Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) ruled on February 3 to acquit the country’s former defence minister Nikolai Tsonev and two co-defendants on charges of attempting to bribe a magistrate. Tsonev had been found not guilty by lower-instance courts and the verdict of the SCC is final.
Tsonev and two other people, judge Petar Santirov and former finance ministry chief secretary Tencho Popov, were arrested in April 2010 after it was alleged that they had arranged a bribe of 20 000 euro to investigative magistrate Petyo Petrov, who is now head of the Sofia bureau of the investigative service (a branch of the judiciary subordinated to the prosecutor’s office).
Prosecutors claimed that the bribe was to torpedo an investigation into Tsonev’s activity as minister, which allegedly caused financial damage to the state of 120 million leva (about 60 million euro).
The SCC judges ruled that the three co-defendants committed no crime, whereas Petrov, the main witness in the prosecution’s case, was guilty of soliciting the bribe. The court said that the case was “an emblematic example of police provocation, staged and carried out with the participation of [Petrov], managed by people from security services, police and the prosecutor’s office,” as quoted by specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg.
Tsonev was one of former cabinet ministers from the 2005/09 socialist-led tripartite government to have faced charges in court following investigations launched during the first Boiko Borissov cabinet, only to be acquitted in court. Tsonev was a member of Simeon Saxe-Coburg’s National Movement for Stability and Progress while in government, but he has formed his own political party, “New Alternative”, which failed to win enough votes to enter Parliament at the 2013 and 2014 elections.
The circumstances of his 2010 arrest gained notoriety in themselves because he was detained by heavily-armed police and forced to his knees by Sofia’s deputy chief prosecutor who told Tsonev he was “an absolute criminal”.
(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)