Bulgarian tax authorities probe four ‘Protest Network’ activists
At the request of the Sofia City Prosecutor’s office, Bulgaria’s National Revenue Agency has begun a formal investigation into four prominent activists from the Protest Network that arose from the 2013/14 campaign against the now-departed “Oresharski” cabinet.
News of the investigation on February 25 came a year to the day that the Protest Network handed to the Prosecutor-General’s office a dossier of allegations against Delyan Peevski, Tsvetan Vassilev and Nikolai Barekov.
It was the election by the 2013 Parliament, with the votes of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms, of controversial figure Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security that was the catalyst for widely-supported public protests demanding the resignation of the BSP-MRF ruling axis.
It was from these protests that the “Protest Network” arose.
The dossier handed in to prosecutors in February 2014 by the Protest Network also contained allegations against Vassilev, majority shareholder of Corporate Commercial Bank – that in June that year was placed under special supervision by the central bank in a dramatic opening episode in the CCB affair – and against Barekov, whose populist Bulgaria Without Censorship party has been steadily imploding in the aftermath of Bulgaria’s October 2014 early parliamentary elections.
Vassilev reportedly is currently in Serbia. Bulgarian authorities were to lodge an application for his extradition in connection with serious criminal charges relating to Corporate Commercial Bank, charges which Vassilev denies.
Now, according to reports by Bulgarian-language media Mediapool and Offnews, the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office has requested from the National Revenue Agency a full inspection of the tax affairs of four of the activists of the Protest Network, a group that arose after the June 2013 start of the “Peevski protests”.
According to the reports, Antoaneta Tsoneva, Nikolai Staykov, Konstantin “Komitata” Pavlov and Assen Genov have received requests from the National Revenue Agency to provide documentation related to all income, property, loans granted or taken and grants received in various forms in the past four years.
Mediapool said that the investigation was initiated by prosecutor Boryana Betsova, the same prosecutor who was charged with following up the request for an investigation by the Protest Network into Peevski and Peevski’s mother, Irena Krasteva.
Betsova found no basis for investigating charges of alleged criminality against Peevski and Krasteva.
In late November, Nedyalko Nedyalkov of the Pik website – widely seen in Bulgaria as close to Peevski and his mother – reportedly asked prosecutors to investigate the Protest Network, asking where their funds came from.
His move is said to have followed a protest at the time by the network, when they asked whether a reference in a notebook at the centre of court action alleging purported irregularities into investigations of various people were references to Peevski.
The reports said that it was not clear on the basis of which alleged breach of the law Nedyalkov’s request to prosecutors was lodged.
The protests against the 2013/14 ruling axis continued from the time of the – subsequently short-lived and abortive – election of Peevski as head of SANS, until the cabinet resigned towards the end of July 2014, following a swingeing defeat for the BSP in Bulgaria’s May European Parliament elections.
The protests continued daily during that time, with the more reliable opinion agency polls in Bulgaria indicating majority support for them and for the demand for the resignation of the government that had been put in place on the basis of a mandate handed to the BSP, which had run second in the May 2013 early elections, but got the chance to govern when first-ranked centre-right GERB found itself in a parliament in which it had no allies with which to form a government.
The early parliamentary elections in October 2014 saw the formation, after protracted negotiations, of a centre-right coalition cabinet with Boiko Borissov’s GERB as majority partner and the Reformist Bloc coalition group as a minority partner, with backing in the 43rd National Assembly from the nationalist Patrotic Front and socialist breakaway party ABC.
The BSP and MRF, like minority far-right ultra-nationalist party Ataka that had had helped to hold the 2013/14 ruling axis in place, are now opposition parties in the current Parliament.
(Archive photo of June 2013 anti-government protests: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)