Svetoslav TodorovSofiaBIRNMay 31, 202316:17The GERB leader’s former ally, Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev, has suddenly activated the Prosecution to look into an alleged money laundering scheme involving the ex-PM known as ‘Barcelonagate’.
GERB leader Boyko Borissov speaks at a-post-election press conference in Sofia, 5 April 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV
GERB party leader and ex-PM Boyko Borissov on Wednesday denied long-standing allegations of taking part in a money-laundering scheme in Spain after Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev on Tuesday demanded he give up his political immunity.
The prosecution says there is now incriminating evidence that Bulgaria’s PM for much of the time from 2009 to 2021 provided third parties with funds – acquired from crime – to purchase and rent real estate abroad.
“I have not had, do not have and do not plan, to have any property in Spain,” said Borissov who since coming first in inconclusive general elections on April 2, has sided with his former opponents in “We Continue the Change” WCC and its allies Democratic Bulgaria on plans for judicial reform, which would see the ousting of Geshev; his removal has long been sought by GERB’s opponents as a guarantee before any possible collaboration.
Under Geshev, the prosecution was hitherto passive about the allegations swirling around Borissov, but he has now activated the institution against the GERB leader.
In recent statements, Borissov hinted at possible vengeful motives, pointing out that the prosecution took no move against him when he had no political immunity from 2021 to the recent elections in April.
In 2020, when Spanish media investigated the so-called “Barcelonagate” case, the prosecution did not act. The case has been mentioned in the Bulgarian media as early as 2016.
On Wednesday, former Miss Bulgaria 2001 Ivayla Bakalova and former Lukoil director Valentin Zlatev were brought as witnesses and were questioned in the Sofia Prosecutor’s Office on the case. “The prosecution long slept on the case, I’m glad it woke up,” Bakalova told the media.
The development is part of a dynamic change in Bulgaria’s political landscape, and is happening just as GERB/United Democratic Forces and opponents in the WCC/Democratic Bulgaria engage in tense negotiations on a joint cabinet to end Bulgaria’s political stalemate – which saw five general elections in two years.
“The grand goal of all of this is for the [joint] government not to happen,” Borissov commented on Wednesday, claiming he had not seen Bakalova “for decades”.
More names from the Bulgarian political scene might be mentioned in relation to “Barcelonagate”.
In January last year, the assets of media mogul and Movement for Rights and Freedoms MP Delyan Peevski were revised by the National Revenue Agency in relation to the case, but with no substantial findings.
Peevsky was one of the politicians mentioned in the Pandora Papers, and was designated in the Magnitsky sanctions against Bulgaria in 2021 and by the UK government in 2023.
In the meantime, parliament’s relationship with President Rumen Radev is worsening. Radev is seen as an obstacle to the formation of a stable government, as that would end his series of interim cabinets through which he has increased his influence in the last two years.
Radev called the current government-forming mandate, given to the WCC, “compromised”, after an audio leak created speculation that its leaders, Kiril Petkov and Assen Vassilev, are coordinating moves with the US and the EU – which their opponents call treasonous. The President has not commented on the Prosecution’s actions against Borissov.
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