2017 Saw Major Elections in the Judiciary
Sofia, December 30 (BTA) - A new Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), a new President of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) and a Director of the National Investigation Service were elected in 2017. Amendments to the Judicial System Act introduced the one magistrate, one vote system in the SJC's election.
President Rumen Radev returned the nomination of Georgi Cholakov as SAC President saying it might be a good idea to allow the new SJC to re-confirm the election. On October 19, the new SJC held a new vote on two shortlisted candidates for the office, Cholakov being one of them. He won that vote, too.
On December 6, all 11 members of the SJC's Prosecutors Chamber voted in favour of Borislav Sarafov's nomination for Director of the National Investigation Service. Previously Sarafov was deputy prosecutor general.
On November 15, the European Commission presented the 16th report on Bulgaria progress under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). It noted that significant progress had been achieved on the recommendations made in the Commission's report of January 2017 to help Bulgaria fulfil all CVM benchmarks.
2017 was marked by several high-profile cases. One of them, the trial for the failed Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank), did not take off the ground because one of the 18 defendants, the bank's majority shareholder Tzvetan Vassilev, was not duly summonsed. Over 100 charges are pressed in a 10,000-page indictment. On November 20, the Bulgarian Justice Ministry sent a letter rogatory to Serbia, requesting service of the summons on the defendant, but has not received a reply. Corpbank's trustees in bankruptcy are expected to lodge a civil claim for over 4,000 million leva.
The first case of a suicide terrorist bombing in Bulgaria's contemporary history is expected to start on January 17, 2018 after several failed attempts. The explosion killed the Bulgarian driver and five Israelis on a bus at Bourgas Sarafovo Airport on July 18, 2012.
The first corruption case entered the Specialized Criminal Court after several acts of Parliament were amended. Former deputy prime minister and finance minister Simeon Djankov, former economy and energy minister Traicho Traikov, Bulbrokers owner Ivo Prokopiev, and Peter Vassilev, Lyubomir Evstatiev and Radoslav Rachev of Bulbrokers are on trial in connection with the 2011 sale of a 33 per cent residual State-owned share in EVN Electricity Distribution and EVN Electricity Supply. The prosecution holds that the sale inflicted a 20-million-lev loss on the public purse. On December 21, 2011 the stake in the electricity distribution company was bought by its majority owner, EVN AG Austria, for over 90 million leva.
In December a working group with the Justice Ministry looked into a property dispute between the State and the heirs to King Ferdinand I and King Boris III and concluded that there were no legal grounds for the government to intervene.
The re-export of medicines which leads to a shortage on the domestic market was another problem which called for concerted action by the government and the judiciary. The prosecuting magistracy ordered the National Revenue Agency to audit 42 juristic persons and tasked the Bulgarian Drug Agency and the Medical Audit Agency to check 30 chemists and three hospitals after an illegal export ring was exposed. Seven persons were arrested for handling medicines for cancer, rheumatism, asthma, diabetes and other serious diseases. The medicines were reported as having been administered in hospitals or sold by pharmacies, but were actually re-packaged in a warehouse and exported.