The case with the forged passports shows that the announced vetting in the police should be accelerated, says the president of Transparency International Macedonia – Slagjana Taseva
Those who carried out the action over the forged passports given to criminals shall not be rewarded, instead a thorough investigation needs to be conducted in order for the public to be aware of all the details, and a control mechanism needs to be established that will prevent further erosion of the Ministry of Interior – demanded the President of Transparency International Macedonia – Slagjana Taseva in an interview for “Nezavisen”.
“Everywhere around the world except in North Macedonia if you show up at work with a new vehicle that does not have to be really expensive, you have to have an explanation how you have bought it. Anyone who has been at the parking lot in front of the passport service knows that there are many representative vehicles there. It is very obvious, and yet no one was asked where they came from”, Taseva said adding that the control mechanisms in the Ministry of Interior were obviously hidden.
Like Pavle Trajanov before, she believes that this affair will affect the international reputation of the country, which received visa exemption from the EU because it assured the Union of the security of the issued documents – which was one of the most important conditions.
“Affairs like these are not good. They point out that there are many weaknesses in the work of the Ministry of Interior, in a very sensitive area such as the issuance of personal documents and passports. We have heard that there have been identity thefts, which is a very serious violation of the rights to personal data protection, which are protected by international conventions. Inside the Ministry of Interior, there is an obvious integrity problem among the employees in the institutions as a whole,” said Taseva.
She reminds that this is the second major weakness of this kind in the structure of the Ministry of Interior that comes to light after the wiretapping scandal, because it shows the involvement of people from the institution itself, which raises questions – how it was allowed to happen, are there control mechanisms and mechanisms for controlling the integrity of the employees in those services that, according to the findings, were in support of organized crime?
“The support that those organized crime groups had inside the Ministry of Interior is the biggest factor for the dark crime figures in the country. If there is corruption that provides protection for criminal groups, then you have no efficiency in the work and detection of crime. Many things here need to be analyzed, not just the fact that the detainees will be brought to justice and held accountable. The problem is much bigger and needs to be considered from many aspects, including why the investigation lasted so long, what were its elements, what were the results and why the control mechanisms in the Ministry of Interior failed. Since this is a very high level of corruption and very high amounts of money are mentioned, this should be very seriously elaborated, including the names of all persons who received passports and especially whose identity was stolen because someone was committing a crime in their name “, notes Taseva.
In February this year, the Ministry of Interior filed criminal charges against 36 other people, eight of whom were its employees, for forging driver’s licenses to persons who had not passed the driving test. It has been known for a long time that MoI employees have a problem with integrity and are related to crime, due to which a vetting was announced in the police two years ago, i.e. its purification by examining their property status, contacts and diplomas.
A working group was set up to develop a vetting methodology and a law was drafted to begin the process. But after the loud announcements, there has been silence for two years.
“It is true that the Minister of Interior talked mostly about the vetting procedure and that he was silent. The vetting should be carried out, together with the check of the integrity of the employees in the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry of Interior has also established reports of whistleblower abuse, but it is not clear whether this was not reported by anyone or whether this practice has been tolerated for two years. “It is also not clear how passports could have been issued even during the investigation, unless the procedure was controlled to lead to certain goals,” Taseva asked.
Regardless, she said, Macedonia is now on a special list of countries, because no one can know whether only 200 or 300, 500 and more passports of criminals were issued.
“As a repercussion, we will see this case in all subsequent reports of international organizations.” “This is our second or who knows which scandal in the work of the Ministry of Interior, which should be a leader in the fight against this crime,” she said, recalling that for decades they have indicated that corruption in the Ministry of Interior is a factor in the low level of crime detection.
Regarding the public impression that behind the crime with forged documents are the many newly hired DUI staff, Taseva pointed out that this can be easily determined. “There is one good thing in this: individual responsibility cannot be avoided, because it is known exactly which person made the forged passport. There is no possibility to hide behind the procedure, the work is clear. The investigation will first reveal the names of the perpetrators, and then the questions will be asked – how did they come to work in the Ministry of Interior, was the employment procedure followed and is anyone behind them? These are all questions about the integrity of the institutions. Therefore, this story is bigger and will be essential for our future as a country in general. If not prevented now, we will have very serious problems in the future. The affair is only a consequence of what is happening inside the Ministry of Interior.
I call on the Parliament, the Government and the institutions not to hide behind the action but to form an independent body, following the example of examining the death of ex-President Boris Trajkovski, with internal and external experts, who will investigate these developments to the root, because “Our security system is completely destroyed and is dysfunctional, which is unfortunate,” Taseva said.
She could not predict how far the investigation could go, to what level, but she is convinced that it will continue and reach some higher instances. Regarding whether the affair is a sign that the idea of vetting in the police has been abandoned, Taseva says:
“I hope not. On the contrary, I expect that idea to accelerate even further.”
Aleksandar Stojanovski from “Eurothink”, on the other hand, has different opinion over the case. According to him, the vetting has not only stopped, but it is not known if it has started at all, with the exception of those personnel who were taken over by the new National Security Agency. And, according to the announcements, it was supposed to include about 10,000 employees in the Ministry of Interior. According to him, after the change of government, the future set puts such announcements for purges in a drawer. The seriousness of that process, he says, is evidenced by the fact that the tender for digitalization of the registry books was won by a company only three months old, and it is through firms like those that new false identities are created.