Bulgaria prosecutors seek clarity on presidential immunity, release wire-taps

Written by on January 28, 2020 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria prosecutors seek clarity on presidential immunity, release wire-taps

Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office said on January 28 that Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev’s request for a Constitutional Court ruling on presidential immunity was prompted by an investigation into the possible obstruction of a separate probe by the asset forfeiture commission.

The statement said that case prosecutors concluded that there was “a high degree of probability that the criminal activity under investigation was abetted by a person in high office, the President of Bulgaria, while the possible criminal activity was not linked directly to exercising the duties of his office.”

The evidence that led prosecutors to this conclusion was several wire-taps of Air Force commander Major-General Tsanko Stoikov, including a phone conversation with a man that had not been “categorically identified” but was presumed to be President Roumen Radev.

In that phone conversation – released by prosecutors, alongside a transcript – Stoikov and his interlocutor were discussing a request from the Commission for Combating Corruption and Confiscation of Illegally Acquired Property concerning the appointment of a civilian public relations official for the Bulgarian Air Force in 2014. Radev later married that official, who is now his spouse Dessislava Radeva.

The prosecutors office said that the latest inquiry into that appointment was likely derailed by the fact that documents were withheld by the Air Force.

The prosecutor’s office investigation was officially ended on January 23 because of presidential immunity, but it prompted Geshev’s formal request to the Constitutional Court to ask for a ruling to clarify whether the president could still be investigated for actions that were not related to exercising the duties of the office.

The court has agreed to take on the case and will first have to rule whether the subject matter was admissible. Given the court’s previous track record, it could be expected to decide on the admissibility of the request within a month, with the ruling on the subject of the request likely in the second half of the year.

Speaking earlier in the day, at an event marking three years since he took office, Radev said that he was unaware of the reasons for the Prosecutor-General’s request to the Constitutional Court.

Asked if he believed that the matter was related to the debate on constitutional changes regarding the prosecutor’s office place in the judiciary, which he had announced after signing the decree to appoint Geshev in November 2019, Radev said that such changes were not targeted at the prosecutor’s office itself.

“My reason was always to increase the independence and efficiency of the judiciary. I leave it to you to judge why it is at this time that the Prosecutor-General is asking about the head of state’s immunity,” he said.

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