have the authority to make the purchase. The judge also ruled that the copyright contracts were fictitious. 

Six other people involved in the so-called “software case” received sentences between three and five and a half years in prison. Rashkovski and other defendants still hold a right to an appeal. 

During the trial, Rashkovski has fought back against the charges with the scandal spilling out to media headlines. The politician threatened to file criminal charges against the state’s prosecutors Vilma Ruskovska and Ivana Trajcheva in late 2022 claiming they falsified evidence. Several months later, he accused them of “hate speech” against him and abusing their office. 

Aside from attacking prosecutors, Rashkovski also accused the judge of colluding with the prosecutor to convict him. The politician said he aims to bring his case to the European Court of Rights in Strasbourg.

During the trial, Rashkovski was also investigated by the Macedonian Anti-Corruption Commission for gifting his wife a Dodge Viper cabriolet reportedly worth 50,000 euros.

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