Sofia City Court ruled on December 1 to acquit former MP Hristo Biserov on charges of large-scale tax evasion, breaking the law on currency transactions and document fraud, as well as failing to submit accurate asset declarations as an elected official, issuing its verdict following an unusually rapid trial that lasted just two days.
A day earlier, in the first hearing on the case, prosecutors asked that Biserov is handed a four-year effective prison sentence. However, after hearing one expert testimony and examining two forensic reports, presiding judge Snezhina Koleva ruled that prosecutors did not present enough evidence that a crime had been perpetrated, specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg reported.
Legalworld said that an information request to a bank in Switzerland, where Biserov had accounts, was denied on the grounds that his actions did not constitute a crime under Swiss law. Earlier charges of money-laundering against Biserov and his stepson Ivailo Glavinkov had been dropped before the investigation reached the trial stage.
Prosecutors said that they would appeal the sentence.
Biserov, deputy leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and Deputy Speaker of Bulgaria’s 42nd National Assembly, resigned abruptly from all leadership positions of the party and from Parliament in November 2013, only days before prosecutors announced that they opened an investigation against him.
The probe was opened after the prosecutor-general received a report from the State Agency for National Security detailing suspicious movement of funds from accounts in one European country to another European country, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement at the time.
In April, prosecutors tabled the bill of indictment against Biserov, but the court dismissed it a month later, saying it did not present sufficient proof in support of the charges. Also in April, court has impounded assets worth 1.55 million leva, or about 792 500 euro, held by Biserov and his stepson Ivailo Glavinkov, while the head of Bulgaria’s asset forfeiture commission has said that the body would seek more than seven million leva worth of assets from Biserov.
(Photo of Hristo Biserov on an MRF campaign poster: dps.bg)