18 sentenced in major espionage case in Macedonia

Eighteen people were convicted in Macedonia Monday for their participation in a group that supplied foreign intelligence services with sensitive information about national security here.

It is the first major espionage case in Macedonia and a court handed down the highest sentence of 15 years of prison to the considered organiser of the "Spy" group Marjan Efremov, a former Macedonian intelligence official.

The trial on the "Spy" case lasted almost a year. In this time the accusation presented evidence that they gathered sensitive information marked as "top state secret" and sold them to Greek, Hungarian, Serbian intelligence services and the CIA.

For one piece of information, depending on its quality, they charged between 600 (about $750)and 1200 euros. Some of the sensitive data they have used to blackmail influential Macedonian businessmen.

According to the accusation act, the defendants were charged with criminal association, espionage, abuse of official position, blackmail, fraud and illicit arms possession.

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