Bulgaria high court rejects asset forfeiture suit against runaway ‘Galevi brothers’

Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) ruled to return to prosecutors the suit to seize the assets of the “Galevi Brothers” – Angel Hristov and Plamen Galev, who are not actually related – because the duo could not be subpoenaed to appear in court.

Hristov and Galev are the subject of local and international arrest warrants after disappearing in May 2012 on the day they were sentenced to jail on charges of organised crime, racketeering and extortion.

The court ruled on January 25 that “the absence of current address data of the convicted persons precludes the possibility of them being subpoenaed for court proceedings, which is why [the case] should be closed and returned to the Supreme Prosecution of Cassation.” The court posted the ruling on its website on January 28 (in Bulgarian, here).

Hristov and Galev were acquitted, in November 2010, by the Kyustendil District Court on all charges, but the ruling was overturned by the Sofia Court of Appeals in July 2011. The appellate court handed Galev a seven-year effective imprisonment sentence and 10 000 leva fine, while Hristov was sentenced to five years in prison and payment of a 7000 leva fine. It also ruled to confiscate one-third of Galev’s assets and one-quarter of Hristov’s assets.

The duo appealed the case at the SCC, which issued a final ruling confirming the convictions, but reducing Galev’s prison term to five years. They never showed up to begin serving their sentences.

After their disappearance, prosecutors filed a separate asset forfeiture lawsuit in order to ascertain the exact assets held by Hristov and Galev. It is this lawsuit that the SCC has now returned to prosecutors, having already postponed hearings once, in November 2012.

The Supreme Prosecution of Cassation said that Hristov and Galev were subjects to Bulgarian and international arrest warrants “in connection to the sentence against them and the court will be notified immediately when information on their current whereabouts is received.”

Hristov and Galev became famous in March 2008, when then-interior minister Roumen Petkov said he met the duo, in his capacity as a minister, in their home town of Doupnitsa in 2006. Unknown to him, the ‘brothers’ were subject of a police investigation at that time and Petkov’s revelation set off a media row that cost him his cabinet position.

In October 2008, they were briefly the subject of a massive manhunt after the Interior Ministry said that it could not find them, but they turned themselves in two days later, saying that they were in business meetings and unaware that they were wanted by the police.

They briefly left prison in June 2009 to stand for Parliament in a highly-publicised move, but did not win enough votes to win seats in the legislature. After their acquittals had been reversed, they remained free for the duration of their final appeal, disappearing once the verdict was in and sparking a wave of recriminations between Bulgaria’s law enforcement and judiciary about who was to blame for their escape.

(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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