The Commission for Anti-Corruption and the Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property (CAFIAP) has violated the order of the Sofia City Administrative Court to publish all its decisions to confiscate illegally acquired property. Issued in November 2022, the court order gave the Commission two weeks to publish the information, which the Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) had requested under the Access to Public Information Act.
Instead, CAFIAP has filed a motion to annul the court decision and stopped the procedure of providing public information.
“The refusal to comply with a court decision to publish the required information is against the law,” said Daniela Peneva, a legal advisor with ACF. “The Commission is not legally authorized to stop the execution of judgments.”
The move to annul the decision of the Sofia City Administrative Court is an administrative trick on behalf of CAFIAP to try to avoid the consequences of the court order. Such behavior shows that CAFIAP does not respect court decisions and thinks they can be disregarded.”
In November 2022, the Administrative Court ruled that CAFIAP’s decisions to confiscate illegally acquired property did not represent professional secrets and qualified as public information. The court ordered that the Commission make its decision public.
ACF initiated the litigation after CAFIAP had refused to publish the decisions on the basis that they represented professional secrets, as stated in an order from 2018 issued by Plamen Georgiev, its chairperson at the time. Mr. Georgiev resigned in 2019 in the aftermath of the Apartmentgate scandal, which followed investigations by ACF and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Mr. Georgiev’s order conceals the decisions about the largest scope of CAFIAP’s work under which the most significant number of its officers are employed and the largest number of decisions issued.
The decisions are important because they provide information about the inquiries held by CAFIAP, the facts established in the course of the inquiries, the criteria applied by officials, and the legal conclusions which have led to proceedings by the Commission.
In November 2022, the Sofia City Administrative Court ordered CAFIAP to provide ACF with the required information within 14 days of the publishing of the decision. The decision is final and cannot be appealed.
However, instead of complying with the court order, CAFIAP filed a motion to annul the court decision. Immediately after, the Commission stopped providing the information required by ACF.
“Even after filing the motion, CAFIAP did not have the right to disregard the court order and to refuse disclosure of the required information. The Administrative Court’s decision is a legal act which is in force and should be complied with by all parties to which it applies, including CAFIAP,” said Daniela Peneva.
According to Peneva, by filing the motion to declare the court decision null and void, CAFIAP has acted in bad faith. Filing such motions is only possible in very rare circumstances. For example, when a decision is issued by an incompetent body or if a decision is so confusing as to be considered non-existent. In this case, there is no legal foundation to question an enforceable court decision issued by a competent body: the Administrative Court. Moreover, in its motion, CAFIAP has mentioned arguments why it disagrees with the decision.
“Disagreement with an enforceable court decision does not remove the obligation to comply.
It is evident that CAFIAP has filed its motion in a bid to prolong the litigation and thus delay publishing the required information or stop it altogether via an endless back-and-forth among different judicial institutions,” said Peneva.
“This is in complete violation of the Access to Public Information Act. In litigation concerning the provision of public information, the decisions of the first instance court are final precisely because of the need to protect the public interest and guarantee the timely provision of important information.”
“The Commission’s actions show that it is trying to circumvent the law in order to avoid complying with the court decision,” said Boyko Stankushev, director of the ACF.
“Such behavior by an important public body threatens the principle of legal certainty and the public interest. ACF has filed a motion with the Administrative Court, asking that the court annuls CAFIAP’s decision not to provide us with the information we require.
We await the court’s decision and will inform the public in a timely manner.
We believe that CAFIAP’s decisions will become public — this is in line with the public interest and the court’s decision, which reflects the current legislation.”