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Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office Drops Graft Probe Into Former Ruling Party Official

Tsvetan Tsvetanov
Tsvetan Tsvetanov

The Bulgarian Prosecutor-General’s Office has terminated a 14-month investigation into how Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the former deputy chairman of the GERB ruling party, acquired a luxury apartment in the capital, Sofia.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office launched the investigation into the real-estate deal, known as Apartmentgate, after a series of RFE/RL reports in March 2019 documented how Tsvetanov obtained a new luxury apartment in Sofia in June 2018 from the Bulgarian construction firm Arteks in a cash-and-property-swap deal.

But more than a year later, the prosecution decided not to start pretrial proceedings, thus terminating the investigation and clearing Tsvetanov of any wrongdoing, according to a document from the Prosecutor-General’s Office, published late on May 27 on the website of the civil movement Fighter.

Despite repeated inquiries by RFE/RL over the past week about the course of the investigation, the Prosecutor-General’s Office refused to offer details until Fighter, whose complaint had triggered the investigation, obtained and published the decision.

RFE/RL's investigation last year found that Tsvetanov, widely considered to be the second most-powerful politician in the country after the GERB party leader, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, received the new apartment from Arteks at a price that was a quarter of its actual market value.

RFE/RL found that Tsvetanov gave Arteks 100,000 euros ($130,000) and two apartments in exchange for the luxury flat.

The decree terminating the investigation, dated May 18, concludes that "given the failure to establish any factual evidence of a criminal offense within the competence of the SP (specialized prosecutor's office), the office declines to initiate pretrial proceedings."

The ruling can be appealed to the Appellate Specialized Prosecutor's Office.

Follow-up reporting by RFE/RL and the news website revealed that at least three other members of the GERB party, including Justice Minister Tsetska Tsacheva, former Deputy Energy Minister Krasimir Parvanov, and Deputy Sports Minister Vanya Koleva, also purchased luxury apartments in the same area from Arteks at prices that were from 30 percent to more than 50 percent of their market value.

Following the reports, Tsacheva, Parvanov, and Koleva resigned on March 23, 2019, but maintained their innocence, as did Tsvetanov, who announced his resignation four days later as chairman of GERB’s parliamentary group. Tsvetanov also told journalists that he would give up his parliamentary seat.

On May 30, Tsvetanov was removed from the leadership of GERB.

But in June, Bulgaria's Anti-Corruption Commission, whose members had been elected by the GERB ruling coalition, said that a three-month investigation concluded there was no conflict of interest on the part of any officials from the ruling GERB-coalition when GERB lawmakers amended the country's construction code to the benefit of Arteks.

All four of the politicians involved in Apartmentgate bought property from Arteks after GERB deputies in January 2017 had amended Bulgaria's Construction Code in a way that allowed Arteks to continue building a 34-story luxury apartment tower in Sofia.

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