Oligarchy’s court clears name of Lozan Panov’s spouse

Telegraph Media intends to alert the European Commission to the latest perversion of the course of justice in Bulgaria

The Supreme Court of Cassation, the oligarchy-controlled court headed by Judge Lozan Panov, has cleared the name of his wife, famously dubbed the Black Swan by failed justice minister Hristo Ivanov in the shorthand records of the ARGO-gate meeting of the behind-the-scenes clique.

The spouse of the country’s top judge has a criminal record. That is an undisputable fact backed by an official document provided by the Ministry of Interior. As it turns out, the case file was not preserved, making it impossible to ascertain what exactly Panova did 15 years ago, but the record of her getting cited with an act of hooliganism – resisting an officer of the law – in 2014 is still there.

In two articles from 2017, the newspapers Monitor and Telegraph revealed that circumstance to the public. Said circumstance must be significant because it apparently prompted former justice minister Hristo Ivanov to describe Panova as Black Swan during the behind-the-scenes clique’s deliberation of her husband Lozan Panov’s chances of winning if he ran for president. Instead of staying guiltily silent, apologising and admitting to something she did, Elisaveta Panova impudently decided to pose as a victim and use the considerable magisterial power her husband wields to take her revenge on the media outlets inconveniencing her and extricate tens of thousands of levs from a publisher, who simply informed its readers of an easily verifiable fact.

Confident in her success on first instance, Panova and her attorney Georgi Atanasov – member of the leadership of Ivo Prokopiev’s party Yes, Bulgaria – did not even dispute the Ministry of Interior-issued document confirming the truth about her. To their surprise, Sofia District Court (SDC) judge Maria Zapryanova, obviously risking her opportunities for career advancement, denied Panova’s claim in its entirety with a well-argued, reasoned decision that served the letter of the law.

The behind-the-scenes clique must have been stupefied, similar to the reaction it had at the court rulings that upheld the BGN 1,000 fine for Lozan Panov for failing to file a property statement with the Bulgarian National Audit Office. Rife with insults and permeated with helplessness, the ensuing appeal contained downright threats to the court of second instance that upholding the SDC decision would make it an “accomplice in a crime”. It was a textbook example of contempt of court. However, the falsehood-riddled appeal was accurate in indicating what would happen at the Sofia City Court (SCC) level – the outcome would no longer be left to chance as the gang of judges loyal to Panov was activated in defence of his wife.

The case got on the SCC trial docket in 2018 and was heard on 12 April 2019. The panel of judges “randomly” included Judge Krasimir Mazgalov, who is extremely close to Lozan Panov and a member of the leadership of the grant-funded Union of Bulgarian Judges (UBJ). The most controversial moment here was that the judges initially assigned to the case were replaced by three other judges, one of whom was Judge Mazgalov. Later on, he was tasked with being the rapporteur, i.e. the person who had to actually write the court decision.

The wording of said decision reveals the criminal record of Elisaveta Panova to be an inescapable fact, but thanks to his enviable skill of playing with legal terms Mazgalov minimised that circumstance and accused Telegraph and Monitor in libeling Panova. His main thesis was that the case file was closed by the Prosecutor’s Office, which refused to launch legal action. However, the two newspapers have never claimed that Lozan Panov’s wife was found guilty of anything. On the contrary, they expressly note in their articles that she never suffered repercussions for her actions.

Even more outrageous is that on the same day the case was heard and announced as pending a decision the Legal World website published a letter of response penned by the governing body of the UBJ. It expressed the union’s position on a specific statement made by Elisaveta Panova during a bTV appearance, where she labeled an Administrative Court – Sofia ruling, already put into effect, as “perversion of justice”. Said ruling sentenced her husband Lozan Panov to pay a BGN 1,000 fine for his failure to file a property statement with the National 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”. And so, 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 was a rapporteur.

Naturally, Telegraph Media challenged the decision of Judge Mazgalov, but seeing as the case had to be heard by the Supreme Court of Cassation, which is at Lozan Panov’s beck and call, all the judges working there were asked to recuse themselves. Initially, the system of random assignment of cases had the claim go to Judge Erik Vassilev, who admitted to being dependent on his boss and actually recused himself. But then the claim went to a panel of judges chaired by Borislav Belazelkov, who was also appointed a rapporteur. It is no secret who Judge Belazelkov is. He is the former head of the grant-funded UBJ. So the outcome of the case was a foregone conclusion from that point on. Despite a delay of more than three months, on 14 July 2020, an outrageous court decision dismissed Telegraph’s appeal. Furthermore, no legal arguments were provided to address the issues outlined. Neither did the court rule on the well-founded claim that the court of second instance was clearly wrong in its decision.

How come the case of Lozan Panov’s wife was heard by  none other than Judge Mazgalov at the SCC and then by Judge Belazelkov at the Supreme Court of Cassation – both of them prominent figures of the UBJ? The answer remains a mystery. But it is a fact that a judge subordinate to Panov at the Supreme Court of Cassation not only ruled on a BGN 30,000 property case in favour of his boss, but did so without addressing the recusal request or analysing the issues raised by Telegraph Media deemed pertinent to the outcome of the case.  

While shameless obscure parties affiliated with Panov such as Yes, Bulgaria and the endless supply of NGOs financed by Soros are trying to convince society that they are fighting for an independent judicial system, blaming all sorts of people for its corruption, it turns out that they are the ones who have been pulling its levers for a long time.

As a publisher of Monitor and Telegraph, Telegraph Media intends to alert the European Commission to the outrageous court decision. The unacceptable dependencies of the Bulgarian judicial system on outside factors that ultimately led to the clearing of the name of the top Bulgarian judge’s wife will be investigated. 

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