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North Macedonia's special crime prosecutor arrested in alleged extortion scandal

A police vehicle which believe to be transporting Special Prosecutor for Organised Crime Katica Janeva is pictured in Skopje, North Macedonia, August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Lazar Simeonov

SKOPJE - North Macedonia’s special prosecutor for organized crime was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of offering leniency in exchange for cash to a businessman after her office indicted him for corruption, the public prosecutor said.

Special Prosecutor for Organised Crime Katica Janeva offered her resignation last month after local papers reported her alleged involvement in extorting well-known businessman Orce Kamcev. Janeva has denied any wrongdoing. [nL5N25G4LH]

Two other suspects have already been arrested on suspicion of extorting a total of 1.5 million euros ($1.66 million) from Kamcev.

One of them is former reality television personality Bojan Jovanovski, who has made much of his ties to top officials, including Janeva and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, by posting images of himself in their company on social media.

The office of the special prosecutor for organized crime was created under a 2015 EU-brokered agreement which ended a political crisis partly fueled by anger over high-level organized crime and corruption. State Prosecutor Ljubomir Joveski said evidence suggested Janeva had committed “a criminal act” by abusing her position of power.

“The prosecution has decided to widen the investigation against the prosecutor (Janeva), who has been taken under arrest and we will ask the court in charge to approve the detention,” Joveski told a news conference in Skopje.

Joveski said Janeva is under suspicion of offering leniency “to a businessman” in exchange for money. Earlier on Wednesday, police searched her home in Skopje’s Kozle neighborhood, the private Makfax news agency reported.

The EU has asked North Macedonia for judicial reforms before it holds accession talks.

Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky