Bulgaria Ex Agriculture Fund Head Acquitted on All Counts

Crime | February 18, 2011, Friday // 15:46|  views

Asen Drumev argues his acquittal is a victory for Bulgaria. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's Supreme Court of Cassations declared on Friday the former CEO of the State Fund Agriculture, Asen Drumev, not guilty on all counts.

The ruling is final and is not subject to appeal.

In what was the first high-profile verdict of a public official, Asen Drumev was sentenced in March, 2010 to four years behind bars, charged with signing deals that were unfavorable for the fund, the state and the state budget, and embezzling BGN 48 M from the EU SAPARD program.

Drumev has continuously protested his innocence.

"I am innocent; I have not committed any crimes. I failed to grasp since the beginning what I have been accused of, and I still have no idea," Drumev told the magistrates after he was cleared by an appeals court at the end of last year.

He stated the verdict is victory for Bulgaria because if he was declared guilty, the country would have been forced to refund the EU for the alleged embezzled amount.

The blatant abuse of EU aid spurred Brussels to suspend or scrap hundreds of millions of euros' worth of development aid to Bulgaria in 2008, just a year after it joined the EU.

Prime Minister Borisov, himself a former karate black belt who made his name fighting corruption as mayor of Sofia, swept to power in 2009 on an anti-corruption mandate and on the promise to bring to justice such big fish as Drumev.

The trial has been keenly  watched both in Bulgaria and Brussels as a test of the government's efforts to clamp down on rampant corruption and organized crime.

This was an emblematic case at the center of the anti-corruption drive of Prime Minister Borisov, a key test of the cabinet's ability to rein in corruption and cope with the weak judiciary.

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Tags: EU, Bulgaria, Sofia Court of Appeals, Sofia City Court, Asen, Drumev, corruption, trial, State Agriculture Fund, embezzlement, SAPARD, Supreme Court of Cassations, State Fund Agriculture, CEO

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