Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation handed a six-year sentence to the former mayor of Sofia’s Mladost district Dessislava Ivancheva on November 10, finding her guilty on charges of soliciting a bribe. The high court’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed.
Ivancheva was also fined 12 000 leva, or about 6100 euro, and banned from holding public office for a period of eight years. She will spend no more than three years in prison, having already been under arrest for three years.
The final verdict comes four years after Ivancheva was arrested in the centre of Sofia in a highly public sting operation in April 2018.
Prosecutors accused her of seeking a bribe of 500 000 euro for four construction permits, blocking all other property developments.
The other two defendants in the court case, Ivancheva’s former deputy Bilyana Petrova and Petko Dyulgerov, whom prosecutors identified as an intermediary in the bribery attempt, were sentenced to five and four years in prison, respectively.
All three sentences handed by the high court were significantly shorter than the prison terms in the first-instance court’s ruling. In 2019, Bulgaria’s specialised court sentenced Ivancheva to 20 years in jail, Petrova to 15 years and Dyulgerov to 12 years.
Ivancheva’s sentencing is a rare case in Bulgaria, where corruption trials against public officials rarely result in an effective prison term.
Critics of Bulgaria’s judiciary and the prosecutor-general Ivan Geshev, who was head of the specialised prosecutor’s office at the time, have said over the years that it was an example of how the prosecutor’s office has been used to settle political scores in the country.
Ivancheva was elected mayor of Mladost, one of Sofia’s more populous boroughs, in November 2016 after taking a lead role in several protests against over-development in the district, a rare defeat for former prime minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB in the Bulgarian capital city, whose politics the party has dominated for the past 15 years.
(Screengrab of Ivancheva in handcuffs following her arrest on April 17 2018, from Bulgarian National Television.)
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