Business people Georgi Branekov and Alexander Nikolic appeared in Plovdiv District Court on November 9 2017 to face charges in connection with the illegal attempted demolition of an historic warehouse in Odrin Street in the city’s Tobacco Town precinct.
Counsel for the two accused told the first hearing that they did not know that their action was being carried out in a protected area. Branekov and Nikolic declined a fast-track trial and the next hearings were set down for January 17 to 19 2018.
Branekov is charged along with Nikolic, a Bulgarian-Serbian dual citizen, with organising an illegal activity in a zone protected under cultural heritage law.
Branekov also faces a charge of deliberately using a forged document that stated that the warehouse was outside the protected zone.
Nikolic is charged with breaking the Cultural Heritage Act by organising an illegal activity in a protected area and with being an accomplice by advising Branekov how to break the cultural heritage law. He is also charged with deliberately using a forged official document.
If found guilty, the two accused could face up to five years in prison.
Thirty-four witneses have been summoned to give evidence in the trial.
Plans were to demolish the building to make way for a multi-storey luxury hotel with underground parking areas, garages and service buildings.
The attempted demolition of the warehouse, in a district where the architecture dates from a time that Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv had an important role in the Balkan tobacco trade, was carried out over a March 2016 holiday long weekend. When members of the public saw what was happening, authorities were alerted and intervened to stop the demolition.
There was a considerable outcry about the incident. Months later, in August 2016, a number of Tobacco Town warehouses in Plovdiv’s Ivan Vazov Street were devastated in a blaze. A court found a homeless man guilty of starting the fire. He continues to deny wrongdoing.
(Photo of the Odrin Street warehouse: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)