Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation has jailed a Veliko Turnovo judge for four years for accepting a bribe of 6000 leva (about 3000 euro) from an accused in a trial over which he was one of the presiding judges.
Judge Slavcho Petkov had been under surveillance for several months before being arrested in October 2010 at his Veliko Turnovo home. Police found the money in marked banknotes in a pocket of a leather jacket that Petkov was wearing.
Prosecutors said at the time that the 6000 leva was the final instalment in a payment of 25 000 leva from Emil Shopov, an accused in a trial over the theft of 20 000 leva worth of oil in 2005.
The trial of Shopov was then at second instance in Veliko Turnovo and Petkov was one of the presiding judges. Shopov had been acquitted at first instance.
Sofia City Court found Petkov guilty in 2012 and sentenced him to five years in jail.
Sofia Court of Appeal acquitted Petkov, ruling that the electronic surveillance of him had been illegal.
In 2015, the trial first reached the Supreme Court, which overturned the acquittal.
In a second trial at the Sofia Court of Appeal, Petkov was given five years in prison, after the court found that there was sufficient evidence other than that obtained through surveillance, to find Petkov guilty. At that trial, Petkov had entered a plea of guilty.
The Supreme Court of Cassation confirmed the guilty verdict but reduced his sentence by one year. Petkov’s sentence was reduced because, the court said, of his ill health and age.
Petkov has been barred from practising law or holding a position in the judiciary for seven years.
“The actions of every magistrate should be oriented towards raising the prestige of the judiciary and to protecting public values such as legality, fairness and equality. Therefore, committing crimes by such a person and especially crimes related to corruption, deeply resonate in public awareness and undermine public confidence in the entire judicial system,” the Supreme Court of Cassation said in its judgment.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is final and not subject to appeal.
Reports said that the jail sentence handed to Petkov is the heaviest handed to any member of the judiciary found guilt in a trial in the past 15 years.
In July 2015, a former prosecutor in the district prosecutor’s office in the town of Shoumen, Roumen Penev, was jailed for three years for accepting a bribe of 21 000 leva.
A poll by the Exacta Research Group, done between March 17 and 25 2016 among 1000 adult Bulgarians in various cities and towns, showed the country’s judiciary as having an approval rating of 10.5 per cent and a disapproval rating of 70 per cent. The prosecution had an approval rating of 10.2 per cent and a disapproval rating of 68.6 per cent, according to the poll, self-funded by the agency.