Roumyana Chenalova, the Sofia City Court judge subject to disciplinary proceedings over her handling of some cases, has been suspended for six months because of these proceedings, the Supreme Judicial Council said on January 22 2015.
The suspension of Chenalova was proposed by the panel handling the two disciplinary proceedings, an announcement by the Supreme Judicial Council said.
One of the proceedings arose from her handling of the Belvedere case, involving bankruptcy proceedings regarding two Bulgarian subsidiaries of a French firm, which led France’s ambassador in Sofia, Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes, to allege in a television interview that there were “rotten apples” in Bulgaria’s judiciary.
Among the consequences of the suspension of Chenalova will be no hearings for six months in the trial of Alexei Petrov, in which she is the rapporteur. Petrov, formerly with the State Agency for National Security, is facing serious charges arising from a large-scale operation against organised crime. Petrov, who denies wrongdoing, has been on trial for more than three years.
Allegations against Chenalova, in two proceedings initiated in December 2014 and January 2015, are that she was culpable for delayed rulings in about 50 cases, showed bias in dealing with the Belvedere case, and, according to media reports, had not conducted herself properly in dealing with a case involving SAPARD funds. Chenalova denies wrongdoing.
The SJC suspension of Chenalova came a day after Bulgaria’s unicameral Parliament, the National Assembly, voted to approve an updated strategy on judicial reform, earlier approved by the centre-right coalition cabinet that was elected into office in November 2014.
The suspension and the vote in Parliament also came about a week before the European Commission is due to release a regular report on Bulgaria under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).
The CVM was put in place for EU newcomers Bulgaria and Romania in January 2007 to bring the two countries up to EU standards in regard to the judiciary and law enforcement, in particular in combating organised crime and corruption.