Dogan Emerges as 'Bulgarian Dostoyevski' in Conflict of Interest Trial

Crime | September 23, 2010, Thursday // 17:40|  views

Dogan's lawyer Rumen Elenski (left) compared his client's contribution to Bulgarian energy to that of Dostoyevski (or Chekhov) to world literature. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish leader Ahmed Dogan was interestingly compared to Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevski by his lawyer during Dogan's conflict of interest trial.

Bulgaria's Supreme Administrative Court convened Thursday for a hearing of the much anticipated trial for conflict of interest against Ahmed Dogan, leader of the opposition ethnic Turkish party DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms), who received huge consulting fees on large-scale hydro energy projects while his party was part of the ruling coalitions (2001-2009). The trial was initiated based on a report of the Parliamentary Anti-corruption Committee.

Ahmed Dogan has been involved in large-scale political corruption schemes, breached the conflict of interest provisions and served private interests, says the Committee's report.

The DPS leader allegedly pocketed BGN 1.5 M as a consultant of four large-scale hydroelectricity projects, funded by the state - 'Tsankov Kamak', 'Dospat', 'Gorna Arda' and 'Tundzha' Dam.

The scandal erupted in May after a visit of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to the site of the hydroelectric power plant 'Tsankov Kamak', where he revealed that a huge hike in the initial price had been discovered.

The money for the hydro power plant "Tsankov Kamak", from where Dogan took the sky-high payment as an "expert," was paid by the state-owned National Electricity Distribution Company (NEK), left in tatters after the ruling of the previous cabinet.

At the first hearing of the trail on September 2, the Supreme Administrative Court had to try Dogan in absentia; the court decreed that Dogan must show evidence of professional qualification or competence in the areas of construction, mining and hydrology, for which he received consultant fees, as well as to produce a report on the consultancy work he actually did for the projects.

During Thursday's hearing, however, Dogan's lawyer, Rumen Elenski, declared his client did not need to have an engineering degree to serve as a consultant because his job was to "make specialized marketing" and "to create know-how."

"Let's take the Russian classical writer Fyodor Dostoyevski. How come this man who studied medicine had the right to write novels?" Elenski asked the court apparently comparing Dogan's consultancy of hydro-energy projects to Dostoyevski's contribution to world literature.

What is more, he most likely confused Anton Pavlovich Chekhov and Dostoyevski as the former studied medicine, while the latter studied in the military-engineering school in St. Petersburg.

"Does he need to have a specialization in marketing? He needs good general education and good marketing knowledge," lawyer Elenski retorted when asked about Dogan's marketing degrees.

The lawyer further declared that the minimum consultancy fee for an investment project in hydro power was about 2.2% of the value of the project. The four projects consulted by Dogan have a total value of EUR 950 M, therefore, his fee must have been much higher than BGN 1.6 M, Elenski said.

Prosecutor Elena Encheva stated the prosecution's position that Dogan broke the law through his engagement in a conflict of interest because he covered his own private interests through his capacity as a politician and MP, said

According to the lawyer of the Parliamentary Committee on conflict of interest Eleonora Nikolova, Dogan's conflict of interest involvement stemmed from two factors. First, from his position as a Member of Parliament voting on the state budget and state-funded projects. Second, from the fact that the three-way coalition government of the DPS, the Socialists, and the liberal NMSP (2005-2009) was formed under the mandate of the ethnic Turkish party, which allowed him to influence the government decisions with respect to energy projects.

Dogan's lawyer Elenski pointed out that the consultancy job was assigned to his client a year before Bulgaria even had a Conflict of Interest Act, which meant that Dogan had not even been obliged to declare his income from the problematic fees. The last sum that he received as a consultant was transferred to him in February 2009, a month and a half after the Conflict of Interest Act entered into force.

The prosecution pointed out that Dogan's economic dependence on private interests was not limited in time.

The Court accepted as evidence a record of Dogan's election campaign meeting in the village of Kochan from June 2009 in which he states, "I am the instrument in power who allocates the portions of funding in the state." According to the Parliamentary Committee, this statement is a confession of his conflict of interest.

During the hearing it was also mentioned that Dogan's lawyer will get a total of EUR 48 000 if he wins the case, which means that if that happens, his fee will be paid by the state budget.

The Supreme Administrative Court is going to make its pronouncement on Dogan's trial within two weeks.

If found guilty, Dogan faces a fine from BGN 1 000 to BGN 3 000. The Supreme Court may also deprive him of the payment that he received as an expert.

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Tags: Ahmed Dogan, embezzlement, Supreme Administrative Court, Tsankov Kamak, hydro-power plant, conflict of interest, Conflict of Interest Act, Parliamentary Committee on conlfict of interest, three-way coalition, Eleonora NIkolova, Supreme Administrative Court


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