Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office said on June 24 that it submitted a formal request to Parliament, asking it to lift the immunity from prosecution of Tsvetan Tsvetanov. The prosecution said that it has collected sufficient evidence to indict Tsvetanov, this being the second instance in which he faces trial.
Tsvetanov, the former interior minister and deputy prime minister in the Boiko Borissov cabinet, has already been formally charged with alleged failure to exercise oversight over the use wiretaps by the Interior Ministry during his time in office.
The latest accusations stem from a prosecution investigation of Stanimir Florov, who was head the ministry’s chief directorate for combatting organised crime (CDCOC) until his resignation in May. As part of the investigation, the prosecution has collected sufficient evidence to indict Tsvetanov as well, the Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
(Florov was suspended, in April, when the Prosecutor’s Office opened its investigation after Bulgarian media were emailed copies of confidential reports showing that Florov had been the target of investigations by Bulgarian intelligence services, between 1999 and 2002, on suspicion of accepting bribes in exchange for alerting alleged criminals of investigations against them.)
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Tsvetanov denied use of wire-taps against Orlin Todorov, head of the Veliko Turnovo unit of the CDCOC, which prevented the collection of evidence against Todorov. As interior minister, it was Tsvetanov’s duty to authorise the wire-taps after a court order had been issued, the prosecution said.
If Parliament lifts Tsvetanov’s immunity from prosecution, he would be charged under article 288 of Bulgaria’s Penal code, which says that any official “who fails to fulfil in due time the functions required by the office regarding the criminal proceedings, or in any other way frustrates such proceedings with the purpose of releasing another from a punishment due for him by a law shall be punished by imprisonment of one to six years.”
Prosecutors were prepared to press charges against Tsvetanov before the end of July if Parliament lifted his immunity from prosecution, the statement said.
In the other investigation against him, Tsvetanov was charged under article 285 of the Penal Code, which says that any official that deliberately allows a subordinate to commit a crime is equally culpable for that crime. In Tsvetanov’s case, that is failure to ensure that the officials in charge of wiretapping carried out their duties – namely creating the necessary guidelines for the use of surveillance equipment.
Four other officials at the operative and technical information specialised directorate of the ministry were charged in April following an investigation by prosecutors, which found that lax controls over police eavesdropping created an environment ripe for abuse.
At the same, however, the prosecutors said that they found no evidence that such abuse had been carried out, as claimed by an anonymous tip-off sent to the media in late March. The tip-off alleged that illegal electronic surveillance had targeted – at Tsvetanov orders – a range of government and opposition politicians, business people, members of the judiciary, protest leaders and other public figures including Bulgaria’s European Commissioner (for a full list of the people alleged to have been eavesdropped on, see The Sofia Globe report here).
(Photo of Tsvetan Tsvetanov via gerb.bg)