US bars Bulgarian Specialized Criminal Court judge over ‘significant corruption’

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on February 5 that he was barring Bulgarian Specialized Criminal Court Judge Andon Mitalov from entry to the US because of what a State Department statement alleged to be Mitalov’s ” involvement in significant corruption”.

“In his official capacity, Mitalov was involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and severely compromised the independence of democratic institutions in Bulgaria,” Pompeo alleged in the statement.

Pompeo also barred Mitalov’s wife Kornelia Stoykova-Mitalova, and his daughter, Gergana Mitalova, from entry to the US.

The US Secretary of State said that the designation was issued under a section of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020.

Under this section, “once the Secretary of State designates officials of foreign governments for their involvement, directly or indirectly, in significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States”.

The law also requires the Secretary of State to either publicly or privately designate or identify such officials and their immediate family members, Pompeo said, announcing the bar on Mitalov’s wife and daughter from entering the US.

“This is the first such designation in Bulgaria and reaffirms the US commitment to combatting corruption in Bulgaria and globally,” the statement said.

“The United States continues to stand with the people of Bulgaria in their fight against corruption.  The State Department will use these authorities to promote accountability for corrupt actors in this region and globally.”

In November 2019, Mitalov’s name was in the headlines in Bulgaria when he issued a court order allowing Nikolai Malinov, the head of Bulgaria’s Russophile Movement who is facing espionage charges, to travel to Moscow to receive a state honour from Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the time, the then-Prosecutor-General, Sotir Tsatsarov, asked the Inspectorate of the Supreme Judicial Council and the President of the Specialized Criminal Court to investigate the court ruling.

(Photo: Chris Potter)



The Sofia Globe staff

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