Bulgaria high court acquits former interior minister Tsvetanov in wiretap case
Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) issued a final ruling in the trial of former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov on January 26, acquitting him on charges of failing to comply with a court order to wiretap a suspect, the last of three court cases brought against the former minister.
Tsvetanov, who held the portfolio in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s previous administration between 2009 and 2013, found himself the target of several investigations when Borissov’s party, GERB, went into opposition.
The wire-tapping case alleged that Tsvetanov broke the law in declining 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. He 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.”
Initially sentenced to four years in jail, the high court overturned the sentence last year and ordered a retrial after finding that Tsvetanov’s right to a fair trial was breached because the judge in the first-instance court was not impartial.
The appellate court overturned the sentence, a decision that the SCC upheld. According to specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg, the SCC ruled that Tsvetanov was in breach of his legal duties, but the prosecutors failed to prove “special intent”, as required under article 288 of the Penal Code.
(Tsvetan Tsvetanov photo by Council of the EU.)