Constitution to be amended because of privatisation

MRF lawmakers Delyan Peevski, Yordan Tsonev and Hamid Hamid will propose the necessary legislative measures

Delyan Peevski (C), Yordan Tsonev (L) and Hamid Hamid.

The ruling party GERB is set to propose amendments to the Constitution, which will scrap the time limit for bringing legal proceedings regarding offences connected to the privatisation process. The news came from GERB MP and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs Danail Kirilov. Just a day earlier, MRF insisted on similar changes that would allow for the criminal privatisation to be investigated.

The ruling party GERB is set to propose amendments to the Constitution, which will scrap the time limit for bringing legal proceedings regarding offences connected to the privatisation process. The news came from GERB MP and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs Danail Kirilov. Just a day earlier, MRF insisted on similar changes that would allow for the criminal privatisation to be investigated.

After exploring all possibilities, GERB’s legal team came up with five options for legislative action, including amendments to the Penal Code and the Constitution. The option ultimately selected envisions said amendments to the country’s main law, adding a new paragraph to Article 31. “Prosecution of and execution of punishment for serious offences committed as part of or in relation to the privatisation process in the 1992-2017 period shall not be subject to time limits,” reads the proposed text. The starting point is 1992 since it was the year in which the first privatisation law, a deeply flawed one, was enacted. Kirilov does not rule out the possibility of leaving the period open, following parliamentary debates. No special body is expected to be set up, Kirilov explained, adding that the idea was not to dissolve privatisation contracts but rather to punish the people responsible for disadvantageous deals.

GERB prefers this approach, even though it is more complex and requires a qualified majority of three quarters of lawmakers to be approved. This means at least 180 MPs on the so-called fast track. The signatures of no less than 60 MPs are needed to introduce the bill to parliament.

GERB plans to seek as wide a support as possible, including from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), and says that all other parties have already declared their intention to support such a proposal.

“We expect that Kornelia Ninova will also sign and give her blessing,” commented Desislava Atanasova, adding, “It has all the makings of a paradox – we will see if BSP manages to appeal to Kornelia Ninova’s conscience to sign, while the party is seemingly struggling to combat the parallel state.” Atanasova described Ninova as one of the “main privatisation players” at the time. In her filing with the Bulgarian National Audit Office, Ninova states she has over BGN 65,000 of revenue from the sale of Tehnoimpex shares.

“MRF is the first political party pushing for the whole truth about the privatisation process in Bulgaria to come out. We took a careful look at the regulatory framework and, following an enquiry, ascertained that the Constitutional Court sets a time limit for initiating legal proceedings regarding such deals. This is why, I and my fellow MPs Delyan Peevski and Hamid Hamid will propose the necessary law amendments to equip the watchdog agencies with the regulatory tools to investigate privatisation contracts,” MP Yordan Tsonev told Blitz.

Some 5,200 privatisation deals are subject to probes, potentially leading to prosecution for committed offences, GERB lawmaker Toma Bikov commented in an interview for bTV. “What we offer is to create an environment for the justice system, the prosecutor’s office to continue investigating such deals, which are currently subject to time limits. For some deals the period in which court action can be taken expired 15 years ago and the perpetrators of crimes involved in them are already at ease,” he said, noting that some of the companies no longer exist or have been sold several times. Bikov says there are suspicious deals, although he did not provide concrete examples. “The origins of corruption lie there… In 1991-1992 some people became rich literally overnight and the Bulgarian citizens never understood how and why,” the lawmaker noted.

Meanwhile, his colleague Desislava Atanasova explained that inspections will be carried out, as in some cases the time limit made some crimes untouchable. “The proposed period is between 1992 and 2017. It covers the tenures of GERB governments, showing that we only want the truth. The revenue from privatisation deals is supposed to go into the Silver Fund and that was not the case. Some assets were acquired for a mere song during the lawless years (of Bulgaria’s transition to democracy),” she told Nova Television. According to Atanasova, GERB’s proposal aims to bring “truth and transparency”. If a crime is proven in the court of law, that will lead to seizure of property. “This is not a political instrument in someone’s hands, the goal is not to air someone’s dirty laundry,” Atanasova assured.

Danail Kirilov of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs says that privatisation deals are in no danger of being dissolved, even though steps will be taken to probe them retroactively. He also believes that the privatisation process has not been properly investigated yet.

Similar articles