Bulgarian prosecutors charge former cabinet chief over ballot papers
The Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office has laid a charge of criminal misconduct against former cabinet chief secretary Rossen Zhelyazkov in connection with a large consignment of ballot papers found at a printing house in Kostinbrod just ahead of Bulgaria’s May 2013 parliamentary elections.
The Prosecutor-General’s office said on October 14 that prosecutors allege that between April 27 and May 12, Zhelyazkov failed to fulfil his professional duties when he allegedly failed to exercise proper control over the implementation of a contract between the Cabinet office and the Multiprint company for the printing and supply of 8 343 000 ballot papers.
It is alleged that he failed to ensure strict control over the printed ballot papers, the disposal of waste and strict accountability regarding valid ballot papers.
According to prosecutors, there were significant harmful consequences, with a considerable part of Bulgarian citizens distrustful of the elections and of the correct and legal functioning of Bulgarian state institutions.
Zhelyazkov was released on condition that he would not leave his place of residence without permission.
On May 10, in a special operation led by prosecutors, a reported 350 000 ballot papers were seized from the printing house in Kostinbrod.
At a lengthy news conference on May 15, Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov gave his reasons for the decision to raid the printing house in Kostinbrod.
Tsatsarov, accompanied by other senior prosecutors, showed samples of the ballot papers seized during the raid – these were identical to ballots used during the elections, he said, rejecting the printing house owner’s claims that the ballots were not up to scratch.
Further undermining such claims, Tsatsarov said, was the fact that some ballots from the batch seized by prosecutors had been sent to voting sections throughout the country. Prosecutors later received a separate tip-off that a transportation company was hired to transport the ballots, allegedly using secret compartments. The vehicles never got close to the printing house after news of the prosecution’s raid was leaked to the media.
The allegations around the incident at the Kostinbrod printing house have been used by the political rivals of GERB, Boiko Borissov’s centre-right former ruling party, to allege that the party was attempting electoral fraud. These allegations, denied by Borissov and GERB, were based on purported ties between the owner of the printing house and the party.
In mid-May, the then-caretaker prime minister Marin Raykov said that had had ordered an investigation into the source of the media leak on May 14, when Bulgarian media were sent some of the depositions in the printing house probe. The leak, signed by “a group of honourable prosecutors”, alleged that the entire affair was engineered by Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev and Movement for Rights and Freedoms MP Delyan Peevski.
(Photo: Jason Morrison/sxc.hu)