Prosecution Leaks: The "Magic Carpet" of Proceedings 114/2022 of Sofia Regional Prosecutor's Office or How Influence Brokers in the Judiciary Initiate Advantageous Investigations

Pre-trial proceedings by the Sofia Regional Prosecutor’s Office (SRPО) against a person involved in an acute conflict with Martin Bojanov “The Notary” shed light on the influence that Bojanov, who was murdered in January, had among magistrates.

The proceedings, which continued for more than 18 months and were initiated in early 2022 by former deputy district prosecutor Mima Kutskova, raise questions about the prosecution’s working methods, as well as the effectiveness of an inquiry into possible links between Bojanov and magistrates, launched earlier this year by the Supreme Judicial Council’s Prosecutorial Collegium.

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In the scope of this probe, Prosecutor Kutskova was heard by the collegium on 28 February this year. According to the written report of the hearing, Prosecutor Kutskova says that in the course of the proceedings, she personally questioned Martin Bojanov as a witness, having summoned him by telephone. Before inviting him to testify, she also personally questioned Attorney Velimir Atanasov, who provided her with Bojanov’s telephone number.

The questioning of Martin Bojanov took place after he had already become publicly known due to an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Fund Foundation (ACF) titled List of Quick Control (June 2021). During the hearing, Prosecutor Kutskova claimed that she had been unaware of who Bojanov was until the time immediately after his questioning. After the end of the interrogation, Kutskova escorted Bojanov to the exit of the building because, due to the controlled access, he could not leave it on his own. She said that while she had been escorting him, a colleague had seen them together and later informed her who he was, directing her to the videos by ACF. According to Kutskova, until that moment, she had “no idea who this person was”.

Later in the course of the proceedings, Kutskova brought charges against a defendant. Because of a complaint from the defendant’s lawyer, she was investigated by the CAFIAP with the main line of inquiry being the reason why she had called Martin Bojanov. She explained that she had contacted him only to summon him and question him as a witness in the case. The proceedings ended with a dismissal order.

When asked by members of the collegium whether she had discussed the case with Nevena Zartova, the then administrative head of the SRPO, Kutskova did not provide any information, saying she had been questioned on this subject by the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office.

The ACF has access to some of the documents in the file (114/2022 of the SRPO). They contain curious details that remained hidden during the hearing before the Prosecutorial Collegium of the Supreme Judicial Council.

The proceedings were initiated on 25 February 2022, following a preliminary investigation by the Sofia Metropolitan Directorate of Interior which received a complaint from Evlogi Petrov, alleging that from November to December 2021 he had been forced to testify before the police against Martin Bojanov, his partners Velimir Atanasov and Emil Piskov, as well as against Petyo Petrov “The Euro”.

The person who on 1 November 2022 was brought in as a defendant for attempted coercion, was involved in a personal conflict with Bojanov. The accused, whose identity ACF will keep secret, testified that Bojanov had repeatedly threatened him that he would deal with him through the authorities.

The charges against the defendant were based primarily on testimony from Evlogi Petrov, who is the nominal owner of the infamous SS Club, de facto controlled by Bojanov. Petrov claimed that the defendant threatened him that if he refused to testify against Bojanov, Atanasov, Piskov and Petyo Petrov “The Euro”, charges of drug distribution would be brought against him. Subsequently, Petrov was deemed unfit to testify.

Petrov was subjected to a comprehensive forensic psychiatric and psychological evaluation after another witness claimed that he regularly used cocaine and made implausible claims. According to the evaluation, Petrov “lacks the capacity to correctly perceive and reproduce facts of reality relevant to the case”. The evaluation’s conclusion that Petrov was not fit to testify was the reason for the termination of the proceedings on 26 October 2023, when the prosecution already had new leadership.

According to Andrey Yankulov, senior legal adviser at ACF, uncovering the activities of groups for parallel justice, their techniques, the individuals involved, and their links to magistrates, should rely on analyses of specific proceedings and case files, as well as a summary of the individual analyses.

“Whether and to what extent this is happening at the institutional level, we can only guess,” Yankulov said. “Unfortunately, based on the information gathered by the Prosecutorial Collegium, the questions that prosecutors asked, and the answers that Prosecutor Kutskova provided during the hearing, it seems that there is no particular cause for optimism.”

The outlined facts raise a number of significant questions:

  1. Prosecutor Kutskova’s personal involvement: What aspects of this investigation called for Kutskova’s personal involvement in conducting investigative actions? Is this yet another example of a “priority investigation” being placed on a “magic carpet” because of circumstances outside the scope of the case file?
  2. 2. The witnesses’ questionable reputation: Even if Koutskova was not aware of who Martin Bojanov, Velimir Atanasov, Emil Piskov and Peyo Petrov “The Euro” were, she did eventually learn that Bojanov was exposed as an alleged influence broker in the justice system. How did this not lead her to view his testimony, and the testimony of people in his circle, with a significant degree of doubt?
  3. Evlogi Petrov’s profile: How did the person who questioned this key witness fail to note his unstable mental state? Were there not, after all, at least some outward signs to make the interviewer question this person’s fitness to testify? What are the other proceedings and cases related to Martin Bojanov and his group featuring this important witness without testimonial fitness? What results did the testimony achieve, and do these proceedings also share elements of the “magic carpet”?
  4. Pressing charges without sufficient evidence: Recently, the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office filed charges against the prosecutor who initiated proceedings against Petyo Petrov [who is another suspected influence broker in the judiciary and the prosecution]. The action against the prosecutor was motivated on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence against Petrov and that questionable procedural actions had been taken, possibly motivated by factors outside of the scope of the proceedings.

All of the above features appear to be present in proceedings 114/2022 of the SRPO. They should have been known to the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office and should have led to an investigation of Prosecutor Kutskova as well. Of course, a significant difference is that with her actions Kutskova had not caused harm to Petyo Petrov but to an opponent of Martin Bojanov. The question remains whether the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office should not apply a uniform standard in such cases, albeit taking into account the subjectivity of judgments when evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence.

  1. Prosecutor Kutskova’s contacts with Martin Bojanov, Velimir Atanasov, and Emil Piskov: According to an ACF source, the Ministry of the Interior has traffic data — which should have been provided to the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office — which shows that Bojanov, Piskov, and Atanasov communicated with Prosecutor Kutskova immediately before the initiation of the pre-trial proceedings. This information contradicts her statements to the collegium about when she had spoken to Atanasov and Bojanov (Piskov was not mentioned at all in her statement).
  2. Prosecutor Kutskova’s status: At the time when the pre-trial proceedings were initiated, Kutskova was a prosecutor at the SRPO, she was a deputy district prosecutor when she terminated them, then went back to the rank-and-file.

Two weeks before the hearing in front of the Prosecutors’ Collegium, Kutskova and the three other former deputy district prosecutors at the SRPO stepped down from their leadership positions. They announced their decisions in a joint statement that ended with a “categorical dissociation” from the actions of the former chief district prosecutor Nevena Zartova with whom they had previously worked as a team. In addition to distancing themselves from Zartova, the prosecutors expressed “full support” for the efforts of acting Prosecutor General Borislav Sarafov to reform the Prosecutor’s Office. According to an ACF source at the SRPO, Kutskova and the other former deputies who have explicitly declared their loyalty to Sarafov, continue to perform administrative functions despite their resignations.

During the hearing before the collegium, Kutskova said that she had seen Martin Bojanov and Velimir Atanasov entering or leaving Zartova’s office. So far, Zartova is one of the few prosecutors who have suffered any institutional backlash for their alleged involvement with the networks around Martin Bojanov or Petro Petrov. Meanwhile, the information that Zartova has shared about the circle of magistrates around “The Euro”, known as “The Family”, does not appear to interest either the prosecution or the Prosecutors’ Collegium.

The question arises whether personal concerns, including concerns related to the questionable circumstances surrounding pre-trial proceedings 114/2022, make Kutskova a convenient witness ready to speak against those identified as enemies by the current leadership of the prosecution.