SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — North Macedonia's ex-secret police chief on Tuesday handed himself over to authorities who were seeking him on an international arrest warrant after he disappeared before an expected court verdict on his alleged involvement in a massive wiretapping scandal.
Sasho Mijalkov appeared at the prosecutor's office and afterwards told reporters that he had not tried to evade authorities but was instead self-isolating after developing COVID-19 symptoms.
Along with 11 former government and police officials, Mijalkov is on trial over the 2016 scandal that toppled the country’s conservative VMRO-DPMNE party after a decade in government.
“I was not on the run. I was here and because I felt (COVID-19) symptoms, I’ve isolated myself. When I found out what was happening, I decided to come to the prosecutor’s office today,” Mijalkov said.
The Skopje Criminal Court ordered him placed under house arrest on Sunday as a precautionary measure, ahead of the court verdict that’s due to be announced on Friday. However, he was not found at the address he had given when police sought him there shortly after the order was issued.
Mijalkov, a first cousin of conservative former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, is accused of masterminding phone taps on more than 20,000 people, including politicians, judges and journalists between 2006-2016.
Mijalkov’s sudden disappearance closely recalled that of his cousin, Gruevski, who fled the country in 2018 to avoid serving a two-year jail sentence for involvement in a corruption scandal and was granted political asylum in Hungary.
Mijalkov will remain under house arrest until announcement of the court verdict.