Sofia City Court Head Spared All-Out Conflict of Interest Probe

Domestic | June 16, 2011, Thursday // 19:24|  views

Vladimira Yaneva, the newly elected chair of the Sofia City Court, will be spared the most drastic inspections over conflict of interest doubts, Bulgaria's Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) decided Thursday.

The new development comes just two days after the Ethics Commission at Bulgaria's Supreme Judicial Council, VSS, decided Tuesday to ask the Judicial Inspectorate to conduct an audit of judge Vladimira Yaneva, and after on Monday Justice Minister, Margarita Popova insisted that VSS probes information Yaneva has committed conflict of interests.

These moves were triggered by media reports the new Court Head failed to declare several properties and likely committed conflict of interests by attempting to halt a legal case that could implicate her father in murky real estate deals.

Suspicions of conflict of interests stem from deals concluded with the notorious municipal company "Sofiyski Imoti" (Sofia Properties).

The probe of Yaneva was supposed to be assigned to the Inspectorate at the VSS Thursday meeting. However, instead of an all-out probe on three counts, Yaneva will be probed only for allegedly having delayed unlawfully a property trial. The probe will be conducted by the Inspectorate of the Judiciary.

On Thursday, the head of the Supreme Court of Cassation Lazar Gruev did demand that Yaneva be probed on a count of having violated magistrates' ethics.

The head of the Ethics Commission of the VSS, however, Tsoni Tsonev, has dismissed this motion on the grounds that a relevant provision in the statutes of the body regarding magistrates' morality cited by Gruev should not be taken into consideration because it was intended for a past period when Bulgaria did not have a Conflict of Interest Act in place.

Tsonev referred Yaneva's case to a still non-existent body – a commission under the Conflict of Interest Act intended to prevent conflict of interest of senior state officials, whose members are appointed by the President, Cabinet, and Parliament. However, this commission does not exist yet even though it was supposed to start operating as of April 1. Part of the reason for the delay was the fact that the government appointed its last member only recently.

Even though the Supreme Judicial Council itself has a commission on conflict of interest, its chair Stefan Petrov has explained that it cannot launch a probe based solely on media publications. Judge Yaneva herself has submitted to the VSS a written explanation of the case with Sofiyiski Imoti (Sofia Properties), which could be used to start a probe but a decision on that will be made on Monday.

VSS refused to provide the Bulgarian media Thursday with Yaneva's letter which is expected to shed light on the fact why she did not withdraw from the trial for abuses in the municipally-owned property company from which she had earlier purchased two real estate properties on behalf of her father.

Bulgarian media have pointed to another dimension of the suspicious deal that Yaneva (who is also publicly known for being a family friend of Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov) is involved in.

She in fact bought two stores not on behalf of her father but as a representative of her father's firm "Yana-Yane Yanev", which is technically a commercial deal – a transaction in which magistrates are prohibited from participating.

However, there is no indication that the Supreme Judicial Council wants to probe this aspect of her involvement with Sofia Properties.

The property deals in question were made in May and June 2002, two months after Yaneva was appointed a Junior Judge at the Sofia City Court.

The Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) is the sole body which can rule on whether Yaneva has broken any laws.

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Tags: Vladimira Yaneva, Sofia Properties, Sofiyski Imoti, judge, judges, Supreme Judicial Council, VSS, Tsoni Tsonev, Lazar Gruev, conflict of interest


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