Vice President: Civil Confiscation in EU Was Inspired by Bulgaria

Bulgaria in EU | March 26, 2012, Monday // 15:11|  views

According to Vice President Margarita Popova, the proposal of the EC for a directive on the confiscation of criminal assets in the EU was inspired by Bulgaria and Ireland. Photo by BGNES

Bulgarian Vice President Margarita Popova has boasted that the recent proposal of the European Commission for a directive on the confiscation of criminal assets in the EU was inspired by Bulgaria and Ireland.

On March 12, the European Commission proposed a set of measures aimed at improving the EU legal framework for the confiscation of criminal assets.

The proposed regime included the so-called non-conviction based confiscation.

Speaking on Monday at the opening of a seminar in Brussels titled 'Improving criminal justice systems in Europe: the role of electronic instruments and efficiency indicators", Popova explained that she, in her capacity as Justice Minister, and her Irish counterpart, had had brought up the issue of confiscation of illegal assets before the Justice and Home Affairs Council two years ago.

"The instrument of confiscation, civil or criminal, is of particular importance for the efficiency of justice. EU Member States are free to decide how to incorporate the provisions in their national legislation and in which cases they will apply," she added.

The Vice President pointed out that the issue of international cooperation in the investigation of serious crime had gained extra importance in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

She noted that talks about the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor's Office were ongoing.

Popova specified that the idea was to formulate common European criteria in the investigation of heavy cross-border crimes such as money laundering, human trafficking and terrorism.

The Bulgarian Vice President argued that it would otherwise be impossible to achieve economic and social prosperity because corruption and the non-observance of rules were at the basis of the current crisis and the collapse of social and economic systems.

She explained that the idea to set up a European e-Justice Portal was Bulgarian, adding that the aim of the portal was to facilitate access to justice, to present proceedings in EU countries and to provide an opportunity for cooperation in serious cross-border cases.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov warned on Sunday that he would immediately file the resignation of his cabinet if the Parliament failed to adopt the law on the confiscation of illegally obtained assets as agreed with the EC.

On February 01, the Parliamentary Internal Security and Public Order Committee adopted at first reading a version of the illegal assets bill proposed by center-right party GERB.

GERB's version of the draft bill envisages a minimum threshold of BGN 250 000 of unexplained wealth for the launch of an investigation.

Another correction is the minimum period subject to investigation, which has been reduced to 10 years from the initial 25.

On February 16, the draft bill passed first reading, with oppositional parties vocing suspicions that it would be used for "witch hunting".

In the summer of 2011, the Parliament rejected the draft bill tabled by then-Justice Minister and current Vice President Margarita Popova, triggering fierce criticism in the EU and US, as well as suspicions of a set-up.

The draft bill, widely touted by the ruling party as a powerful tool in crime and corruption combat, initially provided that the Commission would have the right to probe  incomes and property acquisitions for a period of twenty-five years and seize assets without conviction.

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Tags: Margarita Popova, Justice Minister, justice and home affairs, confiscation of unexplained wealth, confiscation, illegal assets, GERB


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