Investigators on 'Tapegate': Bulgarian Police Violate Laws, Leaks All Over

Domestic | February 3, 2011, Thursday // 20:03|  views

Customs Agency head Tanov was tapped legally but there were numerous violations with respect to the handling of the tapping procedures once the permit got through, MPs concluded. Photo by BGNES

A subcommittee of the Bulgarian Parliament investigating "Tapegate" – recent leaks of tapped discrediting telephone conversations between senior government figures – has found numerous violations in the use of wiretapping.

The conclusions of the Parliamentary Subcommittee for control of the use of special intelligence devices released Thursday night do not tackle them authenticity of the tapes, whose leaking to the public shook Bulgaria's ruling party GERB. Instead they focus on investigating the loopholes in due process of law when it comes to wiretapping in Bulgaria.

"The case with the tapping of the telephones of Bulgarian Customs Agency head Vanyo Tanov demonstrates the overall flaws of the mechanism for the use of tapping devices in Bulgaria. The responsibility about its weaknesses falls on the law enforcement institutions – the ones in the direct charge of the public safety and security," the Bulgarian MPs say.

The MP investigation into the wiretapping of customs chief Tanov was started at the request of the Supreme Prosecutor's Office of Cassation. The special surveillance devices to tap Tanov's phones as part of a criminal investigation for corruption in the customs, reveals the Parliamentary Subcommittee.

Tanov was not the only official whose phones were tapped in that investigation, which took place in 2010; however the wiretapping was authorized properly – at the request of a prosecutor and with a permission by a judge. The wiretapping was terminated again at the request of a prosecutor, and as Tanov was not found to have committed any crimes, the tapes of the tapped conversations were destroyed, the MPs conclude.

(It is believed that the sources of the Galeria weekly, which published the scandalous tapes in January, re-taped them and leaked them from the Interior Ministry illegally before the original tapes were destroyed.)

The MPs, however, identify a number of shocking flaws in the Bulgarian legislation and law enforcement practice with respect to the authorization and use of wiretapping.

They find that "the practice is ahead of the legislation" and there is no regulation with respect to the access to specific officers of the Interior Ministry and the State National Security Agency DANS to the information from wiretapping.

"The information acquired by tapping was not used only in the pre-court investigation as stipulation by law. The access to it was not permitted only to the specialized law enforcement units but was also reported to senior Interior Ministry and DANS officers" which is not legal," the MPs say also mentioning that the operational officers were given the chance to evaluate the information and filter it before it reaches the actual investigators.

"The protection against the leaks of information is factually insufficient, and does not guarantee its security, and the protection of the people's rights as citizens. The procedures of the use of tapping devices in criminal cases, and in the cases of a threat to the national security must be delineated. The lack of such delineation creates opportunities to use the information gathered with wiretapping for political purposes," declare the MPs.

The deputies believe that a specialized institution to the use of tapping devices must be made part of the Justice Ministry, that new regulations for stricter control are needed.

"In the case with tapping Mr. Tanov's phones, the flaws of the entire mechanism of the use of special surveillance devices in Bulgaria are visible. The law enforcement authorities are directly responsible for all these flaws," state the MPs urging the heads of the judicial and executive institutions to come up with new legal rules to fix the situation.

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Tags: Vanyo Tanov, Tapegate, tapping tapped, taped, wiretapping, MPs, special surveillance devices


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