Bulgarian high court acquits former deputy Parliament Speaker

Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation ruled on December 21 to uphold a lower court’s acquittal of former MP Hristo Biserov on charges of large-scale tax evasion.

The court did not rule on the earlier acquittal on charges of breaking the law on currency transactions and document fraud, as well as failing to submit accurate asset declarations as an elected official, as prosecutors did not appeal those counts, specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg reported.

The report said that the judges ruled that the prosecutors did not collect enough proof that Hristov owned the bank account allegedly used to make the money transfers. Prosecutors were also denied their request to have Swiss banking secrecy laws lifted in this case, as Swiss authorities said that there was no evidence of a crime committed in their jurisdiction.

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 2015, 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, the 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.

In December 2015, the Sofia City Court found Biserov not guilty on those charges, issuing its verdict following an unusually rapid trial that lasted just two days. Prosecutors had asked that Biserov is handed a four-year effective prison sentence.

The first-instance court said that prosecutors did not present enough evidence that a crime had been perpetrated. Previously, prosecutors had dropped charges of money-laundering against Biserov and his stepson Ivailo Glavinkov, even before the investigation reached the trial stage.

The acquittal was upheld by the Sofia Appellate Court in July.

(Photo of Hristo Biserov on an MRF campaign poster: dps.bg)



The Sofia Globe staff

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