Bulgaria Interior Minister Sends Mixed Signals about Judiciary

Domestic | February 2, 2012, Thursday // 14:17|  views

Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov has admitted that there are many honest magistrates in Bulgaria, but there are also many patent failures committed by the system. Photo by BGNES

Speaking at a seminar on combating corruption, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov has yet again sent mixed signals about the work of the judiciary.

In his Thursday statement, Tsvetanov said that there were many honest magistrates, but there were also many examples which pointed to a poorly done job.

The Interior Minister assured that his words were aimed at sharing existing problems, rather than picking arguments with the judiciary.

"I hold talks with many prosecutors and judges on a daily basis. I see many honest representatives of the judiciary and I can assure you that our cooperation is rooted in the rule of law and the interests of the community," Tsvetanov stated.

The Interior Minister went on to list several examples of failures on the part of magistrates.

Tsvetanov cited the case of Marin Stoyanov, who had masterminded a EUR 270 000 fraud scheme and had been released on a BGN 500 bail by the court of second instance.

"A verbal note from Germany and the German Ambassador to Bulgaria followed, drawing attention to the double standards of the judiciary," Tsvetanov added.

He went on to mention a theft and a rape of two girls committed in 1998, where the investigation lasted four years, while the years between 2003 and 2007 had resulted in 23 court sessions and no final decision.

As a result, the 15-year statute of limitations for the theft charges had expired.

"Can you imagine what this family believes about the judicial system, about what we are supposed to be doing together," Tsvetanov exclaimed.

The Interior Minister also spoke about a BGN 16 M VAT fraud which ended in a suspended sentence, despite the presence of sufficient incriminating evidence acknowledged by the court.

Tsvetanov argued that the establishment of the specialized criminal court was a positive development and voiced hopes that it would propel landmark corruption cases forward.

He said that he had agreed with Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev on the importance of continuity in the good cooperation between the Interior Ministry, the prosecution, the State Agency for National Security (DANS) and the National Revenue Agency (NRA).

Tsvetanov further specified that he had never leveled personal accusations against Miroslava Todorova or implied that she ought to be subjected to an investigation.

"This is a possible hypothesis which anybody could have come up with on the basis of the large number of cases involving organized crime," Tsvetanov explained.

In a series of media appearances two weeks ago, Tsvetanov claimed that Todorova, a judge at the Sofia City Court and Chair of the Bulgarian Judges Association (BJA), was incompetent in doing her job and was patronizing organized crime.

He argued that she had delayed the issuing of written motives for verdicts against high-profile criminals, including drug lord Vasil Manikatov.

Todorova countered the accusations by saying that the delay had not allowed anybody to evade justice because the offender had been behind bars during the period.

She further threatened to file a libel lawsuit against the Interior Minister.

Tsvetanov's accusations caused the indignation of three former BJA Chairs, who insisted that the Chief Prosecutor check the credibility of the Interior Minister's assertions or else hold him accountable for malfeasance.

On Thursday, Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev made it clear that the prosecution would not examine Tsvetanov's controversial allegations.

Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov against Miroslava Todorova, a judge at the Sofia City Court and Chair of the Bulgarian Judges Association.

"The prosecution checks facts and you are asking me to comment on statements. If the police have information about a crime, they submit it to the prosecuting authority. If this is all about evaluations, please stop bothering me about it," Velchev told journalists.

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Tags: Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, judiciary, Miroslava Todorova, Bulgarian Judges Association, corruption, Sofia City Court, Chief Prosecutor, Boris Velchev, organized crime, VAT fraud, suspended sentence, bail, German Ambassador, Germany


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