Albania police: Fugitive pol seen in Hungarian Embassy car

The Hungarian government said Thursday it did not assist a fugitive politician leave Macedonia to avoid serving a prison sentence, while police in Albania said he was seen departing their country in a Hungarian Embassy vehicle.

If accurate, the information in a statement from Albanian police on Thursday shows part of the route former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski took from his homeland and through the Balkans to reach Hungary.

Gruevski, 48, was convicted of corruption and facing a 2-year prison term in Macedonia. He said Tuesday on Facebook that he was in the Hungarian capital of Budapest and seeking political asylum.

The police statement also implied the Hungarian government was involved in some of his passage. Earlier, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said Hungary did not help Gruevski flee Macedonia.

Hungarian authorities "did not have anything to do with" Gruevski leaving Macedonia and "guaranteed" he would not be able to leave Hungary now, Gulyas said.

Albanian police noted that when Gruevski left Albania and entered Montenegro on Sunday evening, an international warrant for his arrest had not been issued yet.

Macedonia has called on Hungary to extradite Gruevski, who was prime minister from 2006-2016 and convicted in May of unlawfully influencing Interior Ministry officials over the purchase of a luxury vehicle.

Hungarian authorities "are proceeding according to appropriate security protocols," Gulyas told reporters, adding that the prime minister was "very amused" by reports that Gruevski, a close political ally, was living at his house.

Gulyas said that for security reasons, Gruevski was questioned at length in Budapest about his asylum request instead of at a border transit zone where most asylum-seekers wait for their requests to be evaluated.

Asked about Albanian police statement issued later, Orban's office said it would not comment until the asylum review process concluded.

Macedonia's Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov spoke with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto about the case Thursday. Dimitrov noted the former prime minister had other pending legal proceedings involving allegations of serious crimes.

Meanwhile, the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group, criticized the country's judiciary and Interior Ministry for not preventing Gruevski's departure. The committee demanded a "thorough investigation" to determine responsibility in the case.

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Testorides reported from Skopje, Macedonia.