ACF’s Annual Monitoring Report: the problems in the anti-corruption institutions in 2020 are escalating

Today, The Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) presented the findings of its annual monitoring report on the investigations of high-level corruption in Bulgaria “Anti-corruption Institutions: Escalating Problems.” The report aims to provide a detailed answer to the question of the results of the fight against political corruption in Bulgaria in the last six years.

“There are already enough completed cases, which lends the opportunity to highlight many worrying trends. We can conclude that in 2020 the problems of the fight against political corruption in Bulgaria are further escalating,” conclude the authors of the report Andrey Yankulov and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Natalia Kiselova.

This report is a continuation of the annual independent civil monitoring of cases of (alleged) corruption crimes and conflicts of interest at the highest levels of government, which ACF launched last year.

The monitoring consists of two parts: (1) analysis of 45 significant criminal proceedings in cases of corruption at the highest levels of government, at the pre-trial and judicial phase for the period 2014-2020, (5 new cases were added for 2020 and the development of pending cases from the last year’s report was monitored) and (2) evaluation of decisions on reports of conflict of interest of the Commission for Anti-corruption and the Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property (CAFIAP) for 2020. Additionally, the analysis examined 18 cases of criminal prosecution for alleged corruption behavior at the highest levels of local government, which give a similar picture to the situation at the central level.

Some of the key conclusions that have found place in the report:

– The low efficiency of the criminal prosecution of high-level corruption found in last year’s ACF monitoring report is declining even more in 2020. The new sentences that came into force are only acquittals, which gives a ratio so far of a total of 13 final acquittals against only 3 convictions. This share is much lower than usual for successful charges of the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office.

– There is still no corruption crime punished with effective imprisonmentNo final conviction has been reached in the last three years – from 2018 to 2020.

 

– The majority of high-ranking officials have been handed over to a court for conduct which the court considers not to constitute a crime11 of the 13 acquittals in the 45 cases examined are precisely due to the inconsistency of the alleged criminal conduct established by the court. The accusations of the Prosecutor’s Office are often based on the misapplication of substantive criminal law or absurd logical constructions. Significantly, the courts’ assessment is often not challenged even by the Prosecutor’s Office from one moment on in the cases.

 

– The state of the criminal prosecution in the most socially significant corruption cases continues to receive no attention from the leadership of the Prosecutor’s Office. No criteria have been developed for monitoring cases of corruption crimes of high public interest. It is not clear whether the reasons for the failure of significant corruption cases are analyzed at all.

– In 2020, CAFIAP issued 122 decisions. Conflict of interest was ascertained with only 30 decisions; lack of conflict of interest was ascertained in 92.

– The main part of the cases on which the Commission has ruled, 96 in number, are about persons holding public office at a relatively low local level – in the system of local self-government, local government, or local administration. Decisions concerning public officials at higher and central levels are only 26.

– The formalistic approach in case of reports to the Commission or cases exposed in the media continues to be impressive. There is often a lack of comprehensive research on possible connections that lead to influence and dependencies in the exercise of official powers by persons holding public office.

“With full gravity, we must ask the question: is this the real picture of high-level corruption?” If these cases reflect the real state of corruption in the public sector at the highest level, then the only possible conclusion is that there is no corruption there. 

However, it is objectively impossible for this to be true, especially in a young democracy like Bulgaria. Therefore, we must conclude that the real picture remains hidden,” commented Andrey Yankulov, author of the first part of the report.

The full text of the report “Anti-Corruption Institutions: Escalating Problems” is available here.

The ACF’s Annual Monitoring Report for 2020, “Anti-Corruption Institutions: Escalating Problems,” was prepared within a project supported by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung under its Rule of Law Programme for Southeast Europe.

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