Bulgaria elects new chief prosecutor

The SJC meeting lasted over 10 hours amid extreme circumstances that featured public protests and a hoax bomb threat

After a hearing that lasted over 10 hours Bulgaria's top judicial body, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), elected last Thursday Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev, the sole candidate, for the next chief prosecutor with a mandate of seven years. He got the votes of 20 of the SJC members, with only four opposing his nomination. The decision will be presented immediately to the attention of President Rumen Radev for approval.

The SJC meeting was held in extreme circumstances that featured a bomb threat and public protests organised by Boets, an NGO affiliated with the indicted banker Tsvetan Vassilev, and Yes, Bulgaria, another organisation with similar oligarchic ties that is led by Hristo Ivanov, a failed justice minister and a crony of the oligarch from Razgrad Ivo Prokopiev.

“There are political and economic circles in Bulgaria in possession of serious financial and media power and they have been on the bad side of the country’s law-enforcement process recently. What they did over the years was to feed off of the constant chatter they produced, including building their ideology on malicious reports against the Prosecutor’s Office and the judicial system,” said Geshev during his confirmation hearing, explaining that he agreed to participate in the procedure fully expecting the ensuing attacks against him.

“I know no oligarchs, I would never allow anyone to enjoy political protection. I would never allow such circles to influence the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office in its assessment of whether a crime has been committed, who is the victim or whether it should prosecute,” Geshev noted, adding that not running for the position would have been not only a betrayal of the confidence shown in him by the 11 members of the Prosecutors’ College, who unanimously put forward his nomination, but also a demonstration of fear.

His appointment was preceded by an onslaught of malicious reports, initiated literally hours before the SJC meeting. First, Thursday afternoon two websites affiliated with the indicted oligarchs Tsvetan Vassilev and Ivo Prokopiev – Actualno and Mediapool – ran an article about Geshev allegedly having over CHF 4m in bank accounts in Switzerland and Monaco. As evidence, they presented “documents” received from an anonymous source that, upon further inspection, turned out to be fake.

Then Bivol, another website connected with the oligarchs and the pro-Kremlin propaganda, published an article claiming that there was information obtained by special surveillance means indicating that the defendants in the “Untouchables” case offered €50,000 bribes to prosecutors and insinuating that the evidence incriminated Geshev. It turned out that the recorded audio was of an interrogation conducted in the presence of four more prosecutors besides Geshev in addition to the infamous investigator Boyko Atanasov, who was propped up by oligarchic NGOs and parties as a “civil-sector nomination for prosecutor general”. “What I am about to say does not reflect well on the judicial system, but there are people with political affiliations in the Prosecutor’s Office too and they do not serve the best interest of the institution,” Geshev commented on the matter.

He noted that days earlier a person whose Facebook page features photos of him and the head of the “Russophiles” National Movement Nikolay Malinov (currently charged with crimes against the Republic stemming from a plot organised in association with the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev and designed to undermine the pro-western affiliations of the country) teased the special surveillance means news in the social media outlet. The Prosecutor’s Office responded to the malicious report with a lengthy press release laying out facts proving the claims in the Bivol article to be false. At the hearing, Geshev answered over 100 questions, the overwhelming majority of which were almost identical and posed by several NGOs affiliated with Prokopiev and Vassilev.

The queries essentially repeated fake-news-style allegations that appeared over the past few months in the publications connected to that same group of media outlets close to the two oligarchs. Against this backdrop, the favourite question derived from Prokopiev and Vassilev’s talking points was unsurprisingly raised – why is the name of lawmaker and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski not in the CorpBank case and if the investigation ever looked into whether he, his companies or individuals affiliated with him have been extended loans under preferential terms by the failed lender.

In response, Geshev said that there were no grounds for including the MP in the case and that there was evidence that all companies and physical persons that could be tied to him have repaid their loans in full. “There is nothing in this case to suggest that the lawmaker in question should be charged with anything – and that is the opinion of the entire team of about 10 prosecutors and investigating officers on the case,” concluded Geshev.

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