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APPEAL: Proposal to continue the EU Commission’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Bulgaria

2020.07.02 Няма коментари
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APPEAL

 

By “BOEC – BULGARIA UNITED BY A SINGLE AIM” Civil Rights Movement with UIC 176949776, Address: Bulgaria, Vidin, Panoniya Complex, block 4, entrance “З”, apt. 157, represented by Georgi Borisov Georgiev, Chairman of the BD (Board of Directors), e-mail: [email protected]

for the continuation of the “Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification of Justice and Home Affairs” implemented by the European Commission in relation to the Republic of Bulgaria

 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,

“BOEC – Bulgaria United by a Single Aim” Civil Rights Movement with UIC 176949776, town of Vidin, was registered under the Bulgarian legislation by decision No. 69/23.11.2015 of the District Court of Vidin, Republic of Bulgaria, under company case 26/2015. The Association has been gaining popularity over the years due to its activities against the non-transparent operation of the political and judicial systems in the country and against corruption at the highest levels of government, and our actions have been reflected in almost all of the few remaining independent media in our country. We implement our goals for civil control over the election promises of political parties, appointments in the state administration and companies with state participation, as set in the Association’s Articles of Association, observe how elections are conducted, have special interest in the activities of our judiciary, the Chief Prosecutor and the Supreme Judicial Council, which we believe are not independent. In order to achieve our goals and in cases of any suspected crimes or corrupt practices, we have repeatedly referred to the Bulgarian and European institutions.

A special focus is placed by the Association on our justice system, since it is a key pillar for the functioning of any law-abiding and democratic state. That is why we are concerned over and react to the constant attempts by our governors (regardless of which political party they are associated with) to politicize the judiciary, mostly through direct intervention in its governing body – the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and through the Prosecutor’s Office.

We strongly believe that 13 years after Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union, justice in our country is still suffering profound and ongoing problems; that it is not independent; that the SJC is a politicized body that takes its decisions behind the scenes and in a non-transparent way; that career advancement in the judiciary does not depend on the magistrates’ professional and ethical qualities and that the Chief Prosecutor is a political appointment.

We firmly believe that the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria serves as an instrument for pressure and repression against inconvenient political and business opponents, as well as against free journalists and citizens who dare to tell the truth, and at the same time – it also serves to cover up crimes by bringing improper charges. These processes are becoming more and more profound year after year, and the sense of the lack of justice and perspectives for Bulgarian citizens is deepening to the extent that they no longer see a future in their own country and are forced to emigrate.

The “Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” (also known as monitoring of justice and home affairs), introduced upon Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union, was aimed at monitoring the enforcement of the rule of law and equality before the law, the fight against corruption and media freedom – all fundamental principles for the member states of the Union, until European standards are reached. This mechanism for external expert monitoring was a guarantee and hope for the civil society in our country that Brussels will not neglect the problems in the judiciary, will name them openly and will have a working pillar in place to influence Bulgarian politicians for the achievement of sustainable practical results.

The reports prepared by the EC annually relating to the Monitoring Mechanism contain, in our opinion, incorrect conclusions about the country’s progress in the area, however, at the same time – also findings about the persistent problems in it. The intensifying attempts of our governing political party since 2018 to ensure the termination of the monitoring with strong suggestions that there is progress in the monitored areas and in practice our country has implemented the recommendations of the mechanism, have become obvious. Bulgarian MEPs (with certain exceptions), using their contacts and through direct lobbying, seek to mislead their colleagues and leaders from the European Parliament and the European Commission, attracting them to their cause to abolish the mechanism. There is an immediate danger for us, the citizens, of thwarting the one and only opportunity to obtain an objective external assessment and influence on the political circles to take real action for reform in the sector.

By this statement, we would like to present to your attention an objective and different view from the one presented to you by the Bulgarian official authorities and to summarize what is really happening in Bulgaria in the area of “Home Affairs and Security” through the eyes of the civil society, avoiding formalism and the language of diplomacy.

 

  1. Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria

 

We will mention a few of the numerous clamorously failed prosecutorial cases/files, which are a clear litmus test of how “successful” the operation of the Prosecutor’s Office has been in the last seven years. The charges under these were raised or maintained during the term of office of the now former Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov. A term of office during which in our country there was not a single conviction against a senior politician, a high-level state administration officer, a magistrate or a businessman.

 

1.1. Cases ended in acquittals or terminated due to improper charges

– The case against Nihat Kabil, Minister of Agriculture until 2008, during the Triple Coalition (BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party) / NMSP (National Movement for Stability and Progress) / MRF (Movement for Rights and Freedoms)). Accused of illegal real estate exchanges through two companies associated with businessman Hristo Kovachki, which caused the state to lose more than BGN 115 million. The case was terminated in 2014.

– The case against Miroslav Naydenov, Minister of Agriculture in the first cabinet of GERB, accused of corruption, coercion and abuse of office. The Prosecutor’s Office terminated the investigation against him in February 2015.

– The case against Tsvetan Tsvetanov – a GERB MP at the time, former Deputy Chairman of the Party – for illegal refusal to have SITs (Special Intelligence Tools) applied, – acquitted in September 2015.

– The case against Emilia Maslarova, former Minister of Labor and Social Policy in the government of the Triple Coalition, accused of embezzling BGN 11 million, finally acquitted in December 2015.

– The case against Ivan Danov, former Minister of Investment Design in Oresharski’s cabinet, for unlawfully received aid from the French social services – terminated by statute of limitations in 2015.

– The case against Petar Santirov – judge at Sofia City Court, Nikolay Tsonev – former Minister of Defense during the Triple Coalition, and Tencho Popov – former Secretary General at the Ministry of Finance, for bribery – acquitted in three instances – finally in February 2015.

– The case against Miroslav Borshosh – for entering into unprofitable transactions amounting to BGN 3.2 million while acting as Director of the NPC (National Palace of Culture – Sofia) – two years after the occurrence, the case was twice terminated, and to date has been pending in the court for consideration.

– The case against Hristo Biserov – MP in six National Assemblies, member of the MRF and Deputy Chairman of the 42nd National Assembly, and his son-in-law Ivaylo Glavinkov, for undeclared funds amounting to BGN 700,000 held in accounts in Switzerland, transactions with currency values ​​and unpaid taxes – finally terminated in June 2019.

– The case against Pavel Aleksandrov (former Director of the Fund for Treatment of Children Abroad) and two other persons from the Fund – for participation in an OCG (Organized Crime Group) and draining of the Fund – twice terminated and returned by the court, as in its reasons, the SCA (Sofia Court of Appeal) indicated that it cannot even understand the prosecution filed by the Prosecutor’s Office.

 

1.2. Cases/files in which the Prosecutor’s Office repressed political opponents and businessmen

Criminal proceedings against senior politicians – members of party leaderships, of the Council of Ministers or Ministries, MPs – either former or current:

– The case of the planned “murder” of Delyan Slavchev Peevski – a MRF MP and a major media mogul, with the purpose of suggesting that three people associated with banker Tsvetan Vassilev were preparing an assassination attempt against him – terminated in September 2014.

– The case against Simeon Dyankov – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance during the first GERB reign, Traycho Traykov – former Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism during the first GERB reign – later passed into the opposition “Reformist Bloc”, Ivo Prokopiev – businessman and owner of the Bulgarian Publishing Group Economedia AD, the publishing company of “Capital” and “Dnevnik” newspapers – among the most active media in the country objectively keeping watch of and writing about what is happening in the judiciary. The criminal case was instituted for damages caused to the state budget amounting to over BGN 1 million and 200 thousand for the sale of EVN shares at reduced prices – twice terminated by the court.

– The case against Nikolay Nenchev, a political leader of the BAPU (Bulgarian Agrarian People’s Union), former Military Minister during the second GERB reign, for failure to ensure aviation safety and airworthiness of the Bulgarian Air Force aircrafts – acquitted in two instances in April 2020.

 

1.3. Cases/files in which the Prosecutor’s Office repressed publishers and journalists, free citizens

–  The cases against Ognyan Donev and Lyubomir Pavlov for money laundering and tax evasion. In 2011, Ognyan Donev credited a company to two other persons – Lyubomir Pavlov and Hristo Grozev when purchasing Media Group Bulgaria Holding – owner of the then leading and critical to the government print media “24 hours”, “168 hours”, “Labor” /Bulgarian: “Trud”/ newspapers and others. In 2012, charges were brought against Ognyan Donev and Lyubomir Pavlov by the Prosecutor’s Office for money laundering, and banker Tsvetan Vassilev later admitted that Delyan Peevski and himself had stood behind the other partner, Hristo Grozev, in the attacks intended for gaining control over the newspapers. A second charge was also brought against Ognyan Donev – tax evasion. The media holding was sold in 2013 to people close to Peevski, the money laundering case against Ognyan Donev and Lyubomir Pavlov – was terminated by the Prosecutor’s Office itself with the explanation that there was no evidence of a crime. In the tax evasion case, Ognyan Donev was acquitted in February 2019 at first instance after a seven-year-long trial. Today, the “Labor”, “24 hours” and “168 hours” newspapers are among the officials of Peevski’s propaganda.

–  The case against Ivo Prokopiev – a owner of Economedia and publisher of “Capital” and “Dnevnik”, the leading critics of today against the governing party of Boyko Borissov and his unspoken political partner – MRF and Delyan Peevski, is a case of money laundering in the privatization of an enterprise which took place 17 years ago and it is still pending in court. In the period 2009-2013, the “Capital” and “Dnevnik” media published a series of investigations into the origin of the CCB model and the influence of Delyan Peevski therein. The media were highly critical of the operations of the Prosecutor’s Office and the SJC.

– The Prosecutor’s Office started working on anonymous alerts on violation of the provisions of the CPC (Criminal Procedure Code) and the JA (Judiciary Act). Thus, based on alerts from the website close to Peevski – PIK, owned by Nedyalko Nedyalkov, whose name appeared in the CCB case as a beneficiary of millions against an unsecured loan, inspections were initiated and files were created against journalists and active citizens. Thus, based on the alert of PIK, file No. 5565/2019 is kept in the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office, against Atanas Chobanov and Asen Yordanov – editors in the electronic media “Bivol” /„Биволъ“/ for properties purchased by them back in 2001.

– There are numerous lawsuits and prosecutorial inspections against BOEC Civil Rights Movement and its chairman aimed at suspending the Association’s activities. The Prosecutor’s Office also brought charges against Georgi Georgiev for the dissemination of false information during the epidemic situation, for which criminal case of general nature under No. 458/2020 was instituted in the Regional Court of Vidin.

 

1.4. Cases of special public interest

The Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) case, or the so-called “robbery of the century,” has a special place in this column. The Prosecutor’s Office, along with the SANS (State Agency for National Security), the FSC (Financial Supervision Commission), the BNB (Bulgarian National Bank), and the MoI, not only allowed the bankruptcy of the country’s fourth-largest bank to happen, but also took an active part in the bank’s demolition, openly taking Peevski’s side in his war against Tsvetan Vassilev. As directed by the Prosecutor’s Office and personally by Sotir Tsatsarov (through his media appearances), heavily armed special forces were sent to the bank’s offices, searches and seizures were carried out in both the offices and the homes of the bank’s managers, press conferences and statements were given. The collapse of CCB, according to experts, has been estimated to cost nearly BGN 5 billion, which will be paid by all of us and the generations to come.

The role of the present Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev in the said case is significant. He is responsible for the complete dilution of the prosecution – an unprecedented total of over 15,000 (!) pages of indictment, read for over nine months in court. Presented in a volume almost impossible to perceive, the information lost its function to inform, and Delyan Slavchev Peevski was not even once (!) mentioned in the case by the Prosecutor’s Office, although the millions he received in the form of unsecured loans granted by the bank to companies associated with him and his mother have never been hidden. The case itself was turned into a farce wherein the indictment was based on the testimony of a bank officer – Boris Lazov, while the Prosecutor’s Office and the court did not accept the request of the main defendant – Tsvetan Vassilev, to give explanations and be heard by delegation.

 

  1. Confessions of behind-the-sceneS arrangements and non-transparency in the judiciary by the magistrates themselves

Bulgarian magistrates – judges, prosecutors and investigators – have repeatedly talked openly about non-transparency and behind-the-scenes decision-making in the election of positions to be occupied in the judiciary. However, the most striking examples are given below:

2.1. On 24.04.2014, the Chairman of Sofia Court of Appeal, Judge Veselin Pengezov, gave a special press conference at which he openly stated that he had been pressured by Delyan Peevski, a MRF MP at the time, through lawyers close to him. Pengezov’s words were: “There have been communications addressed to me concerning certain cases, most of them coming from a single person who distributes the pie – his name is Delyan Peevski. They have been interested in Mithat Tabakov that he should be acquitted. As regards the Enimehmedov case, I received a communication stating that the case had been wrongly ruled upon … Something like a piece of advice saying that if something does not happen, I will see a second term of office when pigs fly and more or less it happened”.

            Judge Veselin Pengezov also pointed to pressure from Tsvetan Tsvetanov – Deputy Chairman of GERB and MP from the said party at the time, as his words were:

“These were direct blows coming upon me, not mere communications. If I only speak up, which I am not going to do, since I have a family after all. In the summer of 2010, criminal proceedings were instituted against an unknown perpetrator for a denunciation, a real denunciation of Tsvetan Tsvetanov”.

 

2.2. On 17.04.2019, at a conference organized by BOEC Civil Rights Movement and “Justice for All” Initiative Civil Rights Movement, the former chairman of the largest court in the country – the Regional Court of Sofia, Judge Metodi Lalov, commented on the way he himself had been elected to that post. It became clear from his words that his election had become possible after a meeting with the then Chairman of the SAC (Supreme Administrative Court) Georgi Kolev, at which “a corpulent MP” (Delyan Slavchev Peevski) also appeared. Then Metodi Lalov continued as follows:

“He asked – What’s going on here? They explained to him – Well, we met here so that this boy, said Georgi Kolev, can explain about his concept and possibly receive my support. I knew that there would be no election without the support of the bad guys, it was simply impossible. At that moment, that corpulent politician, a very famous one, you know, said – OK, let’s make sure this won’t end up in, and here I quote – this man abdicating, just as Pengezov did, whom I took to Ahmed Dogan”.

 

2.3. On 24.10.2019, during the session of the SJC for the hearing of the candidate for new Chief Prosecutor – Ivan Geshev, the head of the prosecution at the time, Sotir Tsatsarov, admitted that the last few procedures for electing the three large figures in the judiciary” (the Chairmen of the SCC (Supreme Court of Cassation), the SAC (Supreme Administrative Court) and the Chief Prosecutor) were conducted in the same way – not only in the Supreme Judicial Council, but “in two other buildings” as well. The confession came in a reply to the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Judge Lozan Panov. Sotir Tsatsarov’s words were:

“Listening to him, I come to think that Mr. Panov speaks as a person whose procedure went crystal clear, in full awareness and full competition. Listening to him, I even think that Mr. Panov speaks as a person who seems to have never taken part in such a procedure at all, he has just observed it from the sidelines and therefore he has, let me put it right, every reason to judge its negatives and, of course, to judge the negatives of the procedure in general. I would like to ask the following question – How does this procedure differ from the procedure whereby the Chairman of the SCC was elected? How does this procedure differ from the previous procedures? Of course, I do not exclude in any way whatsoever the one whereby I was elected. Two more months will pass, if God permits, and since no term of office is for life, I will leave this room too. And then no one will know exactly what happened in here – and more importantly – in another building, no, in two other buildings. I know it, I will not say it and I will tell you why. I will not say it, not because I respect Lozan Panov. I will not say it because I respect the SCC, I respect the Court and I respect its Chairman. Not this Chairman personally, but rather the position of Chairman of the SCC.” We from BOEC referred to the Inspectorate at the SJC regarding the case, but we were refused an inspection!

 

2.4. On 04.12.2019, during his participation in a program broadcasted on one of the leading televisions – BTV, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov stated, on the occasion of the election of the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation:

“I was the one who supported Lozan Panov the most at the time. I supported him the most. Ask him. He would not have become a judge if I had not supported him. With his parliamentary groups. With the way they are elected in the SJC. With the representatives nominated by us”, “Borissov said.

When asked if he really demanded it from the members of the SJC nominated by the parliamentary quota with the votes of GERB, he replied: “Well, of course I did!”

We from BOEC once again officially asked the institutions to verify the Prime Minister’s allegations of interference by the executive power in the operation and activities of the independent judiciary, but we were again refused.

 

  1. The election of the new Chief Prosecutor – Ivan Geshev

 

On 29.07.2019, the Prosecutors’ College at the SJC unanimously proposed as a candidate for the new Chief Prosecutor Ivan Stoimenov Geshev – a prosecutor with a more than dubious reputation, who rapidly rose in the hierarchy of the prosecution through the convenient and fast way of secondment to higher structures, rather than through the procedure for promotion as provided for in the Judiciary Act. As a District Prosecutor in Sofia, he personally initiated and is responsible for the entering into agreements with all defendants in the notorious “Untouchables” case – an organized criminal group that caused damages to the budget of the Republic of Bulgaria through “VAT fraud” worth tens of millions, whose members were given – thanks to Ivan Geshev – suspended sentences of two years imprisonment each (except for the head who agreed on two years of effective sentence, most of which period was deducted from the “house arrest” served).

Until his nomination, Ivan Geshev was Deputy Chief Prosecutor and Administrative Head of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office – that is, part of Sotir Tsatsarov’s team, during which seven-year term of office, we yet again remind you – there was not a single conviction for high-level corruption against any senior politician, official or magistrate.

Later, after his election, it was established that the Attestation Commission at the Prosecutors’ College had acted in a non-transparent way and had misled the members of the SJC about the candidate’s professional activities. We from BOEC obtained data under the Access to Public Records Act, following a court appeal, showing that for a period of seven years in the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office, Prosecutor Ivan Stoimenov Geshev has not filed a single indictment in court, but only 20 agreements, on the basis of which 27 people were convicted. Just as a matter of comparison, the Attestation Commission presented to the public and before the SJC data showing that in cases led by Prosecutor Geshev, a total of 233 people, or nearly ten times more, were convicted.

The election of Ivan Geshev took place in an unprecedented environment – ongoing support and media comfort ensured by the media close to MP Delyan Peevski and incessant attacks by them against those criticizing the nomination. In front of the SJC building, there were several counter-protests against Ivan Geshev – people who supported his election, led by Nedyalko Nedyalkov and his “media” PIK. Contrary to the Rallies, Manifestations and Assemblies Act, PIK EOOD organized the first private protest in the country on the day of the second vote for the election of Geshev – people who were carefully screened at tailored checkpoints, while boys in the hoods were pointing out to the police who shall pass and who shall not (please find enclosed photo materials of organized persons brought in support of the election of Ivan Geshev). These manifestations took place with the full support of the Metropolitan Municipality and the Metropolitan Police.

During that period, we from BOEC filed a number of alerts with the Prosecutor’s Office for suspected crimes committed by Ivan Geshev in connection with his activities in the “Untouchables” case and the agreements he entered into with the accused, which led to failure to reimburse the damages caused to the state amounting to hundreds of millions Bulgarian levs of drained VAT and suspended sentences for part of the accused, while for another part the charges were even dropped. The website of Bivol investigative journalism also published audio recordings of Geshev’s conversations with the accused, which BOEC enclosed to its alerts. Despite all the evidence and data, Prosecutor Madzharova from the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office refused to institute pre-trial proceedings against Geshev by an explicit prosecutorial decree, and on 29.05.2020, the latter, already acting as Chief Prosecutor, rewarded her, probably as a thank you, for the officially thwarted prosecution and investigation against him.

 

  1. Constant pressure against the inconvenient magistrates

Those magistrates who do not give in to fear, openly name the problems in the judiciary and look for ways to solve them, are constantly attacked – by the status quo in the judiciary and by the media close to Delyan Peevski.

 

4.1. Lozan Panov – Chairman of the SCC

#The SMS-gate scandal – on 14.01.2016, a session of the SJC was interrupted after the Chairman of the SCC Lozan Panov announced before journalists that Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had forwarded him an SMS (text message), sent to the latter personally, stating: “Lozan Panov again suggested that we summon you to the SJC for the recordings with the two big sisters. We did not accept it.”. Panov’s request was for Borissov to be heard before the SJC in relation to the scandal with Judge Vladimira Yaneva. Over time it was never established who had exactly sent the SMS to Borissov, and the latter refused to give any explanation regarding the Yanevagate case, wherein his name and his influence on the judiciary have been repeatedly mentioned.

#The Lamb’s Heads scandal – on 24.04.2017, in the morning, boys wearing masks stood in front of the SJC building prior to the Council meeting, in silence, just holding bloodied lamb’s heads in their hands. The police and the Prosecutor’s Office refused to investigate the case and its message.

#The Unscrewed Bolts – on 06.06.2017 during a trip to the town of Berkovitsa by the official car of the NSS (National Security Service) provided to the Chairman of the SCC, it was established that two of the four bolts on one of the tires were unscrewed and the other two were loose. In the car there were Lozan Panov and an official of the NSS. Later in an interview the former stated: “I’m not afraid, but I’m not reckless!”. The Prosecutor’s Office refused to investigate the case.

#Management of the Judicial Chamber revoked – on 30.04.2020 the management of the Judicial Chamber based in Sofia was revoked from the Chairman of the SCC Lozan Panov. The attack against him began on the occasion of a scandalous video recorded in the Chamber. Although no disciplinary proceedings have been instituted against him, the majority in the SJC held him guilty of undermining the prestige of the judiciary by allowing the video in question to be recorded. In the course of the inspection carried out by the SCC, it was established that – the proposal to Panov stated that a video would be recorded for the soundtrack of the “Married Young” film, whose plot has nothing to do with the scandalous video.

During that whole period, in which Lozan Panov refused to obey the status quo, his name was repeatedly involved in other scandals as well, numerous articles and collages were published in the media close to Peevski, posters were placed across Sofia with mocking statements and collages aimed at him.

 

4.2. Boyko Atanasov – an investigator from the Metropolitan Investigation Service, who since 2005 has publicly announced and filed alerts about corruption schemes and pressure groups with the Prosecutor’s Office and the Investigation Service. Over the years, he was the first to talk about the orders in the Prosecutor’s Office, about the existence of a “spy team” in the Investigation Service for inspections against an unknown perpetrator, which are kept pending to keep politicians dependent. He openly revealed details about his joint work with Prosecutor Ivan Geshev in the case which gained publicity as the “Untouchables”. Later on, we from BOEC actually found out that for the seven years at the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office, Prosecutor Ivan Geshev had not a single indictment filed in court, but only 20 agreements – see item 3 of the statement.

Numerous repressive measures were applied against Boyko Atanasov. It was established that he had been illegally wiretapped by the Ministry of Interior back in 2011 (Bulgarian investigator – illegally wiretapped by the services), for which he, in early 2020, ordered that the Ministry of Interior pay him compensation. A total of 5 disciplinary proceedings have been instituted against Boyko Atanasov, which by their nature represent a pure form of repression because of his independence and his courage to expose corruption and dependencies in the Prosecutor’s Office.

The media close to MP Delyan Peevski pay constant attention to investigator Boyko Atanasov with publications that undermine his prestige, containing suggestions and false allegations.

 

  1. Other scandals that were not investigated by the law enforcement bodies

 

5.1. The Yanevagate scandal

At the end of 2015, audio recordings of conversations between Judges Vladislava Yaneva, Chairperson of Sofia City Court at the time, and Rumyana Chenalova, a judge in the court, and a third person, a man, who was subsequently suspected to be Attorney Mondeshki, were successively published on the Bivol journalists’ website. From the words exchanged between Yaneva and Chenalova, it became clear that Judge Vladislava Yaneva sought help from Prime Minister Boyko Borissov by sending him a personal text message, she also spoke with “his man in the SJC”, and through other magistrates named by her (one of them being Georgi Kolev – Chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court, also a member of the SJC). Yaneva shared that she also had a meeting with Chief Prosecutor Tsatsarov, at her request, in search of help against her removal, and he reassured her by saying that he would “veil” her violations, admitting that Borissov was pressuring him to “take her out of the game”.

Despite the clear indication of political interference and the apparent lobbying in the SJC and the judiciary, no investigation was conducted and the inspection ended ingloriously after Prosecutor Dimitar Frantishek established that the recordings were not authentic through an expert examination, which the public never became aware of, performed by an expert whose name was never heard by anyone. That same prosecutor Dimitar Frantishek in 2019 was rewarded by being allowed to occupy the position of the administrative head of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office. At the same time, Bivol sent the recordings to an independent laboratory. And what the recordings said was undoubtedly confirmed by the facts that actually happened, and most of all – by one of the two participants in the recordings – Judge Rumyana Chenalova, who categorically stated before the media that the conversations were authentic. She was disciplinarly removed from the judiciary in early May 2020.

With such anonymous expert examinations, the Prosecutor’s Office covered up and terminated over time leaked audio recordings submitted in the cases – Borissov and Misho Birata, the recordings of the conversation at Boyko Borissov’s home in Bankya, when the deputy city prosecutor told Borissov about Tsatsarov – “It was you who selected him” , the recording of Boyko Borissov with the Director of the Customs Agency Vanyo Tanov, in which the former ordered by phone the discontinuation of an inspection in a popular brewery.

 

5.2. The CUS-gate scandal – in April 2017, the businessman and owner of the opposition “Sega” newspaper, Sasho Donchev, stated before the media about a meeting that had taken place between himself, the businessman and BSP politician Georgi Gergov and Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov at Gergov’s office at the Central Universal Store (CUS) in Sofia City. In an interview for Nova TV and the then existing BIT TV, Sasho Donchev stated that Sotir Tsatsarov hinted at him and made suggestions about the security of his business and his support for the political formation “Yes, Bulgaria”, the reasons leading to the Chief Prosecutor’s becoming a central character in the programs of a TV presenter and in the works of art of a cartoonist in the “Sega” newspaper, telling him about the wiretapping of Sasho Donchev himself.

Because of that meeting, we from BOEC referred to the SJC Inspectorate for unregulated contacts and inadmissible threats made by the then Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, actions that undermined the prestige of the judiciary. Three months later, we received a reply whereby the SJC Inspectorate informed us that they had not found anything reprehensible in the Chief Prosecutor’s actions.

 

5.3. The Guest House Scandal

Following an investigation of the Bivol website in the spring of 2017, it was established that in over 45% of the 752 projects financed under the Rural Development Programme, 2007-2012, worth BGN 202 million, there were abuses. Among the 229 sites inspected by the journalists, financed for a total of BGN 60,235,278, it was established that none of them had hired people in connection with the project, while a mandatory condition for the financing was that the guest houses be used as intended – operating and receiving guests, for at least five years. Many of those who received financing have become rich without having the least intention of developing any rural tourism. Among those who became rich were prominent local and party functioners, relatives of MPs and officials – relatives of MRF party leader Mustafa Karadayi in the village of Borino, Aleksandar Manolev – Deputy Minister of Economy, who built a house for BGN 308,000, Yanaki Chervenyakov – former member of the State Fund Agriculture. The revelations became public thanks to the journalists from Bivol, while the State Fund Agriculture refused to provide the requested information until the very end and did so only after a court decision.

For those violations, the European Commission penalized Bulgaria in the amount of EUR 11 million.

After the scandal, by the order and under the pressure of Borissov, Ivanka Magdatova-Midova, Deputy Director of the State Fund Agriculture, Aleksandar Manolev, Deputy Minister of Economy, and Rumen Porozhanov, Minister of Agriculture, resigned.

No charges have been brought against anyone for the established abuses, except for Alexander Manolev, the case is being considered at the District Court of Blagoevgrad.

 

5.4. Apartmentgate

A huge scandal that was covered in many foreign media. The governing elite of the GERB political party and the construction company Artex which sold them luxury homes at prices several times lower than the market ones, were involved in there. Huge suspicions were raised about conflicts of interest, concealment of funds of unknown origin and political lobbying (legislative changes were introduced in favor of Artex favoring the company with regard to their project for a skyscraper under construction in the capital).

After the scandal with the low prices of the houses “sold” to those close to the government, under Borissov’s pressure the following persons resigned – Tsvetan Tsvetanov – as an MP and Chairman of the GERB parliamentary group, Tsetska Tsacheva – Minister of Justice, Krasimir Parvanov – former Deputy Minister of Energy, Vanya Koleva – Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Delyan Dobrev – GERB MP, Deputy Regional Governor of Sofia Region – Tomi Nikolov (from GERB), the Mayor of Sozopol from GERB – Panayot Reyzi.

Also involved in the scandal were Plamen Georgiev – Chairman of the Anti-corruption Commission (ACFIAAC, The Anti-corruption and Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Assets Commission), who failed to declare a terrace of nearly 190 square meters at the time of its purchase and thus saved taxes and notary fees, and furthermore – he failed to prove in any way whatsoever the origin of funds before society. He was removed from his post and appointed Consul of the Republic of Bulgaria in Valencia.

The scandal also involved the deputy of ACFIAAC – Anton Slavchev, who turned out to be the owner of a huge terrace with an area of ​​244 square meters and an apartment of ordinary dimensions – 63 square meters, but an unusual price – BGN 18,639, or EUR 151.27 per square meter. The properties were purchased in the period 2010-2011 in a brand new building located in the capital’s district called “Hippodrome”.

There was unambiguous information on the evasion of taxes and fees as a result of the manifoldly reduced sales prices. The Prosecutor’s Office refused to conduct any investigation. By a decree of February 2020, the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office refused to perform an inspection on an alert filed by BOEC and on the case against Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

 

5.5. In February 2018, at a special press conference in BTA Sofia, BOEC announced official documents obtained under the Access to Public Information Act, which clearly show that from 2000 to 2018, based on effective audit acts of the NRA only, VAT evasion worth BGN 16 billion was established, and the NRA declared those funds uncollectible and a loss for the budget. A large portion of the VAT evasion schemes were implemented through the projects for the absorption of European funds, for which we referred to all competent national and European institutions, but we received refusals to investigate this colossal robbery with no arguments or motives at all. Clear evidence that some of these billions also provide for the umbrella over the VAT evasion schemes. Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev’s agreements with those accused for such crimes, as already mentioned hereinabove, are an illustrative example.

 

  1. The Bulgarian society’s Distrust in the judiciary and the Prosecutor’s Office

 

The incessant scandals, the lack of a real fight against high-level corruption, political lobbying, non-transparency in governors’ decisions are among the main factors for the Bulgarians’ growing distrust in the judiciary.

According to a survey by the AFIS Sociological Agency conducted in July 2017, only 19% of Bulgarians have trust in the judiciary.

Another study conducted in October 2018 by the Trend Research Center showed that 75% of the Bulgarian society believes that politicians put pressure on the work of the judiciary.

In March 2019, after a survey by the Global Metrics Sociological Agency, it became clear that 69% of Bulgarians do not see any public benefit from the work of the Chief Prosecutor, and over 76% continue to believe that during the term of office of Sotir Tsatsarov, the Prosecutor’s Office was used for political purposes.

In early 2019, the trend was for an even stronger decline, as a study by the Alpha Research Sociological Agency showed approval of Sotir Tsatsarov as Chief Prosecutor by only 6% of the society (the latter was, due to his “successes” and the “trust” enjoyed among the society, unanimously elected by all political formations in the National Assembly to be chairman of the Anti-corruption and Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Assets Commission).

In recent years, Bulgaria has permanently maintained its last place in Europe and 111th place in the world in terms of freedom of speech, according to the Reporters Without Borders annual ranking. At the same time, our country is first in all international and European rankings in terms of level of corruption in the EU and last in the Union in terms of income and living standard, indicators that are interrelated.

The above-mentioned sustainable data on the distrust of Bulgarians in the judiciary and the Prosecutor’s Office are in complete dissonance with the anti-corruption successes and the progress in the judicial reform intruded upon us by Brussels.

 

  1. Conclusion

 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,

Hereinabove, we tried to briefly remind you of some of the more important events in the area under review in recent years, by focusing on the period coinciding with the term of office of the already former Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov. The facts we present are publicly known and verifiable. These notes in no way claim to be exhaustive – we could not cover all the scandals and outrages. We are positive that the above clearly confirms our position – in the Republic of Bulgaria nowadays the rule of law is discredited, the institutions are empty of any content, we live in a country with a façade democracy, where the Prosecutor’s Office is an instrument for the indulgence of some and for the reprisal of others, our judiciary and the Supreme Judicial Council are highly party and politically dependent, there is a lack of independence in staff appointments there. We therefore believe that there are no grounds for the abolition of the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification of Justice and Home Affairs. On the contrary, in our country, now more than ever, the civil society, the few remaining free media and independent magistrates, need help against the upcoming dictatorship.

If, after all the above, you consider that the EC should discontinue the monitoring, this would mean the end of our hopes that one day our country will be a law-abiding state, in which the rule of law will be respected, the end of our hopes to be part of the European family and carriers of the same values that have been uniting the Union for more than 75 years now.

We hereby make this urgent appeal to you – do not succumb to the suggestions of Bulgarian politicians!

Bulgaria is a captive of the mafia!

We need European solidarity and support!

            Please, continue and even strengthen the monitoring in dialogue with civil society!

Impose sanctions on states in case of ongoing lack of progress and reform. Only in this way will you unconditionally win the trust of Bulgarians for the common cause – the rule of law and the irrevocability of European values.

 

Suspend European funds! In a corrupt and unreformed country, the money of European taxpayers only strengthens the power of the mafia and the level of corruption, and the effect of its absorption on Bulgarian citizens is even negative!

Tens of billions of Bulgarian levs were “poured” through European funds and programmes into Bulgaria. As a result, due to the spread of corruption, our mafia has become even more powerful, and Bulgarian citizens have consistently remained in the last place in the EU in terms of income and living standards. The processes of depopulation of entire regions, the demographic crisis and other extremely serious problems have deepened. European funds were aimed at solving exactly these problems, however, the effect is just the opposite. With the money of European taxpayers, part of which we, the Bulgarians, are, our corrupt governors, politicians and mobsters keep filling their offshore accounts and acquiring properties abroad. There are thousands of cases of misuse of European funds, which remain unpunished because of the judicial system and the Prosecutor’s Office having been taken over and subordinated by the mafia. Such lack of justice against the background of the possible abolition of the monitoring mechanism leads to a deepening of the processes of Euroscepticism and despair. This allows for the Russian propaganda and the Kremlin’s hybrid war against EU interests to gain momentum.

Real action by the EC is needed. Not just statistics that points out the problems that we already know and are painfully familiar with, but also to have mechanisms to support civil society in its efforts to solve these problems. We believe that this can be done through the CONTINUATION OF THE “MECHANISM FOR COOPERATION AND VERIFICATION OF JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS”, IMPLEMENTED BY the European Commission in relation to the republic of Bulgaria, and through the introduction of specific sanctions, the suspension of European funding for countries that fail to meet their anti-corruption obligations, support for reforms to ensure the independence of the judiciary, support for the enforcement of civil rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law.

We at BOEC believe that more than ten years ago Bulgaria made the right choice of civilization by joining the European Union and that together, with joint efforts, we can solve all problems and make a united Europe our common home where both civil society and institutions act as guarantors for the observance of European values ​​and the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

 

(Georgi Georgiev – Chairman of the BD of BOEC Civil Rights Movement)

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