Bulgaria’s anti-corruption body finds no wrongdoing in "Apartmentgate" probe

By bne IntelliNews June 24, 2019

Bulgaria’s anti-corruption commission found no irregularities in the acquisition of luxury property at much lower than market price by several top politicians and its own head, local media reported on June 24.

The scandal, dubbed Apartmentgate, cost the political careers of several top politicians from the ruling party, including Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s right hand man, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, and former justice minister Tsetska Tsatcheva.

However, the anti-corruption body now says its investigation found nothing illegal in the deals, news outlet Dnevnik reported.

The only exception concerns a property purchase by the wife of Supreme Court of Cassation head Lozan Panov, which the commission said needs further investigation. This will be referred it to the inspectorate of the Supreme Judicial Council.

This development has raised concerns as since the beginning many within Bulgaria saw the scandal as an opportunity for the prosecution to find a way to remove Panov from his position due to his apparent independence and refusal to serve those in power. Moreover, the report on Panev’s wife was not published by the same investigative media that revealed the property purchases by members of the ruling party and by the anti-corruption body’s head Plamen Georgiev, but appeared on a website belonging to media mogul and member of the ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) Delyan Peevski.

The Apartmentgate scandal broke in March when the independent investigative news outlet Bivol.bg along with Radio Free Europe and anti-corruption NGO Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) published information that Tsvetanov, an influential politician close to Borissov, had bought an extremely luxurious apartment in Sofia for less than 25% of its market price.

In the following days, the scandal spread as it was revealed that other top Gerb members, including Tsacheva, Deputy Minister of Sport Vanya Koleva, Deputy Energy Minister Georgi Parvanov and Vezhdi Rashidov, head of the parliament’s committee on culture and a former culture minister, had all acquired luxury apartments built by the same company, Artex Engineering, for well below market value.

Also in April, Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov ordered an investigation into the controversial acquisitions of property by Georgiev, Elisaveta Panova and the son of National Investigation Service director Borislav Sarafov.

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