Bulgaria’s Parliament passed at second reading amendments to the Penal Procedure Code meant to impose tighter restrictions on criminal case defendants to prevent them from fleeing the country.
The changes come several months after media reports claimed that the whereabouts of a high-profile money-laundering convict, Evelin “Brendo” Banev – whose acquittal on appeal was overturned by a high court on May 27 and who has a drug trafficking sentence in Italy – were unknown.
The amendments will allow courts to keep people sentenced at first instance under arrest for the duration of their appeals, while at the same time tasking police with tracking the whereabouts of such people – currently, this responsibility lays solely with the courts. People handed sentences of 10 years or longer would be automatically considered a flight risk, under the amendments.
Bulgaria has had several cases of convicts fleeing the country in recent years, most notoriously the “Galevi Brothers” – Angel Hristov and Plamen Galev, who are not actually related – who disappeared in May 2012 on the day they were sentenced to jail on charges of organised crime, racketeering and extortion.
The amendments also included a provision that expanded the scope of law enforcement usage of wire-taps. Until now, police could use hidden microphones on a witness only when the person’s life or property was under threat, but now would be allowed to do so to “investigate other criminal activity”.
The provision prompted sharp criticism from some MPs even within the ruling majority, who said that it “legalised agents provocateurs” and sanctioned entrapment offences.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)