What has been omitted by the Prosecutor’s Office in its “report” on the persons sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act?
The Anti-Corruption Fund considers it necessary to make some clarifications and corrections regarding the position of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria (PORB) on the new list of five Bulgarian citizens sanctioned under the US Magnitsky Act.
First of all, we believe that the statement that “the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria has long taken all necessary actions following its competence under the Constitution and the law concerning all sanctioned Bulgarian citizens” does not correspond to the truth.
The Prosecutor’s Office’s position contains misleading, inaccurate, and incomplete information about specific names and cases, as follows:
- In the case of Mr. Delyan Peevski, a member of the Parliament of the Republic of Bulgaria previously sanctioned by the United States and now by the UK, the most crucial fact has been omitted: according to the publicly available information, any alleged criminal activity of the person has never been investigated in the course of criminal proceedings. Even if we don’t know the exact number of investigations against him, or the facts they explore, we do know that they have always resulted in the refusal to open criminal proceedings.
Telling is Mr. Peevski’s complete absence, manifested in the Prosecutor’s Office’s unwillingness to question him even as a witness, even in the investigation of the KTBank bankruptcy, despite the public information of his involvement with the bank. The Prosecutor’s Office’s special attitude towards Mr. Peevski is further evidenced by the fact that his initials “DP” were changed into “10” in documents presented at a Prosecutor’s Office press conference about the investigation of the case known as “the notebook of Philip Zlatanov” – the former chairman of the Commission for Prevention of Conflict of Interest.
Since there have been no pre-trial proceedings against Mr. Peevski, there is no legal reason to request international legal assistance for the collection of evidence, as reported by the Prosecutor’s Office in the case of Mr. Vasil Bozhkov, for example. And this is the only way to verify the compelling evidence revealed in journalistic investigations about MP Peevski’s hidden involvement in commercial companies whose ultimate beneficial owners remain unclear or hidden in jurisdictions such as the UK, Liechtenstein, the UAE, Cyprus, the Bahamas, and British Overseas Territories such as the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla.
- Mr. Rumen Ovcharov was indicted not on the charges of illegal acquisition of funds, specified in the Magnitsky list, but on charges of tolerating mismanagement by officials subordinated to him in two separate criminal cases involving the Belene Nuclear Power Plant and the Bobov Dol Mining Project. In both cases, he was brought to trial as a defendant with an enormous delay – about ten years after the alleged crime, which in both cases involved transactions with publicly known parameters, i.e., there was no operational activity to uncover a complex criminal scheme that would justify delaying proceedings. The indictment against Ovcharov in the Belene NPP case was filed in February 2021: more than 14 years after the alleged crime was committed and only nine months before the absolute statute of limitations for criminal prosecution expired. Accordingly, this statute of limitations has now expired, and the case has been closed. In the “Bobov Dol Mines” case, the Supreme Court of Cassation overturned the verdict of the first and second-instance specialized courts against Ovcharov and remanded the case for retrial. The likelihood of Ovcharov being convicted and sentenced again remains negligible.
- It is not publicly known that Nikolai Malinov is being investigated for the corruption alleged by the US authorities. He is being charged with so-called espionage. When the case was made public, the Prosecutor’s Office announced that it was a separate preliminary investigation into a crime against the financial system (presumably the case of the bankruptcy of KTBank, in which Malinov was a witness and gave information about a series of conversations between him, Tsvetan Vassilev and Delyan Peevski). The Prosecutor’s Office presented as evidence letters from Malinov to Russian businesspeople seeking financing for investment projects, but they did not appear to contain information that would constitute state or other legally protected secrets.
- There is also no evidence that the Prosecutor’s Office took any action regarding the first Bulgarian citizen sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act, Judge Andon Mitalov. His case was the subject of disciplinary proceedings by the Supreme Judicial Council. These proceedings ended in October 2021 without any sanction. Judge Mitalov is still working in the judiciary.
- Especially perplexing is the Prosecutor’s Office’s position about its actions to verify the accusations of Mr. Vasil Bozhkov regarding a gambling corruption scheme involving Mr. Vladislav Goranov, who has also been prosecuted. Mr. Bozhkov has been on trial since 2020. It becomes clear that it was only in April 2022 that the Prosecutor’s Office sent a request for legal assistance to the United Arab Emirates for Vasil Bozhkov’s remote questioning as a witness, even though his statements have been publicly known since May 2020. The same allegations are reflected in the new announcement of the US authorities about the motivations for imposing sanctions on Mr. Vladislav Goranov. This leads to the conclusion that the Prosecutor’s Office, despite its legal obligations, did not work on clarifying these circumstances for almost two years, probably as a result of the Prosecutor General’s public disregard of Mr. Bozhkov’s statements, as evidenced in a TV interview on May 16, 2020.
- From what the Prosecutor’s Office has said about Ilko Zhelyazkov, it is clear that an investigation was carried out, but its result is being spared – and it is probably the same as in the case of Mr. Peevski. The Magnitsky list information clearly stated that Mr. Peevski used Ilko Zhelyazkov to carry out a bribery scheme concerning Bulgarian residence permits for foreign citizens, as well as to bribe state officials by various means in exchange for information and loyalty on their part.
We agree with the Prosecutor’s Office’s statement that “the effective fight against corruption is a responsibility of all three powers.” However, it is the Prosecutor’s Office that leads the investigation of crimes and is responsible for ensuring that it is conducted lawfully.
When investigations into specific, publicly known allegations of high-level corruption are not conducted at all, are incomplete, or are unjustifiably delayed, it is the Prosecutor’s Office that owes the public answers.
Regarding the information published by the US Treasury Department on the two Magnitsky lists, the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office owes the public providing much more and timely information and evidence of an unbiased and thorough approach.
So far, what has been reported in most cases only strengthens our doubts that the opposite is true.