ACF requests the court to oblige the SANS to provide information concerning undeclared properties and foreign accounts of public figures

The Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) has lodged an appeal with the Sofia-City Administrative Court against the State Agency for National Security’s (SANS) refusal to provide information concerning undeclared properties and foreign accounts of senior public officials that the agency has been collecting.

At the beginning of March 2022, ACF requested from the SANS the names of the persons who have not submitted the property statements required by law, as well as information about their public posts and their undisclosed property that should be declared. It is public knowledge that the SANS was collecting such information in 2019 at the request of the then Prosecutor General, Sotir Tsatsarov. The results of this SANS inquiry were presented to Tsatsarov, but were never published. [1]

Абонирайте се за бюлетина на АКФ, за да научавате за най-новите ни разследвания и анализи:

С натискане на бутона потвърждавате, че сте запознати с Политиката ни за поверителност

On 16 March, the administrative secretary of the SANS denied ACF access to the information, claiming that it does not represent public information, but constitutes “personal data of specific individuals” whose privacy is protected by the law [2].

“This refusal is unlawful, and the arguments of the SANS are unfounded,” states Lora Georgieva, senior legal advisor at the Anti-Corruption Fund. “The Anti-Corruption and Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property Act (AFIAPA) obliges senior public officials to submit statements of property. Any persons who have failed to declare their property have violated the law, and the SANS has no right to shield them under the pretext of protecting their personal data,” maintain the ACF experts.

Art. 4, par. 1 of the AFIAPA explicitly limits the protection afforded to the personal data of public figures on account of the high responsibility attached to their professional capacity. According to the law, any information concerning property or interests owned by senior public officials should be public and accessible to every citizen, including via public registers established for the purpose. The Bulgarian legislator has established that this measure is necessary in order to effectively protect the interests of the public and prevent any potential corrupt behavior of high-ranking public officials.

“Art. 3, par. 2, item 8 of the AFIAPA explicitly provides that any persons who failed to submit property statements, or whose property statements contain inaccuracies, should be publicly announced. In fact, by refusing access to this public information, the SANS is placing the perpetrators in a better position than the persons who fulfilled their legal obligation to declare all their property. This creates an absurd state of affairs, in which the property data of the law breakers become a secret, strictly protected by public institutions. At the same time, the data of the persons who submitted property statements are public information,” adds Lora Georgieva.

“In our appeal, we are requesting the Sofia-City Administrative Court to oblige the SANS chairman to provide the information concerning undeclared properties of senior public officials. We are astonished that we have to go to court in order to obtain information that is public by law, and the non-disclosure of which constitutes a legal violation.

As soon as we gain access to this information, we will publish it, as the Bulgarian people have the right to know the full details about the property owned by the individuals in power,” states Boyko Stankushev, Director of the Anti-Corruption Fund