Thanks to whistleblowers within Macedonia’s farming industry, investigative journalists learned that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management demanded local companies pay to renovate one of its buildings – even though the state had already funded the work.
“I do not know how to define this, as a blackmail, racket or begging. Who takes the money, where they go, I do not know,” said the owner of an agricultural company who passed on key documents to CIJ SCOOP.
Officials at the Ministry’s regional office in Kocani, in eastern Macedonia, sent letters to companies demanding money to pay for the reconstruction, even though public funds had already been spent on the project. The letter asked the companies to pay a local Kocani firm, although that company had no role in reconstructing the Ministry’s building.
SCOOP obtained a copy of the letter that was sent to companies demanding money. The name and address had been obscured, apparently out of fear of retaliation by state authorities. Owners of some agriculture companies are reluctant to discuss the situation, SCOOP reported.
Other documents were delivered to SCOOP by a farmer, who received the demand personally from Ministry officials in Kocani. “I made a payment. To date no one has returned my money I paid for the renovation of the premises in Kocani,” said the farmer.
Other sources told SCOOP that money they had paid has not yet been returned.