The Sofia Appellate Court said on February 9 2015 that it had upheld a May 2014 ruling by the Sofia City Court jailing former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov for four years for failing to comply with a court order to wiretap a suspect.
Tsvetanov was charged in July 2013 after the Prosecutor’s Office said that while in office as interior minister, Tsvetanov had declined to authorise the use of wire-taps against Orlin Todorov, head of the Veliko Turnovo unit of the Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, which had prevented the collection of evidence against Todorov.
As interior minister, it was Tsvetanov’s duty to authorise the wire-taps after a court order had been issued, the prosecution said at the time.
Tsvetanov was charged under article 288 of Bulgaria’s Penal code, which says that any official “who fails to fulfil in due time the functions required by the office regarding the criminal proceedings, or in any other way frustrates such proceedings with the purpose of releasing another from a punishment due for him by a law shall be punished by imprisonment of one to six years.”
On May 29 2014, Sofia City Court found Tsvetanov guilty and sentenced him to four years in prison while also issuing a ban on him taking a position in the state administration for a period of five years.
When Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party returned to power after elections in October 2014, Tsvetanov – a controversial figure for various allegations directed against him related to unlawful actions regarding surveillance – was not included in the cabinet. Tsvetanov remains one of GERB’s deputy leaders.
The Sofia Appellate Court’s February 9 decision is subject to appeal in the Supreme Court of Cassation within 15 days.
Local media quoted Tsvetanov’s lawyer, Menko Menkov, as saying that an appeal would be lodged. Menkov reportedly described the Sofia Appellate Court’s reasoning as having a “political twist”.
Sofia City Court ruled on January 29 to find Tsvetanov not guilty on charges of failure to exercise oversight over the use wiretaps by the Interior Ministry during his time in office.
That verdict came as no surprise, as lead prosecutor Chavdar Angelov had said earlier in the day that the prosecutor’s office was no longer pressing charges. Angelov said that legislative changes to the Interior Ministry Act approved by the previous legislature in 2014 – when GERB was in opposition – removed the legal grounds for prosecuting Tsvetanov and four other former senior officials in the interior ministry’s department in charge of wire-tapping.
(Photo: Council of the EU)