SKOPJE: Macedonia's former prime minister Nikola Gruevski was sentenced Wednesday to two years in jail by a Skopje court for abuse of power over the purchase of a luxury Mercedes.
The tribunal found Gruevski guilty of using the vehicle, worth 600,000 euros ($702,000), for personal use even though it was purchased with state funds.
The leader of Macedonia's nationalist right-wingers also unlawfully influenced officials to ensure the luxury car was bought from a company he favoured, the court ruled.
Judge Dobrila Kacarska said Gruevski had "lied and ridiculed citizens" who "should have been informed about the vehicle".
"Not only were citizens not informed about it, but we have heard that the prime minister was intentionally trying to hide the vehicle," the judge added.
An interior ministry official, Gjoko Popovski, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison over his role in the case. A former interior minister, Gordana Jankulovska, also faces abuse of power charges.
Gruevski, who led the Balkan country for a decade until 2016, did not appear at Wednesday's hearing but one of his lawyer's said he would appeal the verdict.
The 47-year-old will remain free pending the appeal.
Gruevski also faces charges in five other cases, including over allegations of corruption, abuse of power, electoral fraud and illegal wiretapping of his opponents and representatives of the civil society.
After a long political crisis, Gruevski in mid-2017 ceded power to a coalition led by Zoran Zaev, a Social Democrat.
The new majority government is trying to resolve a long-running name row with Greece in a bid for closer ties with the European Union.
Zaev was acquitted earlier this week in a corruption affair in which he was accused of taking a bribe while working as a local mayor in the country's southeast.