Bulgaria high court confirms acquittal of former interior minister Tsvetanov on embezzlement charges
Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) ruled on October 21 to uphold earlier rulings by the Sofia City Court and Sofia Court of Appeals that acquitted former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov on charges of embezzlement.
Prosecutors argued that Tsvetanov broke the law by authorising the payment of 50 000 leva as retirement benefits for Orlin Todorov, the former head of the Veliko Turnovo unit of the interior ministry’s chief directorate for combatting organised crime (CDCOC), despite Todorov being under arrest and investigation.
The SCC, however, agreed with the lower-instance courts that Tsvetanov breached no laws by allowing Todorov to retire and receive the retirement benefits despite the investigation. Such a probe was not sufficient grounds for the dismissal of an employee and claiming otherwise was breaching the presumption of innocence, the judges said in their ruling.
Tsvetanov was interior minister between 2009 and 2013. After leaving office, he was indicted in three separate cases on charges of embezzlement, failing to exercise oversight over the use wiretaps by the Interior Ministry, as well as failing to comply with a court order to wiretap a suspect – namely the same Orlin Todorov.
This is the second lawsuit against Tsvetanov to end in a final acquittal sentence, with prosecutors earlier this year dropping their appeal in the trial on eavesdropping charges because legislative changes removed the legal grounds for prosecuting him.
In the third lawsuit, regarding Tsvetanov’s alleged failure to authorise covert surveillance in the investigation of Todorov, the former interior minister was initially found guilty and handed a four-year prison sentence, confirmed by the appellate court. The SCC, however, ordered a re-trial and the Sofia Court of Appeals found Tsvetanov not guilty. That ruling has also been appealed at the SCC.
(Tsvetan Tsvetanov photo by Council of the EU)