As government hails the arrest for fraud of former PM Boyko Borissov, member of his former ruling GERB party accuse the authorities of conducting a political vendetta – and predict more arrests.

Bulgarian Politics Divided Over Former PM Borissov’s Arrest

Bulgaria’s former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov attends a press conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, 11 November 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV

Bulgaria’s Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev on Friday complained that he had not been informed about Thursday night’s arrest of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, over 556 million leva, equal to around 285 million euros, that allegedly went missing from the state budget. 

Along with Borissov, officers of the Bulgarian police arrested former Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov and Borissov’s GERB party’s spokeswoman, Sevdalina Arnaudova.. 

The arrests came right after the European Chief Prosecutor, Laura Kövesi met current PM Kiril Petkov in Sofia on March 16 to discuss more than 120 cases of alleged corruption and mismanagement of European funds.

The meeting reflected the new government’s clear wish to tackle Bulgaria’s reputation for corruption and sidestep the Bulgarian Prosecution and specifically Chief Prosecutor Geshev.

“Investigations by the European Prosecution are currently in place,“ PM Petkov said on Friday.

The government has long made it clear it wants to be rid of Prosecutor Geshev, seen as the protector of Borissov’s interests and legacy.

Finance Minister Vassilev disclosed on Friday also that authorities had worked on a tip-off  from exiled oligarch and former football boss Vassil Bozhkov, given in the summer of 2021.

Bozhkov became a vocal opponent of Borissov and his GERB party after his profitable lottery business was nationalized in early 2020.

His tip-off led the Public Financial Inspection Agency to collect evidence on 556 million leva that allegedly went missing under the watch of Borissov and Goranov.

On Friday, Vassilev claimed that the Prosecution under Geshev knew about the allegations against Borissov, but never probed them.

Menko Menkov, defence lawyer for Borissov, on Friday said the former PM had still not been questioned on the allegations and had overnighted in a cell.

Accusations of political ‘repression’

While government ministers applauded the arrests, members and supporters of Borissov’s former ruling GERB party condemned them as political, and as an act of repression.

“We have information that more arrests of former ministers are coming. We’re victims of a junta,” former Health Minister and GERB member Kostadin Angelov said on Friday.

Finance Minister Vassilev countered that the series of arrests and beatings of citizens during the 2020-2021 protests against the Borissov government was the real act of repression.

“I do not interfere in any way in the work of the law enforcement agencies. Justice has not prevailed until there is a court ruling,” President Rumen Radev, another known opponent of Borissov’s, said on Friday. 

Borissov and his GERB party dominated Bulgarian politics from 2008 to the November 2021 elections, which forced GERB into opposition.

Since then, under a new government, Borissov’s legacy has faced growing criticism. Last year, a commission was formed to investigate extortion claims; in 2020 and 2022, Borissov was mentioned in a money laundering scheme. He has denied wrongdoing.

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