The oligarchy’s court attacks Peevski's media

The magistrates affiliated with Kostov and Prokopiev interpret the law as it suits them and in favour of Elisaveta Panova

Lozan Panov and his wife Elisaveta

Oligarch Ivo Prokopiev and his mentor, former PM Ivan Kostov, are pulling the strings of the court system through their puppet judge Lozan Panov. This much was revealed by the shameful decision of an oligarchy-controlled court controlled, which washed clean the scandalous past of Elisaveta Panova. The ruling of the Sofia City Court effectively puts an end to the illusion of rule of law in Bulgaria with the sole purpose of serving the behind-the-scene clique’s interests.

The panel of judges’ decision also shows that grant payments have finally defeated the law and that there are no unbiased courts in Bulgaria any more. The system has been seized by the oligarchy and its tentacles.

We find ourselves at this outrageous juncture after Elisaveta Panova, the wife of the figurehead president of the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) Lozan Panov and known as the Black Swan, filed a lawsuit against the newspapers Telegraph and Monitor after they revealed that she has a criminal record with the police. Even though the Ministry of Interior itself provided the court with a document attesting to that circumstance, the oligarchy’s judges decided to trample all over the law and turn a blind eye to the truth and facts. And so after several years of legal battles and despite the court of first instance ruling in favour of Telegraph and Monitor (that one was based on the documents testifying to the fact that Panova is indeed in the police database for hooliganism), the magistrates with ties to grant funding opted to clean up the image of their boss’s wife.

However, the absurd actions of the judges are no coincidence and their motivation can be explained by looking into who the magistrates who made a mockery of the law to serve Panov and his wife are. The lawsuit against the two publications of Telegraph Media was “randomly” assigned to a panel that includes Judge Krasimir Mazgalov. His name is rarely connected to adjudication as he is too busy working for the grant-dependent Bulgarian Judges Association (BJA) most of the time. Mazgalov is the deputy of BJA Chairperson Kalin Kalpakchiev, who is close to the failed minister of justice and incumbent figurehead leader of the oligarchic political project Yes, Bulgaria Hristo Ivanov. The last one is the person who affectionately dubbed Elisaveta “the Black Swan” during the secret ARGOgate meeting. Because of all of his ties (more on them later – editor’s note), Mazgalov was asked to recuse himself from the hearings, but he refused to step away from “the case of his life” just so he can serve Panov’s interests. Evidently, he did a good job of it.

The documents presented during the legal proceedings clearly show that the two publications of Telegraph Media worked entirely with facts and evidence and that the two grievances stated by Panova in her claims – the criminal record and the “Black Swan” nickname – are not the product of creative writing but actual facts supported by documents.

However, to the court controlled by the oligarchy documents are obviously unimportant. Several months prior, with a decision dated April 2018, Sofia District Court magistrate Maria Zapryanova rejected Panova’s claim for BGN 30,000 in damages, citing as reason the fact that the existence of a criminal record of the SCC president’s wife had been proven beyond dispute. Furthermore, documents presented in the courtroom showed that the Black Swan was in the police database for hooliganism and resistance of authorities stemming from a 2004 incident. The nickname Black Swan was coined by Hristo Ivanov in the ARGOgate shorthand records, which also have oligarch Ivo Prokopiev and his think-tank horde of grant-funded pawns and paid scribblers discussing Lozan Panov potentially running for president. Ivanov used the nickname to demonstrate why Panov would not be a suitable candidate. The shorthand records themselves and their content were confirmed by Prokopiev, who publicly admitted that these conversations took place.

In her case against Telegraph Media, Panova was represented by none other than attorney Georgi Atanasov – member of the National Council of the political party Yes, Bulgaria. Part of the same law firm are Daniela Dokovska and Ina Lulcheva, who stood by Lozan Panov in the disgraceful political demonstration on the steps outside of the Sofia Court House in December 2015.

All these facts, however, were conveniently overlooked by the judges, who overturned the first-instance court’s decision and ruled that Elisaveta Panova should be paid BGN 30,000 in “non-material damages – pain, suffering and inconvenience – emotional, physical and mental stress” she suffered from, well, the truth about her criminal record coming out. If the picture described thus far is evidence of just how egregious “the mockery of the law” can get, the last nail in the judicial system’s coffin was hit by another legal nonsense.

Under Bulgarian law, the outrageous ruling of the Sofia City Court is not final and can be appealed before the SCC within a month. The real question is whether that last instance should be Kostov and Prokopiev because it is clear that the oligarchy’s magistrates have no regard for documents – what is important is the wishes of a clique of oligarchs, and the SCC head serves them without scruples. Paradoxically, the decision on Panova’s case has to be appealed before her husband Lozan Panov. There is hardly any doubt what the SCC would decide. Even if the ruling is appealed by Monitor and Telegraph, it is almost unthinkable that someone in the SCC would rule against the boss’s wife. In other words, with the same success we could appeal before the law firm representing Panova – that of Daniela Dokovska.

This entire absurd goes to show that, unfortunately, truth does not really matter in Bulgaria any longer – the courts working for the behind-the-scenes clique are preoccupied with what the oligarchs taking commands from Kostov want. Their most prominent servant is the puppet head of the SCC Lozan Panov. The only “good” news in all of this is that the court ruling has destroyed the talking point spread by the aforementioned circle that Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski has the courts under his thumb. Some time ago, another of their talking points – that he had control over the Prosecutor’s Office – was disproven in much the same way after a magistrate of that same institution ordered that the trademark of Telegraph be erased by the Patent Office.

Mainstream under control

“If there were a Black Swan, this would be Lozan’s wife.” Former minister of justice Hristo Ivanov voiced this signal phrase at a gathering of the behind-the-scenes ARGO circle on 28 July, 2016. Then it became clear that Lozan Panov’s better half compromised his nomination for the President of Bulgaria. Apart from Ivanov the participants in the gathering were also oligarch Ivo Prokopiev, his fellow citizen from Razgrad professional protester Anotaneta Tsoneva, ex-minister Traicho Traikov who stands trial alongside Prokopiev, irreplaceable spokesperson for Ivan Kostov Stoyana Georgieva as well as a dozen of journalists on call and political proxies.

Two verbatim records of the ARGO meeting were made public in April 2017. Then it transpired that oligarch Prokopiev and his accomplices set themselves one goal: to gain control over the mainstream in order to lobby for their dependencies. Today it is clearer than ever that the mainstream is really put under control and the pseudo politicians and quasi-independent magistrates touring the oligarchic media are a part of one integral whole.

The motives set forth by judge Mazgalov do not explain how the nickname ‘Black Swan’ was coined. To refresh his memory we can remind him fragments of the ARGO meeting verbatim records from whence everything started:

Radan Kanev (then chairman of the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria): “…Lozan Panov must resign… (from his chairman’s post of the Supreme Court of Cassation – Ed.’s note).

Antoaneta Tsoneva (currently leadership member of Yes, Bulgaria): Lozan Panov cannot be the party’s nominee (according to the Bulgarian law, the magistrates are depolitisised – Ed.’s note).

Hristo Ivanov (former justice minister, currently leader of Yes, Bulgaria): If there were a Black Swan, this would be Lozan’s wife.”

Following this blunder a media offensive was launched aimed at one thing only: to cover up the facts so that Lozan Panov and his Black Swan be presented as victims. Several of the ‘hospitable’ TV channels along with all media outlets sustained by the indicted oligarchs joined in the action aimed at glossing over the disgraceful facts related to the past of the No.1 Judge’s spouse. It is interesting whether judge Mazgalov required questioning of the man who coined the nickname of Elisaveta Panova or he utterly ignored this fact. He would at least find out what did the former minister of justice mean and what the concrete evidence was on which he based his statement.

The “news” that the court violated the law in favour of Lozan Panov’s wife was first released by Mediapool, ownership of Stoyana Georgieva, the soft voice of Ivan Kostov. Later on it was subserviently circulated by Club Z sustained by indicted oligarch Ognyan Donev and then by Frognews of the ‘merited’ State Security agent Ognyan Stefanov, which plays the role of press center for fugitive banker and credit pharaoh Tsvetan Vassilev.

No.1 Judge infracted the Magistrates’ Code

If it happened to you to buy real property in 2013, you cannot but know that buying a four-bedroom apartment with two garages at a price of €225 per square meter is complete absurdity. Elisaveta Panova paid BGN 93,004 for a total area of 211,2 sq.m having in mind that the market price of this property at that time varied from BGN 445 to 761. She and her husband believe that this is only natural because prices on the property market collapsed at that time. And since the audits show that this is not true Panov is trying to downplay the case claiming that he was cheated because at that time he and Elisaveta were not married and he was not aware of her plans.
At the beginning of 2017, Tsvetan Tsvetkov president of the National Audit Office issued a penal provision against Lozan Yordanov Panov for nonfulfillment of legal requirement to declare his property status for 2016. In view of that Panov was subjected to administrative punishment. Instead of paying off the fine of BGN 1,000 imposed on him and turning this disgraceful page in his biography Panov let his wife explain before the media how they were going to sue Bulgaria in Strasburg. The lady who pretended to have nothing to do with politics went as far as defining the sanction as the “distortion of the law” posing both as a defence lawyer and spokesperson for her spouse, No.1 Judge.

It is a public secret that one of the Panovs’ family “Jokers”is the close friendship between Elisaveta and daughter of ex-PM Ivan Kostov, who to this day is trying to interfere into the staffing policy in all echelons of power.

Similar to the shamefully naïve way which the Kostovs resort to trying to explain their preferential deposits in the bankrupt CorpBank and generous fees of Mina paid with the blessing of fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev, Elisaveta Panova also tried to provide explanations: the cheap property she bought from Arteks have nothing to do with her husband because at that time “he was not part of her life.” Lozan Panov refused to resign from his post or at least go on leave till the investigation of the ApartmentGate was underway. His two-storied villa at the seaside purchased for an ample sum of BGN 26,000 was a “bungalow”, according to him. Later it transpired that the above villa was given out for rent, but the revenues from this deal were not declared and, consequently, income taxes on the sum total were not paid. Thus the No.1 Judge proved that he stands above the law which the rest of the citizens must abide by.

One of the possible explanations to this” omission” by Panov is that he simply forgot to mention these earnings transferred to his bank account because in the following years the rent money was paid to him in cash, Chanel 3 commented. However, at that time Panov was the chair of the Supreme Administrative Court which is the last instance having its say on the rulings of the National Revenue Agency, hence he was very well aware that every single Lev earned is to be declared. Another possibility is that Panov has intentionally concealed this income from rent which perfectly agrees with the other facts of his concealed incomes – undeclared fees and rent money for his apartments in Sofia. Both variants considered, Panov’s behaviour is an offence not only to the judges’ guild but to the entire society.

Hangers-on of Themis and Mazgalov

There’s nothing to be said about a judge whose main achievement is that he was among the most active opponent of his former boss. But the career of Krassimir Mazgalov has been just as consistent as love the grant-dependent media showed to his persona. And this love is proverbial. Once the allegedly independent judge complains before certain media outlets that the journalists create expectation in the community as to how the court will rule on the Alabin case and then defends the grants and describes them as a cure-all for the justice system and a tool for boosting confidence in the system and, after all, comes out with an inconsistent and contradictory to logic decision abounding in personal opinions of a judge about justice system.

Then why judge Mazgalov repeatedly shows his biased attitude to one of the two indicted newspapers of the wife of the No.1 judge of the behind-the-scenes clique Lozan Panov? After he turned into a staunch defender of the culprits for the collapsed building at the Alabin St. and repeatedly allowed himself to make commentaries about Monitor newspaper, the current decision of judge Mazgalov looks like a form of revenge. Revenge to Monitor for the fact that the newspaper dares having its own opinion and insist on real justice instead of imitation of it.

It has turned out that exactly on the day when the case of Elisaveta Panova was heard in court namely the Judges Association in Bulgaria, of which Krassimir Mazgalov is a depurty chair, replied to an enquiry by Legal World site that Elisaveta Panova had the right to use a phrasing like “distortion of the law” (referring to another case which Panov brought against the National Revenue Agency for BGN 1,000 fine). In his opinion, this was the manifestation of her “civic stance” which must be encouraged and applauded. Judge Mazgalov who otherwise is very well aware of the difference between “morality” and “dependency”, in this particular case did not find it necessary to give up the case in which he defended in a written form one of the parties the same day!

The next paradox is that the main argument of judge Mazgalov for critisising the “disobedient media with a view to the Alabin case (after the sentence was pronounced) was that they extorted media pressure over the judge. At the same time the pressure which the media of the behind-the-scenes clique exerted for months commenting the case of Elisaveta Panova passed unnoticed for judge Mazgalov. Or did he try to comply with the media attitudes of the outlets controlled by oligarchs Ivo Prokopiev, Ognyan Donev, Free Europe and Mediapool?

The glory hour of judge Krassimir Mazgalov came in November of 2018 when he was elected first for the member of the Managing Board of the Judges Association in Bulgaria and them for deputy president of the same grant-dependent organisation. That happened after he, for months on end, tried to bring it home how wise it was to use grants and organised rallies against his former chief at the Sofia City Court. Today these efforts yield results.

And judge Mazgalov administers justice just like it is expected of him. Isn’t it why his has earned such trust?

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