Four current and former employees of the operative and technical information specialised directorate of the Interior Ministry have been formally charged as a result of the prosecution office’s investigation into allegations of illegal eavesdropping, Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office said on April 23.
During their investigation, prosecutors found that lax controls over police eavesdropping created an environment ripe for abuse. At a news conference on April 15, the prosecutors said that they also found evidence of an attempted cover-up.
The head of the operative and technical information specialised directorate of the Interior Ministry, Sergei Katsarov, has been charged with abuse of power that has caused major consequences (article 387, paragraph 2 of the Penal Code). His predecessors in office, Kamen Kostov and Tsvetan Ivanov, have been indicted on the same charge.
The trio failed in their duties to create the necessary guidelines for the use of surveillance equipment, prosecutors said earlier. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to prison terms ranging between one and eight years.
Katsarov has also been charged with document fraud under article 311, paragraph 1 of the Penal Code, prosecutors said. The article in question reads that “an official who, within the scope of his duties, draws an official document certifying untrue circumstances or statements with the purpose of using this document as a proof of these circumstances or statements shall be punished by imprisonment of up to five years.”
Radko Dimitrov, the head of a unit at the directorate, was charged with destruction of evidence, an offence that carries a possible sentence ranging between one and five years’ imprisonment, as well as a fine of up to 1000 leva.
The eavesdropping investigation was launched when socialist leader Sergei Stanishev said on March 28 that he had received allegations that a range of government and opposition politicians, business people, members of the judiciary, protest leaders and other public figures had been subjects of illegal surveillance at the orders of former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.
Stanishev said he received the information on his official e-mail address and passed them on to Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov. A team of 10 prosecutors investigated the tip-off, reviewing the movements of the alleged surveillance van over the past month and the existing guidelines of the Interior Ministry for using eavesdropping equipment.
The review found that illegal eavesdropping could be carried out, given the lack of written regulations concerning training exercises and the results of such operations, as well as the lack of proper oversight over the use of surveillance equipment by the employees of the operative and technical information specialised directorate of the ministry.
Tsvetanov, a deputy prime minister in the previous cabinet led by Boiko Borissov, who now heads the electoral headquarters of Borissov’s party GERB – the main rival to Stanishev’s socialists in the parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12 – has described the allegations as “ridiculous”.
(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)