The Sofia City Administrative Court (SCAC) has confirmed the refusal of the State Agency for National Security (SANS) to provide the names of politicians and magistrates it had found to possess undeclared real estate and bank accounts abroad.
The court proceedings came about after, in March 2022, the Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) submitted a request for access to public information to the chairman of the SANS. In its request, ACF asked for the agency’s data on individuals in senior public positions with undeclared properties and accounts abroad. SANS refused to provide the information, and now SCAC confirmed this decision, thus bringing the case to an end.
In 2019, for the first time, it became publicly known of a SANS investigation of individuals in senior public positions at the Prosecutor’s Office’s initiative. SANS has handed over the investigation results to the Prosecutor’s Office, but they were never publicly announced and were given a security classification.
In 2021, the Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov also repeatedly mentioned such a list of individuals in politics and the judiciary in his media appearances, promising to make it public, but this never happened.
At the beginning of 2022, SANS refused to provide the information it had collected even to the parliamentary Anti-corruption Committee on the grounds that the data were part of an investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office, and it was unlawful to disclose them without its permission.
“All the institutions involved – the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Interior, SANS – refused to provide transparency on an issue of considerable public interest. This led us to request the data via the only possible procedure for us – that of the Access to Public Information Act (APIA),” says Andrey Yankulov, senior legal advisor at ACF.
“Our main motive was that persons in senior public positions are obliged by law to publicly disclose their assets both in the country and abroad. Respectively, those who have not done so have violated the law. The institutions that have established this (in this case, SANS) cannot hide them. On the contrary, they must publicly announce the data to be declared.”
However, according to the SCAC, SANS was not the entity obliged by the APIA to disclose this information, which another body should have announced – the Commission for anti-corruption and Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property (CAFIAP).
“Even before we ask the entity which, according to the SCAC, is obliged to provide the information – CAFIAP – we know the answer. CAFIAP would claim that since it is not the body that has identified the discrepancy, but someone else – SANS – it cannot provide something it does not have.
At the same time, there is no one to oblige the institutions holding the information – the Prosecutor’s Office, SANS, the Interior Ministry – to make it public – which it must be, according to the law”, adds Andrey Yankulov.
“The message to individuals in senior public positions is clear: even if they do not declare their property and accounts abroad, when they are obliged to do so, and this is found out – there is no one to investigate how this property was acquired. What is more, there is no one to even make this information public,” said Boyko Stankushev, director of the Anti-Corruption Fund.