For the fourth time the Anti-Corruption Fund foundation (ACF) presented its Annual Monitoring Report on the activity of anti-corruption institutions, entitled “Anti-corruption institutions 2021: a zero year”. The report analyzes the development of 49 key corruption investigations by the Prosecutor’s office and the practice of the Commission for Anti-Corruption and Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property (CAFIAP).
“2021 confirmed the conclusion that the real picture of corruption at the highest levels of power remains hidden. The ongoing criminal proceedings do not reflect the true state of corruption of the public sector at a high level,” the authors of the report, Andrey Yankulov and Alexander Kashamov, stated.
In relation to the 49 key corruption investigations monitored, the ACF report shows that:
– in the past year, not a single investigation was initiated for a corruption crime directed against a high-ranking official.
– Not a single final conviction has been reached in the last four years – from 2018 to 2021 inclusive.
– in 2021, only one new verdict on charges of corruption in a case of high public interest entered into force, and it was an acquittal.
– The ratio of effective convictions to acquittals in cases involving the high levels of power is 3 convictions to 14 acquittals. In other words, charges filed by the prosecution have only an 18% success rate.
During the year, one of the largest criminal investigations in the country’s history against high-ranking officials – that of the “Belene” Nuclear Power Plant project – came to an inglorious end. The case against two of the accused ministers has already been dismissed, and will soon be dismissed against all of them because the absolute limitation period for criminal prosecution will expire.
There has been no subsequent Bulgarian institutional action a year after the sanctions imposed in June 2021 by the US Department of State under the Global “Magnitsky” Act regarding businessman Vasil Bozhkov, politician and businessman Delyan Peevski and the deputy chairman of the National Bureau for Control over Special Surveillance Means – Ilko Zhelyazkov.
“In the field of the criminal law aspect of the fight against corruption at the highest levels, the year can be characterized without any doubt as a zero year,” states Andrey Yankulov, author of the part of the report “Criminal Prosecution of Corruption at the Highest Levels of Power.”
The picture is no different in regards the specialized anti-corruption body – the Commission for Anti-Corruption and Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property (CAFIAP):
-In CAFIAP adopted 104 decisions, out of which 22 were for establishing a conflict of interests and 82 with which no conflict was established.
– The predominant number of the examined cases – 78 regard persons who hold public office at the local level, and the remaining 26 – regard persons who hold public office at the central level.
– CAFIAP publishes information about proceedings and indications about alleged crimes without reporting the files submitted to the prosecutor’s office, the pre-trial proceedings initiated in that regard and the indictments filed. In the absence of public information, doubts about anti-corruption hyperactivity of the commission in the segment of small fish only increase.
Only a fraction of the proceedings initiated by CAFIAP for confiscation of illegally acquired property are open to public access, which is why there is a serious problem with the transparency of this part of the Commission’s work. However, the analysis of the accessible proceedings shows that a very small part of them are related to corruption crimes (only 2).
These results clearly show that the real picture of corruption at the highest levels of power remains hidden.
“Obviously, the ongoing criminal proceedings do not reflect the true state of public sector corruption at a high level. If we judge based on them, it turns out that there are simply none guilty of committing corruption crimes among the highest-ranking officials,” the authors of the report state.
“The negative conclusions about the Bulgarian judicial system have been repeated for years and already speak of the chronicity of the problem, and not of some temporary condition with “practical challenges in the application of the rule of law,” summarizes the investigative journalist and co-founder of ACF Nikolay Staykov in the introduction of the report .
“They point to serious and systemic cracks resulting from a lack of objectivity, interference, incompetence, or an obscure combination of these factors.”
ACF’s 2021 annual monitoring report “Anti-corruption institutions 2021: A year zero” is available here.
The ACF’s Annual Monitoring Report for 2021, “Anti-Corruption Institutions: A Zero Year,” was prepared within a project supported by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung under its Rule of Law Programme for Southeast Europe