Bulgaria anti-corruption body to probe ruling majority politicians’ apartment deals
Bulgaria’s anti-corruption commission is to investigate allegations of crimes regarding the acquisition of high-end apartments at relatively low prices by politicians from the country’s ruling majority, the Prosecutor’s Office said on March 22.
The politicians to be investigated are GERB parliamentary leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Justice Minister Tsetska Tsacheva, Deputy Minister of Sport Vanya Koleva and Vezhdi Rashidov, head of Parliament’s committee on culture and a former culture minister.
This was the latest episode in a saga that began with media reports that Tsvetanov had acquired a luxury apartment at an allegedly below-market value price. Tsvetanov denies wrongdoing and sees the issue as part of a smear campaign ahead of Bulgaria’s May 2019 European Parliament elections.
Tsacheva told journalists on March 21 that she had asked the Prosecutor-General’s Office and the anti-corruption body, officially the Commision for Combating Corruption and the Withdrawal of the Illegally Acquired Property, to investigate her property acquisition. She said that when the investigation was over, she wanted the results made public and would make no further comment until then.
In all four cases, the same company was involved in the acquisitions of the apartments, according to reports.
The Prosecutor’s Office has asked the anti-corruption commission to investigate various aspects, including information about the real estate owned by the four politicians, the history of ownership of each of the apartments, the actual status of the seller company regarding the declaration of the properties in the respective municipalities, regarding the payment of the sale price and the taxes and fees due, as well as the origin of the funds for the purchase.
Investigators will examine the title deeds, will require explanations from each buyer as well as representatives of the sellers, among other matters.
The investigation also will cover allegation of influence-trading and conflict of interest in the adoption of legislative amendments by the National Assembly. The company named as involved in the sales will be probed, including whether there are links between the company and related parties, and whether the company has made donations to election campaigns.
The controversy about the apartments, which has made headlines in Bulgarian media for the past few days, was the occasion for the latest slanging match between Tsvetanov and President Roumen Radev, elected on a ticket backed by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and a regular critic of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government.
Radev said on March 21 that Tsvetanov would be cleared by the anti-corruption commission. “There is no chance for an anti-corruption commission which was appointed and is controlled by Tsvetanov to probe Tsvetanov according to a toothless law proposed by Tsvetanov himself,” Radev told journalists.
Tsvetanov dismissed Radev’s comments as indicative of the campaign messages that the BSP would be using against GERB, and said that the controversy had succeeded in pushing BSP infighting out of the attention of the media.
(Photo of Tsvetanov: gerb.bg)