The trial in Sofia City Court of Bulgaria’s former defence minister Nikolai Nenchev on charges of malfeasance in office over a deal to overhaul MiG-29 fighter jet engines got underway on February 22, behind closed doors because the indictment includes classified information.
Nenchev was defence minister in the second Boiko Borissov government, from November 2014 to January 2017.
It is alleged that through his handling of respective deals for the overhaul of the engines by Russia’s RSK MiG and with Poland, Nenchev endangered the aviation safety and airworthiness of fighter aircraft of the Bulgarian Air Force.
Nenchev, who was a member of the Borissov cabinet from the quota of the centre-right Reformist Bloc coalition and who leads the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union party, denies wrongdoing.
As a candidate MP in Bulgaria’s March 26 2017 early parliamentary elections, Nenchev has immunity from prosecution. His lawyer Petar Bozhkov asked for the trial to be postponed until after the election, while Nenchev said that he would be appearing in court during the campaign, although this would be difficult.
Judge Petar Stoitsev ruled against postponing the trial, setting hearings in March and April.
Witnesses are to include former air force chief, now President, Roumen Radev, who is scheduled to give evidence on April 12. Radev is being called in his capacity as former commander of the air force.
Other witnesses include former defence chief General Konstantin Popov and Vice Admiral Roumen Nikolov. Nikolov was due to be questioned on February 22 while Popov – who after resigning his post when Radev was elected President, is now a GERB MP candidate in Plovdiv – will be heard at a later session of the Nenchev trial.
Nenchev’s defence counsel told the court that there were a number of irregularities in the indictment, including, they said, that some of the evidence was not described correctly.