In an operation by the Bulgarian Special Prosecutor’s Office and the State Agency for National Security, the mayor of Assenovgrad municipality Emil Karaivanov was taken into custody on May 25.
The reason for the arrest was not immediately announced. It came a week after Assenovgrad’s chief architect and a business person were taken into custody in connection with a pre-trial investigation into corruption.
It is alleged that chief architect Konstantin Atanassov, whose post is the equivalent to that of a town planner, demanded a bribe of 8000 leva (about 4080 euro) from a manager of a branch of a joint-stock company and received the sum from business person Mitko Zahariev in order to give consent to a conceptual investment project.
If found guilty, on charges of extortion and abuse of office, Atanassov could face imprisonment of three to 10 years, a fine of up to 20 000 leva and deprivation of the right to occupy a state or public office.
Prosecutors said that Zahariev would face a charge of bribery. The penalty, if found guilty, is imprisonment for up to six years and a fine of up to 5000 leva.
Reports from Assenovgrad said that three business people, including the owners of the Zapryanov construction company, Vakril and Georgi Zapryanov, father and son, had been taken in for questioning. Another business person in the town, Nikolai Hristov, also had been taken into custody.
On May 24, in an official statement, Assenovgrad mayor Karaivanov said that Atanassov was being sent on leave so as not to influence the course of the pre-trial proceedings in the bribery case.
Atanassov applied for leave after being released from 72-hour custody on bail of 5000 leva. Zahariev is also out on bail.
Karaivanov was elected mayor of Assenovgrad in October 2015 on a ticket backed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, socialist splinter ABC and the Ekoglasnost party. He won a second-round victory, gaining 62.75 per cent against a rival from Boiko Borissov’s GERB.