The secretary general of the government of North Macedonia has described the Maltese as “crooks” in a leaked phone conversation that has rocked the Balkan nation.
The conversation between secretary general Dragi Raskovski and Nikolche Taseski, President of the Macedonian air traffic control providers M-Nav, took place on 18th October 2018 but was recently leaked to the Russian video streaming service Rutube.
It appears to show the two officials discussing a €7 million tender for the provision of an air traffic management system for an airport in Skopje, funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
They can be heard planning to grant the tender to the Italian aerospace company Leonardo on the grounds that its bid would be cheaper, which means the Macedonian government could pocket the remainder.
At one point, Raskovski describes the Italians as “gypsies (zingari), just like the Balkans”.
At one point, Taseski can be heard saying that, during a recent visit to Malta, he found out that the Malta Air Traffic Services (MATS) had purchased an air traffic management system from Leonardo but had declared it as an “upgrade” so as to avoid having to issue a call for public procurement.
At this remark, Raskovski can be heard laughing and stating that: “The Maltese are crooks as well”.
“Their system is very similar to the one we should buy,” Taskesi responded. “The Maltese CEO told me ‘Nick, remember one thing…you will not sign a commission* until the very end when every issue has been cleared. The moment you sign, it’s over, and Leonardo won’t come back.’ They [the Maltese] have now written to the Italian embassy to flag serious omissions in the installation of the system.”
The CEO isn’t mentioned by name, but appears to be a reference to Kenneth Chircop, CEO of the Malta Air Traffic Services.
Lovin Malta has forwarded this leaked conversation to Chircop and has asked him to respond to these allegations.
A press release by M-Nav shows that Taseski had indeed led a Macedonian delegation to Malta on 10th October 2018 to discuss air traffic management systems with their Maltese counterparts.
“The meeting was dedicated to different issues related to the [air traffic control] operations with special interest for MATS’ newly installed air traffic management (ATM) system, featuring the latest technological and operational system essentials,” the statement reads.
“The delegation had the opportunity to share experiences, especially in regard to the procuring and instalment of new ATM systems, taking into consideration the timeframes for each phase of the process. Furthermore, the knowledge and the understanding of the full process of the instalment of new ATM system gave M-NAV delegation a closer view and insightful awareness of the upcoming challenges.”
Leonardo’s website shows that it had signed a contract with MATS in March 2018 for the supply of an integrated data link solution for air traffic management applications.
Cover photo: Left: Nikolche Taseski (fourth from left) with Kenneth Chircop (third from right) during a visit by M-Nav to Malta in 2018; Right: Dragi Raskovski
*The article has been edited. An earlier edition had included the words ‘take a commission’ instead of ‘sign a commission’