Request for conflict of interest investigation of Lozan Panov is already in Brussels
Joeri Tavanier, Permanent EC Representative on Cooperation and Verification Mechanism has been replacedMonitor News Agency , Sofia
The European Commission has received a letter with a set of questions concerning the conduct of Lozan Panov, the President of the Supreme Cassation Court (SCC) raised by the Center for Applied Legal Studies (CFALS) to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), reported deputy head of Representation at EC, Bulgaria area, Hristo Hristov. He was invited to a regular sitting of the Civil Council to the SJC. The questions of the CFALS were approved at the previous sitting of the Civil Council and it was decided to send them to the European Commission.
The CFALS representative Mila Georgieva, who is a former prosecutor with 41-year-long service, has related the questions to the EC in Hristov’s presence. The following question was quoted as the first one: May the SCC add new articles to laws having in mind the decision of the plenary meeting of the Civil College to the SCC referring to interpretative case No.4.
It was used in an attempt at revoking civil forfeiture of the illegally acquired property which in practice impeded the anticorruption legislation. In aggregate, this resulted in emergency amendments to the Anti-Corruption and Illegal Assets Forfeiture Act (ACCIAFA) adopted at the end of 2018.
The Anti-Corruption Commission and anti-corruption legislation have been very highly assessed in the latest monitoring report of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism of the EC.
“The Civil College which adopted the interpretative rule No.4, was chaired by the SCC president Lozan Panov who was probed by ACCIAF in relation to a tax audit conducted by the National Revenue Agency (NRA) and the stated disagreement between the declared and actual property and financial instruments worth over BGN 100,000. Neither the NRA nor the Code of Civil Procedure allow a judge to participate in court hearings when the outcome of the lawsuit may be in his interest,” Georgieva stated.
“Right now a case hearing is underway at the Administrative Court, Sofia where Mr Panov appeals the first instance rule to impose a BGN 1000 fine on him for failing to submit property status declaration for 2017,” Georgieva said further (see below).
“We are familiar with the case. The letter you sent has been forwarded to the competent colleagues in Brussels. They are employees of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism department, i.e. people who prepare the monitoring report. As the letter is addressed to the European Commission and not to some particular person, you will not receive a formal official reply, but it is in our department that the whole body of information which we receive is collected, analysed and processed to be further used in the annual monitoring report,” Hristov explained.
“Unfortunately, the work of the judicial system is in the focus of relationships between the European Commission and the Bulgarian institutions,” he added. Hristov also said that last month a meeting was held with Plamen Georgiev, chief of the Anti-Corruption Commission on his own initiative.
It transpired from his words that Joeri Tavanier, Permanent EC Representative on Cooperation and Verification Mechanism in Bulgaria who was relieved of his post in 2018, already has a successor. Hristov refused to give out his name, he only said that it is a foreigner based in Brussels who will be travelling to Bulgaria every month for meetings with the institutions.
“I will inform him of the today’s sitting of the Civil Council to SJC and about the agenda,” Hristov said.
“We would like to meet not only with the NGOs but also with the Civil Council to SJC,” said co-president of the Civil Council to SJC Maria Karagyozova.
The Council members supported the decision that they want to get in touch with the Brussels observers and agree that the agenda of the SJC Civil Council sittings should be sent to the EC Representation in Bulgaria.
Panov hides from court
At the same time on Friday, the proceedings were started at the Administrative Court, Sofia on the Panov vs Anti-Corruption Commission case related to the BGN 1000 fine imposed on him for the un-submitted property status declaration.
The fine has already been confirmed by Sofia regional court. The President of the SCC, however, decided to appeal before the court which he himself headed some years ago – Sofia City Administrative Court. Apparently Panov sticks to his old practice – to hide away when something runs counter to his interests and again failed to appear in court on Friday.
Instead of him, his lawyer Alexander Kashimov faced the magistrates. Kashimov frequently publishes comments in the media outlets of Panov’s mentor, Ivo Prokopiev. He hasn’t missed to mention in his pleading Panov’s political affiliations, announcing that the administrative punishment of Pavov was due to his stand on the independence of the judicial power. The ACCIAF and the prosecution insisted that the fine be confirmed. The judges will announce their sentence in due time.