Bulgaria's Ex Defense Minister Cleared of Malfeasance Charges from 1999

Crime | June 1, 2012, Friday // 20:15|  views

Bulgaria's Defense Minister in 2008-2009 Nikolay Tsonev has been cleared of malfeasance charges for alleged crimes committed in 1999. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation has declared former Defense Minister Nikolay Tsonev not guilty on a count of criminal breach of trust dating back to 1999 when he was an employee at the Defense Ministry.

Tsonev has already been acquitted on the same count by the Sofia Appellate Court, after in In March 2011, the Sofia Military Court, the court of first instance, cleared Tsonev of accusations of official misconduct during his tenure as head of the Procurement Management Directorate at the Ministry of Defense.

Tsonev was charged with signing four damaging contracts for the supply of canned meat, pork, spare parts for trucks and Chavdar buses, Skoda car engines and aircraft equipment in 1999, thereby depriving the Ministry of Defense of over BGN 970 000 while ensuring profits for a number of private companies.

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Cassation ruled that the public procurement procedures in question were lawful, and that all but one of them started in 1998, even before Tsonev had become the chief of the Procurement Directorate.

There were a total of three cases against the former Minister, one of which was in Military Court and is now appealed before the Supreme Court of Cassations.

The lower-instance courts have already Nikolay Tsonev, on abuse of office charges, rejecting as unfounded the civil claim worth BGN 19 M on behalf of the Bulgarian Finance Ministry for property damage.

Nikolay Tsonev was accused that, as head of the Bulgarian military factories "Terem", he has violated the law by increasing the company's capital by over BGN 38 M. The move has deprived the State, as sole owner of "Terem," from BGN 19 M because instead of being divided as dividends, the profit had stayed within the company.

The Terem case is still in the hands of the Supreme Court of Cassation but Tsonev is expected to be acquitted there as well, according to observers.

In the third case, which is expected to end soon, Tsonev is standing trial on bribe charges.

Tsonev, who served as Bulgaria’s Defense Minister for a year in 2008-2009, Sofia City Court judge, Petar Santirov, and former Chief Secretary of the Finance Ministry, Tencho Popov have been charged with attempting to bribe investigator Petyo Petrov with EUR 20 000 to extract a positive outcome for Tsonev of an investigation against him.

Tsonev, who was part of the previous, Socialist-led coalition cabinet from the quota of former Tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg's party National Movement for Stability and Prosperity (NMSP), was arrested on April 1, 2010, in a much advertised police operation that generated strong public controversy.

The police operation, which was filmed and broadcast by the Interior Ministry, spurred a public outrage of police brutality as masked police officers made him kneel to the ground while Deputy Sofia City Prosecutor Roman Vasilev called him "an absolute criminal".

The Ethics Commission at Bulgaria's Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) later penalized Vasilev with a disciplinary reprimand for his inappropriate behavior during the arrest.

The former Defense Minister is suing the Bulgarian state in Strasbourg over the humiliation that he suffered during his police arrest.

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Tags: malfeasance, Defence Ministry, Nikolay Tsonev, Petar Santirov, Tencho Popov, arrest, Strasbourg court, Roman Vasilev, Sofia City Prosecutor, Military Appellate Court, Supreme Court of Cassations, Sofia Appellate Court, criminal breach of trust, TEREM


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