Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office said on November 15 that it has pressed charges of money laundering and document fraud against former MP Hristo Biserov.
Biserov’s stepson, Ivaylo Glavinkov, faces the same charge of money laundering – namely “carrying out financial operations with assets ($314 529 and 117 192 euro) that he knew or suspected to have been acquired in a criminal way”, the prosecutor’s office statement said.
The duo were charged under article 253, paragraph 1 of Bulgaria’s Penal Code, and face between one and six years imprisonment if found guilty. Separately, Biserov was charged under article 313 of the Penal Code, which stipulates between one and three years imprisonment for failing to provide an accurate declaration of assets (which he, as a member of Parliament, is required to do by law.)
Biserov was an MP for the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), as well as deputy party leader, until November 3, when he surprisingly submitted his resignation from all party and elected offices, which was accepted on the same day.
He cited personal reasons for his resignation, but the announcement of a prosecutor investigation against him on November 8 spurred wide-spread speculation in Bulgarian media that the party leadership had been tipped off about the impending investigation and asked Biserov to resign. MRF leader Lyutfi Mestan has denied having prior knowledge of the investigation.
The charges cover only the period between December 13 2012 and February 21 2013. Some media reports have claimed that Biserov had been involved in suspicious money transfers going back all the way to 2003.
One report on November 15, by mass-circulation weekly 168 Chasa, claimed that the investigation against Biserov came as a result of a tip-off from Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, which linked Biserov to funds from Islamic foundations. The newspaper claimed that visits by Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev and socialist leader Sergei Stanishev to Israel in recent weeks were also related to the Biserov affair.
Biserov has avoided Bulgarian media since submitting his resignation. On November 14, after being sighted at a Sofia restaurant, he declined to comment to a crew from local private broadcaster bTV, saying he was advised to do so by his lawyer. On November 15, he was called in for questioning and once again declined to comment to the assembled media.
Both Biserov and Glavinkov have been requested not to leave the country and their bail was set at 25 000 leva each.
(Photo of Hristo Biserov on an MRF campaign poster: dps.bg)