Eavesdropping controversy: Judiciary committee to decide on ethics probe into Sofia prosecutor’s conduct

A decision on whether to initiate an ethics investigation into the conduct of Nikolai Kokinov, former administrative head of the Sofia city prosecutor’s office, was scheduled to begin on April 29 while Kokinov, former prime minister Boiko Borissov and former cabinet minister Miroslav Naidenov also were to face questions from prosecutors about recordings purportedly of conversations among them seen as interfering with the course of justice.

These were among the latest developments after the audio recordings were leaked to the media, prompting Kokinov’s resignation as head of the prosecutor’s office.

The Supreme Judicial Council’s ethics committee will seek to determine whether it was Kokinov participating in the conversation. Should it be confirmed that it is Kokinov’s voice, disciplinary proceedings could follow, with the severest penalty he could face being dismissal from the judiciary.

Kokinov was not due to attend the April 29 meeting, which was to decide whether to proceed against him, but would be summoned to answer the charges should a formal disciplinary process begin.

Borissov, Naidenov and Kokinov were expected to be called in for questioning by prosecutors either on April 29 and 30, ahead of the Labour Day to Easter long weekend from May 1 to 6, and with less than two weeks to go to the May 12 parliamentary elections in which allegations against the former government of illegal eavesdropping predominate over debate.

The recordings indicate that Kokinov gave Borissov the outcome of an initial investigation into alleged illegal eavesdropping before the findings were presented officially.

The conversations revolve around a discussion by the three about how to influence an investigation into alleged corruption by Naidenov, who was agriculture minister in Borissov’s cabinet.

The Interior Ministry has said that there had been no official request or order for its personnel to conduct covert surveillance of the three. The ministry has suggested that the recording was made by an external agent.

The recordings apparently were made on April 15 at Borissov’s house in Bankya outside Sofia.

The illegal eavesdropping saga, which dates to allegations made early in the election contest by Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev, dominated all major television channels on April 29 and live debates among rival parties. The defensive strategy of Borissov’s party GERB, as voiced by former minister Totyu Mladenov in one breakfast television debate, is to argue that the recordings are evidence of “parallel structures” linked to organised crime conducting their own operations seeking to bring down GERB and thus hamstring the fight against crime. Borissov earlier alleged that Stanishev and the socialists were behind the eavesdropping, while Tsvetan Tsvetanov – former interior minister and GERB campaign chief, at the centre of the controversy – similarly has characterised the controversy as an election campaign manoeuvre.

(Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis/flickr.com)




The Sofia Globe staff

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