Sofia Court of Appeals ruled on September 23 against the prosecutor’s office request to suspend Tsvetan Gounev, the deputy governor of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB), who is under investigation for his alleged role in the events that led to the Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) being put under BNB administration.
Gounev is the deputy governor in charge of bank supervision, but has been on leave from the central bank since June 18 – two days before CCB was put under BNB’s special supervision – as a result of the investigation against him.
The appellate court ruled, as the first-instance court did last week, that prosecutors have presented no evidence that Gounev could use his position at BNB to exercise pressure on witnesses or otherwise impede the investigation, Bulgarian specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg reported. The court said that Gounev’s decision to take a leave of absence from BNB as soon as he came under investigation was proof of his intention not to tamper with the investigation.
The appellate court’s decision is final and cannot be appealed further.
Gounev is under investigation for allegedly failing to exercise proper oversight of CCB, whose majority shareholder Tsvetan Vassilev is accused of withdrawing nearly 206 million leva (about 105.3 million euro) in cash from the bank between December 2011 and June 19 2014.
An anonymous letter sent to Bulgarian media on June 18 claimed that Gounev failed to exercise proper oversight of a “bank that has become the centre of attention in recent days”, but did not name the bank. The letter alleged that both Gounev and BNB governor Ivan Iskrov “put pressure” on the bank supervision department not to apply proper oversight on the affairs of this bank and “have been financially dependent on this bank for years.”
Bulgarian media interpreted the letter to be referring to the Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) – which, as it later emerged, was already suffering a bank run on deposits. The lender had also made headlines for prosecutor searches “at offices of companies in Sofia” in buildings that are home to CCB as well as TV7 and News7 channels. In separate statements, the bank and the media outlet both denied being the subject of investigations at that time.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Bulgarian National Bank photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer.)