Media-exposed Bulgarian MPs Escape Tough SanctionsDomestic | December 6, 2010, Monday // 13:49| views
GERB MP Lachezar Ivanov, who fell in the media trap, condemned it as illegal. Photo by BGNES
Bulgaria's Parliamentary anti-Corruption Committee has its "hands tied" regarding sanctions against the 16 Members of Parliament who succumbed to a media trick.
The Committee is preparing new stricter rules and stronger consequences for such violations, but the 16 MPs, who were exposed for their greed and prevalence of personal interests over legislative responsibilities, would not face them because they cannot be applied retroactively.
The joint operation between the private channel bTV and the "168 Chasa" (168 Hours) weekly consisted of offering luxurious cell phones, worth over BGN 6000 to 42 Bulgarian MPs. An expensive party was "organized" at a hotel in downtown Sofia where the phones were supposed to be handed out to them.
The party coincided with a Parliamentary session. Sixteen of the invited MPs skipped work to get hold of the "gifts" despite the fact the ethics code bans them from accepting gifts worth over BGN 200.
The MPs did not realize they were being tricked, even though the invitations were signed by a company named Klaus Barbie, who is a notorious Gestapo member and war criminal, known as the Butcher of Lyon.
The 16 could be fined up to BGN 120 (their daily wage) for missing the Parliamentary session. The Speaker of the Parliament can further suspend them from attending up to three meetings for "tarnishing the Parliament's image" i.e. the highest monetary sanction would not exceed BGN 480.
The leadership of the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party is meeting Tuesday to discuss how to punish the 8 GERB MPs. Party leader and Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, said he was ashamed by their behavior, but kept silent on possible resignations.
If the new rules are passed, the fine would go up to the amount of a monthly MP wage (about BGN 2 300). MPs could also be removed from parliamentary committees for up to one year. (MPs receive a bonus of about BGN 320 a month for being part of such committees.)
The sanctions will also apply to cases when MPs fail to declare private and material interest in particular debates of a certain bill and in votes to pass such bill.
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