Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov has submitted a formal request to the National Assembly on April 27 to lift the immunity from prosecution of three MPs who face charges in three separate investigations.
Two of the MPs, former GERB economy and energy minister Delyan Dobrev and socialist Svetla Buchvarova-Piralkova, had their immunity lifted last year at the prosecutor’s office request, but new requests had to be filed after the two were elected to Parliament in last month’s snap elections.
Dobrev, who faces charges of intentional mismanagement in connection with the ongoing investigation into suspected irregularities surrounding the now-frozen Belene nuclear power plant project, said earlier this week that he was willing to voluntarily give up his immunity from prosecution.
According to prosecutors, Dobrev failed to issue the order to terminate the contract with Belene engineering consultant Worley Parsons, which resulted in damages to the Bulgarian state of 4.56 million euro. Bulgaria’s Cabinet decided to shelve the Belene project on March 28 2012, a decision ratified a day later by the National Assembly.
Buchvarova-Piralkova is under investigation for alleged gross mismanagement, with prosecutors claiming that she intentionally signed a deal in 2009, when she was chairperson of the managing board of the Agricultural Academy, a government-funded research institute, that caused damages of up to 1.3 million leva (about 678 300 euro) in lost revenue for the academy.
The contract for the use of the academy’s state-owned agricultural land, signed with a private company, had an annual rental price of 0.18 leva a hectare at a time when average annual rental prices in the areas where the academy was located ranged between seven leva and eight leva a hectare, the prosecutor’s office said in March 2016.
Buchvarova-Piralkova said that she would voluntarily give up her immunity from prosecution.
The third MP is Volya leader Vesselin Mareshki, who is being investigated in two separate cases for alleged threats against a pizzeria manager and causing bodily harm to a Varna municipal councillor.
Unlike the other two MPs, Mareshki said that he would not voluntarily give up his immunity from prosecution. In such instances, Parliament is required to set up an ad hoc committee to examine the prosecution’s evidence and then makes a recommendation to the House, which then votes on a motion whether to lift the immunity.
In recent years, MPs targeted by prosecutors would, as a rule, voluntarily agree to have their immunity lifted, which eliminates the committee hearings and puts the motion directly to the House floor.
(Bulgaria’s National Assembly building. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)