Subject: Regarding the Parliamentary oversight over the work of the Anti-Corruption Commission in accordance with Art. 17 of the Anti-Corruption and the Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property Act
The Anti-Corruption Fund Foundation (ACF) works in the interest of civil society by cooperating with public authorities and the judiciary towards the prevention and investigation of high-level corruption. In our capacity of a non-governmental organization, we verify and analyze accessible information sources and documents in order to assist with the detection of corrupt behavior and abuse of power.
During the past weeks, as a result of our efforts in verifying facts and circumstances concerning property ownership declarations submitted by senior public officials, including by making references to public databases (the Property Register), it was established that there are serious discrepancies between the officially declared and the real parameters of certain property transactions. As a result, the competent authorities have opened inquiries and politicians have been forced to take responsibility.
However, in one of the cases, which involves Mr. Plamen Georgiev, the Chairman of the Commission of Anti-Corruption and the Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property (CAFIAP), no institutional measures were taken to inquire into the identified discrepancies between the contents of the duly submitted property ownership declaration and the purchase deeds for immovable property (an apartment and garage).
The circumstances are as follows:
1. On 26 April 2017, with Purchase Deed No. 23979 dated 26 April 2017, Deed No. 78, Volume LII, case No. 16903 of the Registry Office – Sofia, Mr. Plamen Georgiev and his wife purchased apartment No. 17, located in Sofia, Geo Milev District, 21 Prof. Dr. Georgi Pavlov Str, and composed of three levels: level one with a surface area of 106.76 sq. m., together with 47.99 sq. m. terrace; intermediate level with a surface area of 16.08 sq. m., together with a 186.57 sq. m. terrace (flat roof); level two with a surface area of 33.08 sq. m.; and an adjacent cellar. The purchase price was EUR 150,000, given that the tax assessment was BGN 452,785.70. The approved blueprint of the triplex apartment shows that the terrace on the mid-level can only be accessed from inside the apartment.
2. On 26 April 2017, with Purchase Deed No. 23956 dated 26 April 2017, Deed No. 51, Volume LII, case No. 16858 of the Registry Office – Sofia, Mr. Plamen Georgiev and his wife purchased a garage on the ground level of a building, located in Sofia, Geo Milev District, 21 Prof. Dr. Georgi Palvov Str, with a surface area of 42.94 sq. m., for the price of EUR 10,000, given that the tax assessment of the property was BGN 42,133.80.
3. On 26 April 2017, following a Request to issue a mortgage under Art. 60, par. 4 of the Credit Institutions Act, Reg. No. 75980, Deed No. 175, Volume IV, case No. 16904 of the Registry Office – Sofia, a mortgage was issued on the triplex apartment (the description is identical to the one in the Purchase Deed) as collateral for a bank loan in the amount of BGN 189,500 provided to Mr. Plamen Georgiev and his wife by First Investment Bank (Fibank).
4. The total price paid by Mr. Georgiev for the triplex apartment and the garage located in the Geo Milev District is BGN 312,932.80. The sum total of the amount, for which the apartment in Lyulin was sold, and the Fibank loan amount is BGN 318,584.78.
5. In his property ownership declaration for 2017 under Art. 35, par. 1, item 2 of AFIAPA, Mr. Georgiev declared possession of an apartment with a surface area of 156 sq. m. and a terrace of 48 sq. m. Therefore, he omitted to declare his second terrace with a surface area of 186 sq. m. (on the mid-level of the triplex apartment).
It should be noted that the apartment is luxurious and includes a six-person sauna, barbeque, rock garden, winter garden, and a garden terrace.
The stark discrepancy between the information declared in the property ownership declaration (regarding the surface area and the price of the transaction) and the information contained within the purchase deed (regarding the surface area and tax assessment of the property), as well as between the purchase price and the market price of the property, is sufficient grounds for an independent comprehensive inquiry into the ownership status of Mr. Georgiev.
In his statement to the media from 28 March 2019, Mr. Georgiev pointed out that the tax assessment of the terrace should be subtracted from the tax assessment of the entire property, as the terrace was not part of the apartment, but of the common areas of the building. However, the terrace (flat roof, 186.57 sq. m.) is included in the purchase deed which means that it is subject to individual possession rights. The factual circumstances point to the same conclusion.
The law places high requirements on the incumbent of the post of Chairman of CAFIAP: “The Chairman of the Commission must be a Bulgarian citizen with strong professional and moral qualities who possesses a law degree and at least ten years of legal experience” (Art. 8, par. 2 of AFIAPA).
It is evident that given his functions, prescribed by law, the chairman of the commission should meet the highest standard in terms of ethics and professionalism. In the present case, by declaring incomplete information regarding the accomplished property transactions, which resulted in damage to the state budget (since the due taxes and fees have not been paid in full), as well as by failing to submit a correct and complete ownership declaration in accordance with the requirements of Art. 35 AFIAPA, Mr. Georgiev was in violation of the requirement for strong professional and ethical qualities. There is enough grounds to even allege that an administrative offence was committed under Art. 174, par. 1 AFIAPA.
In accordance with the law, Parliament exercises oversight over the work of the commission and commission members are obliged to appear in Parliament if invited to do so and provide whatever information is requested of them (Art. 17 AFIAPA). This is a mechanism for public accountability and oversight that has never been employed to date. In addition, the Rules on the Organization and Activities of the National Assembly explicitly provide that Parliament can request a report on individual matters related to the work of institutions elected by Parliament subject to a proposal to this effect by the relevant permanent committee or by a fifth of the MPs (Art. 92, par. 1 of the Rules).
We believe that it is necessary and justified that the Bulgarian Parliament exercises its constitutional and legal prerogatives by overseeing the work of the commission and its chairman, including on the matter of whether the requirements of independence, objectivity, and impartiality are observed in the context of the inquiry into the property ownership status of the chairman, Mr. Plamen Georgiev.
It should be borne in mind that should Parliament establish, at any point of the oversight process, that the chairman or any other member of the commission has committed a serious violation or has systemically failed to exercise his public duties, Parliament can immediately initiate a procedure for removal from office (Art. 11, par. 4 AFIAPA).