Telegraph Media refers outrageous Black Swan case outcome to EC and SJC

The ties between the UBJ and the head of the SCC Lozan Panov are to be investigated

Lozan Panov and his wife Elisaveta

The wife of judge №1 in the country Lozan Panov has a criminal record with the police. This is a fact of reality substantiated by an official document provided by the Ministry of Interior. As it turns out, the file on the case has not been saved, which destroys any chance of finding out what exactly Elisaveta Panova did 15 years ago. However, the mention of her name in a 2004 report of a suspected crime as a perpetrator of an act of hooliganism – resisting authorities, a misdemeanor under Art. 325, Par. 2 of the Penal Code – is still in the database.

In two articles published in 2017, the newspapers Monitor and telegraph revealed this circumstance to the Bulgarian public. The information is important because it apparently prompted former minister of justice Hristo Ivanov to describe Panova as “Black Swan” during a meeting of the behind-the-scenes clique to discuss her husband Lozan Panov’s potential nomination for president. Instead of guiltily remaining silent, apologising and admitting to something she did, Elisaveta Panova shamelessly decided to pose as a victim and use the magistrates under the command of her husband to get herself a pardon, take care of the inconvenient media outlets and squeeze tens of thousands of levs in damages out of a publisher, even though all he did was inform his readers of a proven fact.

Confident in her win in the court of first instance, Panova and her attorney Georgi Atanasov (a member of the management of oligarch Ivo Prokopiev’s party Yes, Bulgaria) never challenged the Ministry of Interior certificate exposing the truth about her. To their surprise, the Sofia District Court judge assigned to the case Maria Zapryanova, undoubtedly risking her career advancement to follow the letter of the law, ruled to completely reject Panova’s claim with a very well-argued decision. The shock suffered by the behind-the-scenes clique must have been great (similar to that caused by the court decisions that upheld the BGN 1,000 fine for Lozan Panov for not submitting a property statement to the Bulgarian National Audit Office) because the appeal filed by Panova, riddled as it is with insults and outright threats to the court of higher instance that upholding the Sofia District Court decision would be “complicity in a crime”, can serve as a perfect example of contempt of court. However, this lampoon proved to be a harbinger of what was to happen in the Sofia City Court (SCC) – Panova’s team was leaving nothing to chance and Lozan Panov’s puppet judges would be activated in service of his wife.

The SCC case was filed in 2018 and heard on 12 April 2019. Judge Krasimir Mazgalov, who is very close with Lozan Panov and a member of the management of the grant-funded organisation Union of Bulgarian Judges (UBJ), “coincidentally” appeared on the panel of judges. What causes outrage is that the initial trio of judges assigned to the case was completely replaced by three other magistrates, including Judge Mazgalov. Later, he was chosen as the rapporteur – or the person that would actually draft the decision.

The text of the judgement itself shows that Elisaveta Panova’s criminal record is an unescapable fact. However, employing enviable skill in juggling legal terms, Mazgalov downplays this circumstance and accuses Telegraph and Monitor of slandering Panova. His thesis is that the file was closed by the Prosecutor’s Office due to lack of grounds to launch a criminal proceeding. However, the two newspapers never claimed that Lozan Panov’s wife has been convicted – on the contrary, they explicitly clarify in their articles that she never suffered repercussions for her actions.

What is even more outrageous is that on the same day that the case was heard and then announced as pending a decision the specialised website Legal World published a letter of response by the Management Board of the UBJ, which expresses the union’s position on a comment made by Elisaveta Panova during a bTV appearance, in which she describes as “a mockery of the law” the Administrative Court-Sofia’s decision to enforce a BGN 1,000 fine on her husband Lozan Panov, head of the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC), slapped because of his failure to submit a property statement to the Audit Office. In the letter, the UBJ Management Board (and by extension Krasimir Mazgalov as a member of that body) writes that “the exercising of private persons’ right to express their opinion against any of the authorities should be encouraged and actively protected, immediately if possible. Citizens having their own stance and standing their ground is a welcome basis for any democratic society”. As a member of the Management Board of the UBJ Krasimir Mazgalov essentially expressed a positon in support of one of the sides in a case, in which he is a rapporteur.

Telegraph Media, as publisher of the newspapers Monitor and Telegraph, has prepared a report detailing the connections between the UBJ, Lozan Panov and Elisaveta Panova’s attorney Georgi Atanasov. The report has already been filed with the European Commission, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and the Inspectorate with the SJC, which have been informed of the case, and an investigation into the unacceptable dependencies existing in the judicial system, which led to the scandalous clean-up of the reputation of the wife of Bulgaria’s judge №1, will be conducted.

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