The ethics committee of Bulgaria’s Supreme Judiciary Council (SJC) ruled on May 13 to recommend opening a formal disciplinary investigation into the actions of former Sofia City Prosecutor Nikolai Kokinov. The SJC is expected to start proceedings in that sense later this week, news agency Focus reported.
Kokinov resigned his position on April 26, after recordings were leaked of him allegedly in conversation with former prime minister Boiko Borissov and former agriculture minister Miroslav Naidenov about how to influence the course of an investigation into Naidenov.
The SJC accepted his resignation as prosecutor, but declined to accept Kokinov resignation from the judiciary (submitted on April 29), instead scheduling a disciplinary hearing for May 13. If the formal investigation finds Kokinov was involved in a conversation on subverting the course of justice, the maximum penalty would be dismissal from the judiciary.
Kokinov declined to appear at the ethics committee’s hearing, claiming prior engagements. The committee also declined a request filed by Kokinov to postpone the hearing – the reason for the request being that Kokinov is facing another disciplinary investigation into claims that he had failed to observe the principle of random distribution of court cases in the Sofia prosecutor’s office. The SJC is due to hear that case on May 20.
The leaked recording featuring Kokinov, Naidenov and Borissov is the second strand in the eavesdropping controversy that has dominated headlines for the past month, separate from the allegations about illegal eavesdropping by the former government headed by Borissov.
An earlier initial investigation found “prerequisites” for eavesdropping but did not establish actual eavesdropping, although four officials faced criminal charges – three for dereliction of duty, one for allegedly obstructing the investigation.
It was the findings of this initial investigation that Kokinov allegedly discussed with Borissov and Naidenov at Borissov’s Bankya home on April 15 – before the results were made public by the Prosecutor-General’s office later the same day.
However, the worst offenses were not the disclosure of privileged information, rather the very fact that Kokinov met with Naidenov, who faces formal charges of abuse in office, discussing the details of the case and unflattering comments made about other prosecutors, the head of the ethics committee Yassen Todorov said, as quoted by television channel bTV.
(Nikolai Kokinov screengrab from Bulgarian National Television)