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Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev: A request has been made to the European Commission to carry out audit on the work of the specialized structures – Specialized Prosecutor's Оffice and Specialized Court

28 January 2022


Bulgarian News Agency

27th January 2022

Nikolay Zhelyazkov

I have prepared a letter to the Minister of Finance in which we set out the opinion of the Prosecutor's Office that we propose to carry out, let's call it an audit by the EC, on the work of specialized structures – Specialized Prosecutor's Office and Specialized Court, said in an interview for BTA Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. He pointed out that he has reason to believe that the EC will respond positively to such a possible request.

According to him, the closure of the Specialized Court and Specialized Prosecutor's Office, as well as the reform of Commission for Combating Corruption and Confiscation of Illegally Acquired Property, will lead to an "inglorious end of all serious cases brought to court" and the release of "frozen BGN 3 billion".

The Prosecutor General confirmed that during his hearing today before MEPs from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in Brussels, he was asked about the pre-trial proceedings known as Barcelonagate and about the investigation related to photos with gold bars and euro banknotes, which are alleged to be from the bedroom of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. The Prosecutor General explained that in both cases, legal assistance requests and European investigation orders are awaited from various European countries. He said that the supervising prosecutors in the cases had pointed out that it was "the main reason they have not been completed them so far".

Here is the full interview with Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev:

Question: Mr. Geshev, how was this hearing in the European Parliament useful for Bulgaria today?

Ivan Geshev: It was useful for Bulgaria, and for the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office and the judiciary and we objectively informed the EP about the processes and challenges facing Bulgaria and the Bulgarian judiciary. We expressed our point of view. This partnership-based dialogue is mutually beneficial, and is fundamental to European values such as separation of powers, the rule of law and human rights.

I presented the opinion and analysis of the Prosecution that in the last year there had been many negative trends and the Bulgarian Prosecution fears that there are processes which will lead to a real retreat from the results achieved by Bulgaria in the judiciary and crime prevention, since our accession to the EU. I stated, quite responsibly, that we are rapidly returning to the times immediately after the democratic changes, which is extremely worrying for the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office, because the price for this will be paid by Bulgarian citizens.

In addition to the chronic problem of high-level corruption, many problems that we considered solved have emerged and resumed. There is a boom in crime and types of crime that we thought were solved - such as telephone fraud, domestic crimes in small towns, home robberies and unlawfully taking of motor vehicle. This is a fact, and despite the information we have from most prosecutors' offices, the attempts and the statistics of the Ministry of Interior is adjusted in such a way to seem that these processes do not exist.

We have always called for cooperation, not war against the Prosecution. The only enemy of law enforcement authorities should be crime. We receive salaries from Bulgarian citizens to solve these problems, not to fight each other.

- At today's meeting you were expected to be asked about "Barcelonagate", the photos of gold bars and the changes that are being prepared in the Bulgarian judicial system. Did these expectations come true?

- What they asked me as more specific questions about these cases, I explained that they are pending, i.e. uncompleted in the Prosecutor's Office. We have prepared written references, which we have provided after the permission of the supervising prosecutor for the actions taken so far and what actions are to be taken.

In both cases, requests for legal assistance and European investigation orders are awaited from various European countries. The Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office and the judiciary cannot indicate, for example, to the Spanish, French or German Prosecutor’s Office, when to respond and in what way to respond. Prosecutors have pointed out that this is the only and main reason not to have completed them so far.

I explained that, taking into account the above trends, the dialogue with European institutions should be deepened, including the European institutions to monitor more closely the existing rule of law mechanism in the EU Member States. To pay more attention to the processes and problems related to the rule of law, the separation of powers and the rights of citizens. Because there are quite worrying tendencies for illegal actions by the Ministry of Interior during the election process against minority groups and disadvantaged people. The problems are deepening very seriously, and I hope not to reach some levels of crime typical of the early 1990s, because there will be a European reaction, and I was obliged to alarm about this potential problem.

- I suppose that the MEPs have heard your opinion of the expected changes in specialized justice?

- The ideas for closing these structures, with the stipulation that their work can be improved and they can be reformed, will be a huge mistake that will lead to serious problems in the Bulgarian judiciary and serious consequences for the fight against organized crime, corruption and terrorism.

I explained that the purpose of closing these structures is not because they do not work, but because they work. Therefore, in the event of a closure, there is no way to motivate a judge and prosecutor to work against dangerous, rich people in the way they worked before. I noted that, unlike Bulgaria, these structures have the support of European partners, Eurojust, because over 60-70 percent of the most important cases in Bulgaria are in the specialized structures.

Closing them will lead to a real problem in the work of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, since investigating magistrates investigate its cases. Imagine that investigating magistrates from each regional town deal with the cases of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, which means that European prosecutors should travel to the respective cities and the cases should be in the respective district court.

I pointed out that in the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism / SVM / these structures are positively assessed, set up with the approval of the EC and in the reports of SVM it is very clear that thanks to them the monitoring in the part of organized crime is ended. This is not appreciated in Bulgaria and is most likely used only for crisis PR, to divert the topic from the real problems of Bulgarian citizens. In order to solve the criminal law problems in the country, reforms in the police, the court, the prosecutor's office, the investigation and the legislation are needed. This is not a reform, but conquest and political pressure on the Prosecution and rather political goals.

I have prepared a letter to the Minister of Finance, in which we set out the opinion of the Prosecutor's Office that we propose to conduct, let's call it, an audit by the EC of the work of specialized structures - Specialized Prosecutor's office and Specialized Court. They are set up and approved by the EC, and it is normal to have an independent international audit from our European partners. We are not worried about this inspection. We rely on an objective analysis and we have reason to believe that the EC will respond positively to our request.

Several years ago, under the same procedure, the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support of the European Commission conducted an independent analysis of the structural and functional model of the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office. This is an objective analysis of the problems in the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office. It was carried out by active prosecutors from the EU and the Specialized Prosecutor's Office was highly appreciated by our partners. I expect what Minister Asen Vassilev will answer. I have no doubt that he and the government have interest for the Bulgarian citizens to know the truth from an objective source such as the EC.

- In what timeframe can this assessment be made?

- I cannot tell you. I do not think that there is a reason within a few months to close a functioning and internationally recognized structures, such as the Specialized Court and Specialized Prosecutor's Office. I cannot see what problem will arise while this audit is being carried out.

The result of the closure will be the following - the release of frozen BGN 3 billion, most likely combined with the reform of the Commission for Combating Corruption and Confiscation of Illegally Acquired Property. I hope this is not the goal. And secondly, the inglorious end of all serious cases that have been filed in court - against former active minister and deputy minister, cases of persons with great financial capabilities. These cases, regardless of whether they will be completed by the closed specializes courts, will actually lead to their negative end, and this is a fact, that will be seen. Unfortunately, it will be too late.

I have posed these problems to our European partners. From now on, everything is in the hands of the Bulgarian state and the National Assembly and the Executive. We have stated, but we refuse to take responsibility for the consequences, which are responsibility of those who will pass the laws and vote on them.

- What is your opinion on dividing the SJC into two separate bodies?

- As a legal practitioner, I am against such a thing, because it will lead to the separation of court and prosecutor's office. We will become an extremely conservative closed professional community of prosecutors and judges, who are part of the judiciary, and any contact between them, will be cut off, but we need to interact.  This will lead to negative processes.

- The Prosecutor’s College of the SJC has terminated the current procedure for election of European delegated prosecutors. What’s next?

- We are informed that one of the Bulgarian delegated prosecutors, which we elected for the European Prosecutor's Office, has not been approved. What is to come is probably a procedure for another candidate, which will fill the number of delegated prosecutors that we have undertaken as a commitment to be of ten people.

We have an extremely good dialogue with Ms Kövesi. We have clarified what the European Prosecutor's Office expects from the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office. We are constantly in dialogue. The European Public Prosecutor's Office is of great importance for European citizens.

- Has your opinion concerning the request for your resignation changed and can it be changed?

- I cannot see any reason to change my opinion, at least not objective ones. No one can answer my question why should I resign. I do not have an objective answer. I asked several times the question to people who raised this issue.

To resign, because for the first time since the last four years has happened things, that the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office has never done! We brought in indictments against active minister and deputy minister, which has never happened since 1989; we solved the problem of telephone fraud with the assistance of the Ministry of Interior and tried to limit domestic crime. This may not be enough, but it cannot be compared to any period since 1989 concerning the work of the Prosecution. In fact, we are clearly making progress, and then the question is why? If this is the reason, I understand it, but it is not in the interest of Bulgarian citizens, but in the interest of those who would possibly commit crimes. If that is the reason for requesting my resignation, of course I will not resign.

There is another aim that is different from reforming the judiciary, and I can only define it as political.

They are trying to present the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office as if it is to blame for everything. I heard a politician say that we are to blame for the price of electricity. I expect to be blamed soon for the global pandemic and climate change.