Bulgarian prosecutors subpoena former MP in vote-buying investigation

Bulgarian prosecutors have subpoenaed Emil Dimitrov, an MP for Boiko Borissov’s party GERB in the previous legislature, as part of an investigation into an alleged vote-buying scheme, Bulgarian media reported on April 17.

The prosecutors launched the investigation earlier this month after local broadcaster Nova Televizia showed footage shot with a hidden camera from a meeting whose participants were being “instructed” how to “attract votes”.

The footage was shot in a hotel owned by Dimitrov in the town of Etropole near Sofia and Dimitrov himself is briefly caught on camera, Nova Televizia’s report said. Dimitrov denied being the owner of the hotel.

The participants were said to be members of the Orlov Most group, one of several groups to emerge from the nationwide protests against high electricity prices earlier this year. The group registered for the May 12 early parliamentary election in coalition with the nationalist party VMRO – whose leader Krassimir Karakachanov was caught on camera entering the hotel on the day of the “training” – but the party later broke off the coalition.

According to one of the participants in the meeting, who spoke to Nova Televizia on condition of anonymity, even though the group participated in the elections on its own, it was meant to support GERB.

Dimitrov was one of the better-known GERB MPs. As deputy chairperson of the forests and agriculture committee of Parliament, he was one of the driving forces behind the controversial amendments to the Forestry Act that prompted large-scale protests in Sofia in June 2012. (The amendments were later vetoed by President Rossen Plevneliev.)

He was accused of pushing through lobbyist provisions to tobacco legislation, while conservation groups claimed Dimitrov authored amendments that eased regulatory oversight over hunting preserves and logging. His companies manage, on concession, two of the largest hunting preserves in Bulgaria and he also owns several forest properties, the groups said.

The Cabinet’s commission tasked with preventing conflict of interest launched an investigation after the allegations were made in June 2012. On April 3 2013, after Parliament had been prorogued, the commission ruled that Dimitrov was indeed in conflict of interest and stood to lose his MP salary for the period, as well as paying a fine ranging between 5000 leva and 7000 leva.

The commission’s ruling can be appealed in the Sofia Administrative Court. Dimitrov, who was expelled from GERB after the commission’s ruling (he is not on the party’s lists in the upcoming elections) did not say whether he intended to do so, but said that the ruling against him was politically-motivated.

He blamed GERB deputy leader and former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Iskra Fidossova, who served as GERB MP and head of the legal affairs committee in the previous legislature, for the commission’s decision.

After the commission’s ruling was announced, Dimitrov said he left the country and planned to sign an affidavit in front of a public notary “telling everything I know”, but declined to give further details on what exactly the affidavit contained, saying that “it would not be a very good life insurance policy” if he disclosed the information in public.

(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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