12 December 2021

Information in relation to pressure exerted on supervising prosecutors in pre-trial proceedings of high public interest

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On 11 December 2021, the Sofia District Prosecutor's Office instituted pre-trial proceedings for a crime under Art. 289, paragraph 1 in conjunction with Art. 18, paragraph 1 of the Penal Code for an attempt to persuade prosecutors from Sofia City Prosecutor's Office to violate their official duties in connection with the administration of justice. This was announced at a briefing at the Palace of justice in Sofia by the Administrative Head of Sofia Regional Prosecutor's Office Nevena Zartova.

The reason for the briefing was unprecedented pressure on the supervising prosecutors in a case of high public interest, related to the laundering of over BGN 53 million, intended for LOT-5 by Hemus Motorway. The spokesperson of Sofia City Prosecutor's Office Desislava Petrova reminded that the investigation was initiated on November 3, 2021 and gave details about the pressure on magistrates:

"On December 6, 2021, on a proposal of the investigating police officers, an accused was detained for up to 72 hours, and on December 9, 2021 Sofia City Prosecutor's Office filed a request for his detention on remand as the court imposed a measure house arrest. To date, the protest period has not expired.

Immediately after the prosecutors submitted the claim and before the ruling of the court, on the same day - December 9, 2021, a meeting was held at the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office between two of the supervising prosecutors and the investigators, as well as operatives from the General Directorate Combating Organized Crime (GDCOC).

At this meeting, the supervising prosecutors were verbally informed that the accused wished to give explanations in the presence of a prosecutor.

The next day - Friday, December 10, the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office received a proposal from the leading investigators with a request to escort the accused to the GDCOC for questioning over the weekend, ie. on the 11th and 12th of December, and in this connection the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office ordered his convoy to the GDCOC building. In the evening, the Head of the investigative bodies called the supervising prosecutor on the phone and informed her that the accused would give explanations only in the presence of a prosecutor.

Therefore, on 11 December 2021, at around 10 am, a supervising prosecutor went to the office of the investigators in GDCOC building and was informed by them that there was no written request from the accused to be questioned. The authorized defense counsel of the accused and the accused himself entered the office of the investigators, who explained to the supervising prosecutor that he would not give explanations and was there at the request of his lawyer

The lawyer, in turn, told the prosecutor that he had received an assurance, but it was not clear from whom, that the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office would not protest against the ruling of the Sofia City Court, which imposed a measure of restraint "house arrest" if the accused gave explanations, such as the explanations in which direction they will be, whether they will contribute to the investigation, have not been specified. The lawyer set conditions not to protest the measure of restraint, and at a later stage to change the measure to a lighter one, the qualification of the act to be lighter and one that in practice would lead to the release of the accused from criminal liability and in January next year the accused will be allowed to travel abroad.

The supervising prosecutor replied that he was present as such and that the accused had given explanations in connection with the oral request. The magistrate clarified that he did not enter into out-of-court agreements and this was against the law, and if the accused gave explanations and assisted in the investigation, this could be treated as a mitigating circumstance, such as constant case- law and if found guilty according to the relevant procedural order of the court.

The accused was interrogated by the investigating bodies, the record of which stated that he did not want to give explanations and that he was there at the request of his lawyer. The lawyer's requests were not reflected in the interrogation record of the accused, despite the explicit insistence of the supervising prosecutor. The protocol was also signed by the supervising prosecutor, but a copy of this protocol has not been provided yet to the supervising prosecutor.

Meanwhile, in telephone conversations, the supervising prosecutor informed the second supervising prosecutor about what was happening, as well as the Deputy Head of Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office, given the situation at around 1:00 pm, the last two went to the GDCOC. The supervising prosecutor learned that the director of the GDCOC wanted to talk to her, so she had to stay in the building.

Subsequently, a meeting was held with the director of the GDCOC - Kalin Stoyanov. At this meeting, Stoyanov addressed the supervising prosecutor in an inappropriate tone with remarks incurred in the sense, that she was ending the investigation, refusing to comply with the requests of the defense counsel, and that she would be held accountable for it.

The prosecutors' calls for good manners, explanations that making promises as requested by them is outside the law, that according to the Criminal Procedure Code, the supervising prosecutor is the one who directs and supervises the investigation and makes decisions on and that it is not in the interest of the investigation to come into conflict have remained unheard by the director of the CDCOC. There were also remarks by Kalin Stoyanov to the supervising prosecutors in the same sense as the previous ones, which ended the meeting."

The spokesperson of Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office underlined that the supervising prosecutors were shocked by what had happened and especially by the coincidence of the demands of the defense and the director of the GDCOC on the progress of investigation. "Specifically, one of the supervising prosecutors, who has about 20 years of experience, said that she had seen many things, but she had never been subjected to such pressure by anyone or on any occasion," Desislava Petrova said.

Deputy Head of Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office Chavdar Pastovanov pointed out that the supervising prosecutors in the concrete pre-trial proceedings were extremely conscientious magistrates who had always performed their official duties within the scope of the law. Pastovanov added that in his professional practice, he had never witnessed such an attitude to the work of magistrates and to them as individuals. Deputy Head of Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office Ivo Iliev noted as inadmissible the fact that a senior police officer and defense counsel of the accused in pre-trial proceedings had demands and claims against a supervising prosecutor that were outside the law.