Yesterday, 8 July, the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) published a press release informing the public that on 7 July, it had carried out a search and seizure of a property belonging to Iliya Zlatanov. Zlatanov is one of the persons interviewed in ACF’s short movie “The Eight Dwarfs” that has accumulated over 1 million views since its release. The film has attracted considerable interest because of the facts and allegations it shares about the exercise of undue influence over the SPO’s activities and its questionable disposition of physical evidence of great value.
The SPO carried out the search and seizure in the course of the same pre-trial investigative proceedings that Zlatanov mentions in his interview with ACF. According to the press release, the SPO seized physical evidence found in Zlatanov’s property on 7 July, some of which — yellow metal coins — “are identical with those returned to that person earlier in the year by orders of SPO prosecutors working on the same case.”
Let us briefly recap: in the movie, Zlatanov states that Petyo Petrov, the former Head of the Sofia Criminal Investigation Department, and his wife, Lyubena Petrova, proposed to assist Zlatanov in gaining possession of the said coins under documents attesting to their origin. Zlatanov directly says that these documents were forged, and he had never seen them before. He further states that he signed handover documents for receiving the coins for over 4 million levs (BGN), but never actually received them. Lyubena Petrova instead appropriated the coins at the SPO parking lot. We found out that one of the individuals who signed the handover documents as witnesses were, in fact, in the management board of Petrova’s civil association “Plan B,” notorious for supporting the status quo in the judicial system.
Due to the high media interest in the case, we offer our analysis of the relevant facts:
First, the press release raises the question of how Zlatanov’s property can be the object of search and seizure in the criminal investigation, which Zlatanov himself initiated concerning unlawful actions taken against him? Why the SPO seizes items, which it claims, were in Zlatanov’s possession? Moreover, the search and seizure authorization was formally issued against Zlatanov’s daughter, Proletina, and not against Zlatanov personally, which has been conveniently omitted in the SPO press release (see attached document).
According to Art. 219, par. 2 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) the coercive investigation procedure “search and seizure,” carried out against Iliya Zlatanov, charges him as a perpetrator of the particular case, in which he had already received the status of a victim. To elaborate, the investigative proceedings in question concern several crimes committed against Iliya Zlatanov, including extortion and attempted forgery. However, Art. 74, par. 3 of the CPC prohibits assuming the legal capacity of both a victim and a defendant in the same proceedings.
Second, it is not clear why precisely the SPO conducted the search and seizure in the same proceedings, given that Zlatanov, the victim and a witness on the case, has reported in great detail unlawful actions on its part. Zlatanov called the SPO “a specialized organized crime group” and even disclosed self-implicating facts, however not in the course of the official proceedings, understandably. In this case, it would make sense for a different unit of the Prosecutor’s Office to conduct the search and seizure in the course of separate proceedings and following a motivated request to the court for permission to subject Zlatanov to the procedure. The very manner of execution of the search and seizure can render it inadmissible in an eventual criminal trial.
Third, the published footage of the security camera on the property, showing scenes of what happened before the formal execution of the search, raises legitimate concerns that the police officers initially entered the property in the absence of any other persons. The implications of these actions are evident, even to those without a legal education.
Fourth, according to the record of the search and seizure carried out on 7 July, the number of “yellow metal coins” found on the property is far smaller, and only a fraction of the gold handed over to Zlatanov through SPO orders earlier in the year. The SPO press release leaves the reader with the impression that the quantities are the same, which is not valid. The disposition of the coins in the course of the same proceedings itself raises several questions that have remained unanswered.
The items were initially seized in July 2019, but not from the possession of Iliya Zlatanov; they were taken from his ex-wife and his son Yavor. At present, Yavor claims that the items belong to him, and he can prove that with documents for some of the coins. Even if Yavor did not state this officially in the investigation, the fact that the items were in his possession should have been sufficient to assume that he claimed ownership over them. There is a presumption in law that whoever has physical control of an object intends to exercise possession of that object (Art. 69 of the Property Act). This means that the SPO disposed of the items in favor of Iliya Zlatanov, notwithstanding two counterclaims from two different individuals. In cases where there are unclear circumstances relating to the claims over physical evidence, the prosecutor cannot dispose of the evidence, because he is not competent to decide legal disputes between the parties (Art. 113 of the CPC). Besides, the CPC provides that seized physical evidence can only be returned to the persons from which it was taken. In contrast, in this case, it was handed over to another person, even if the latter claimed possession over the items (Art. 111, par. 2 of the CPC). There are no known statements on the part of Zlatanov that the gold coins were the object of a crime committed against him, i. e., he has not claimed that Yavor Zlatanov took possession of the coins through unlawful actions against him. Therefore, it is even more compelling that, before disposing of the coins, the prosecutor should have asked the question of why the coins are in Yavor’s possession if they belong to Iliya, considering that the two are conflicting parties.
Fifth, the SPO press release does not specify how many people are using the property searched on 7 July or whether Iliya Zlatanov currently inhabits it. If he does not — which is probably the case, as we have received information that he has been living abroad for months — it is unclear whether and when it was established that he does not live there.
Sixth, there is no information about undertaking action against any other individuals mentioned in the movie. It appears that the only fact the SPO is interested in verifying for the moment is whether Iliya Zlatanov received the gold that he claims Lyubena Petrova took despite their agreements on paper. It seems that the SPO is ignoring all of Zlatanov’s statements regarding the exercise of undue influence over institutions and their unlawful actions.
In our opinion, the SPO’s information has only one purpose: to discredit the statements of Zlatanov and the entire movie by focusing on one isolated part and aiming to portray it as false. That is why we insist on answers to the six questions raised above. And not just to them.
We do not take all of Iliya Zlatanov’s statements at face value, therefore we do not emphasize everything he says but concentrate on the crucial issues raised in the movie that remain unaddressed:
What is the explanation for the sudden SPO actions on the “Izamet Case” following two years of fruitless work on the initially submitted complaints? Is it linked to the signing of a promissory note by Zlatanov in favor of the wife of the former investigator Petrov for nearly 3 million levs (BGN)?
Is that not the price for the corrupt “favor” described in the movie? Is that not the central fact that should be investigated? Have all SPO prosecutors’ orders about the disposition of physical evidence of considerable value on the case been verified and inspected?
Has the Prosecutor’s Office investigated the statements about transferring the physical evidence in question at night, at the SPO parking lot?
Has the Prosecutor’s Office investigated the allegations Iliya Zlatanov transferеd under duress company shares of 5000 BGN nominal value in a hospital? The hospital is a public building, and the movement in and around the building should be recorded.
There are many more questions in addition to these four that the movies of “The Eight Dwarfs” series pose and will continue to pose. So far, the only response of the Prosecutor’s Office has been to issue comments selectively and undertake questionable actions.
The questions are now ten in total. We urge the Prosecutor’s Office to provide answers with facts and appropriate legal argumentation.