Bulgaria’s conflict of interest commission chief faces abuse of power charges

Bulgarian prosecutors were officially investigating Filip Zlatanov, the chairperson of the commission tasked with preventing conflict of interest, on allegations of abusing his position, deputy prosecutor-general Borislav Sarafov said on July 17.

Last week, the Prosecutor’s Office said that it had opened a pre-trial investigation against perpetrators – under Bulgarian law, these are cases in which there is sufficient grounds to suspect foul play, but not enough evidence to indict – and had searched two properties owned by Zlatanov and the commission’s offices.

Evidence seized during those raids included a personal notebook, in which Zlatanov put down “directives” concerning which commission investigations he should delay and those that should be pursued more actively, Sarafov told reporters.

The biggest name on that list is that of President Rossen Plevneliev. In a statement, the presidency’s press office said that in September 2012, the commission asked Plevneliev to provide proof that he had quit executive positions in the private sector prior to his appointment as Regional Development Minister in 2009.

The presidency said that Plevneliev submitted the evidence requested, even though such information was publicly available in the Commercial Register.

“To this point, the President has not been officially notified of the commission’s decision […] The Head of State insisted that commission’s documentation in this case is made public to avoid any interpretation and speculation,” the statement said.

Sarafov said that the prosecutor’s investigation would not focus on the substance of the commission’s investigation of Plevneliev, if any existed, but only on whether such an investigation was “delayed or under outside influence.”

Other people on the list included former ministers, former MPs, constitutional judge nominees and senior magistrates, Sarafov said.

Zlatanov has been released on bail of 5000 leva and a request to suspend him for the duration of the prosecution’s investigation has been filed, Sarafov said.

Zlatanov has denied that he had “carried out outside directives” and told Bulgarian National Television that he had no recollection of the notes he took in the notebook found by prosecutors.

He had said earlier that he and the other commission employees were cooperating with the investigation and that he was not worried by the investigation because the commission’s activities were transparent.

If found guilty on the charges of abusing his position, Zlatanov faces a prison term of up to three years.

(Screengrab from Bulgarian National Television)



The Sofia Globe staff

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