Bulgarian Cabinet appoints new asset forfeiture commission chief

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has removed Plamen Dimitrov as Deputy Justice Minister and appointed him as the new chairperson of the asset forfeiture commission, the Cabinet’s media service said on January 23.

Dimitrov, 37, was the deputy minister in charge of Bulgaria’s penitentiary system.

He holds a degree in law from Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia and a master’s degree in EU law from the same university, completing post-graduate courses in Hungary and US in the areas of fighting corruption and fighting organised crime, the Cabinet said.

Before his appointment as deputy minister, he worked as an investigative magistrate in Sofia and, later, as a prosecutor in Sofia and in the Supreme Prosecution of Cassation. Shortly before his Cabinet appointment, he was elected by the Supreme Judicial Council as a deputy chief of the prosecution unit at the specialised criminal court (set up by Bulgaria last year to deal with high-profile cases), but never took office.

He will have a five-year term as head of the asset forfeiture commission, starting with the day when the five-member commission is fully staffed. The deadline for that is February 19.

Under Bulgaria’s Asset Forfeiture Act, passed by Parliament last year, the prime minister appoints the head of the commission, the president appoints one member and Parliament the other three, including the deputy chairperson.

Bulgaria’s Parliament passed the law on December 19, amending passages declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. The key amendments were a reduction of the statute of limitations from 15 years to 10 years, as well as the addition of a new chapter regulating state compensation for the victims of the crimes.

The commission will have the power to investigate individuals without prior notification and would not require a criminal conviction in order to launch an investigation. Once any asset is impounded, its owner would have one month to present proof that the respective property was acquired using money gained in a lawful way.

The Asset Forfeiture Act is meant to strengthen Bulgarian judiciary’s currently weak capacity to confiscate the assets of convicted criminals – a recurrent criticism in the annual Co-operation and Verification Mechanism reports issued by the European Commission on the country’s progress in fighting organised crime and reforming the judiciary.

According to research done jointly by the Interior Ministry and the Centre for Study of Democracy think-tank in 2012, the size of assets acquired as a result of criminal activity in Bulgaria was estimated at about 3.5 billion leva.

(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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