Bulgaria Prosecutor-General seeks to lift immunity of six MPs
Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov has submitted a formal request to the National Assembly on November 8 to lift the immunity from prosecution of six MPs under investigation in four separate cases.
Three of the MPs in question come from populist Volya, the smallest party in the National Assembly, with two from the opposition socialists and one from GERB, the senior partner in the government coalition.
Volya’s MPs are party leader Vesselin Mareshki, best known for his cut-price pharmacy and fuels businesses, Krastina Taskova and Plamen Hristov. The three already had their immunity lifted last year as part of an investigation into allegations that they engaged in extortion and the new request from the prosecutor’s office appears to be related to additional charges in the same investigation.
At that time, the three agreed to have their immunity lifted – Bulgarian MPs can do so to speed up the proceedings – only after the prosecutors’ case was heard in an ad hoc parliamentary committee. Mareshki said on November 8 that he and his colleagues would contemplate anew whether to agree to have their immunity lifted (if they do not, Parliament can still do so with a vote.)
Speaking to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television (BNT), Mareshki described the new request as an attempt to put political pressure on Volya, possibly tied to the party’s recent demands for the resignation of two deputy prime ministers from the junior government partner, the United Patriots group of nationalist parties.
Another prominent MP was socialist Elena Yoncheva, investigated on charges of large-scale money-laundering. The case against Yoncheva is based on allegations made earlier this year by GERB MPs, who accused Yoncheva of embezzling funds from the now-defunct Corporate Commercial Bank.
“I will relinquish my immunity and I hope that the case goes to court quickly so it can be seen what repressions and intimidation scheme are being applied to a Bulgarian MP,” Yoncheva told BNT.
The other socialist MP targeted by prosecutors is Georgi Mihailov, who is accused of intentional mismanagement, namely signing unfavourable contracts when he was the head of a Sofia hospital between 2015 and 2017.
Mihailov told BNT that he would agree to give up his immunity from prosecution and was not worried about the charges. “I took charge of the hospital with 25 million [leva] in debts and, under the management of the team I led, those debts decreases, so I feel fully calm. Let the investigation continue and conclude, I think that all confusion will be cleared up,” he said.
GERB’s Boris Kurchev, investigated on charges of large-scale tax evasion and document fraud to cover up the evasion, said that he would relinquish his immunity from prosecution as well.
“I have never hidden behind the immunity and I want to clear my name, because this smear campaign against me goes back a year and a half, from the local socialist party structures in Kazanluk,” he told BNT.