Sofia Courts Brussels with Illegal Assets Confiscation Law

Views on BG | May 4, 2012, Friday // 15:34|  views

The jail sentence of the notorious 'Galevi brothers', known as "the owners of the first private city in Bulgaria", is just yet another sign of Bulgaria’s effort to win the confidence of Brussels, according to EurActiv. Photo by BGNES


Bulgaria passed a new law yesterday night (3 May) allowing the treasury to confiscate private assets that cannot be validated by a legal source of income. The measure marks a further step in the country's attempt to win the EU's confidence in its judiciary system.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov dramatically thanked Bulgarian MPs for backing the law, saying his government would have resigned if Parliament had not voted the bill.

The controversial asset confiscation law was adopted following several sessions and 40 hours of debate. Several amendments were introduced to the initial text. The new law will enter into force in six months time.

The law allows the confiscation of illegally acquired assets without an effective court sentence. The procedure can be launched only against people charged with serious crimes such as terrorism, organised crime, pimping and tax evasion, among others.

The law will apply retro-actively for a period of 10 years and will apply when a minimum discrepancy of ?125,000 can be noticed between declared income and property acquisitions.

Some critics have pointed out that the 10-year retro-active period was too short, as the country's biggest assets have been privatised, often under controversial circumstances, in the 1990s.

The law was opposed by the opposition Socialists Party (BSP) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), whose voters are part of the Turkish ethnic minority in Bulgaria. Both BSP and DPS claim that the law will be used to put pressure on those critical to the government of Boyko Borissov.

"Every Bulgarian citizen who had illegally acquired any asset will have this asset confiscated. This is what common folk want and what we passed. We are in power today, but others will come after us and this law will still be in place," the Prime Minister said.

Winning EU confidence

The confiscation bill marks an important new step in Bulgaria's attempt to win the EU's confidence over the reliability of its judicial system, which is currently under scrutiny because of concerns over organised crime and corruption (see background).

The European Commission recently published a legislative proposal to strengthen the EU's tools for freezing, managing and confiscating assets from organised crime and mafia across the EU.

Cecilia Malmstr?m, the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner, indicated on that occasion that the new initiative was not related to the EU's existing judicial scrutiny system on Bulgaria and Romania (see background). Both Sofia and Bucharest hope to convince the Commission to end the monitoring by the summer.

Many ambassadors from EU countries attended the debates preceding the vote, the Bulgarian press wrote.

Another sign of the effort to win the confidence of Brussels appears to be the effective sentencing yesterday to five years of jail of two prominent criminals - the notorious 'Galevi brothers', known as "the owners of the first private city in Bulgaria" – Dupnitsa, 60 kilometers south of Sofia.

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Tags: Commission for Establishing of Property Acquired from Criminal Activity, Boyko Borisov, government, center-right, Margarita Popova, venice commission, assets, confiscation, wealth, illegal, Bulgaria, Bulgarian, confiscation bill, resign, resignation, parliament, Boyko Borisov, Prime Minister, PM, Blue Coalition, RZS, GERB, corruption, crime, Council of Europe


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