Specialized Criminal Court Acquits Businessman Prokopiev, Former Ministers Djankov, Traikov in Trial for Privatization of State-owned Stake in EVN Electricity Distributor
Sofia, June 28 (BTA) - The Specialized Criminal Court acquitted here on Sunday businessman Ivo Prokopiev and former ministers in Boyko Borissov's first cabinet Simeon Djankov (finance) and Traicho Traikov (economy) in a trial for the privatization of a 33 per cent State-owned minority stake in the EVN electricity distribution company.
The defendants were charged with causing the Exchequer detriment through the underpriced sale in May-June 2011 of a 33 per cent residual State-owned minority shareholding in the EVN electricity distribution company. The share sale was handled by Prokopiev's Bulbrokers firm, which appraised the block and acted as an intermediary for both the seller (the Privatization Agency) and the buyer (EVN Austria).
Also acquitted were the other three defendants - Radoslav Rachev, Lyubomir Evstatiev and Peter Vassilev from the Bulbrokers firm.
The court's ruling is not final and the prosecution will protest it, supervising prosecutor Emil Petrov said. Noting that no detailed reasoning is available for the court ruling, Petrov declined further comment. "It ain't over till it's over," he observed.
Traikov said the ruling came as no surprise to him. He added: "I was very impressed by the way the judge explained his decision - not just the boldness and the dignity of proclaiming such a decision at this stage, but also the reasons he put behind it."
Prokopiev commented: "It has been clear from the very beginning that this is an absurd trial for a non-existent crime, with no facts and no evidence provided. It was all meant to harass specific individuals." He thanked the court for its ruling.
A number of international media and journalism organizations have voiced concern over the trial against Economedia Group owner Ivo Prokopiev. Positions on the matter were issued by the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), among others.
In a position issued on Friday and signed by its CEO Vincent Peyregne, WAN-IFRA expressed its concerns over suspicions of political interference in the prosecution of Ivo Prokopiev. "The haste of the judicial authorities in a court case against Bulgarian media owner and businessman Ivo Prokopiev gives rise to fears of a new instance of political intimidation of the independent Bulgarian press. It sheds light, once again, on the steady erosion of independence and pluralism of Bulgaria's media over the past fifteen years, and a disturbing lack of scrutiny on media issues from EU's authorities," the position says.
The Association of European Journalists (AEJ) said it is "urgently concerned about the questionable conduct of legal proceedings" in the court case against Bulgarian media owner and businessman Ivo Prokopiev, which "could lead to a criminal conviction and to his being sentenced to a prison sentence on unsound and tenuous grounds".
The AEJ stated that "the consequences of the verdict in this case could be severely damaging for media freedom in Bulgaria". "Despite the fact that trial is not directly related to Mr Prokopiev's Economedia group, which includes Capital Weekly and Dnevnik.bg, there are serious concerns that a major reason for bringing charges against Mr Prokopiev is the investigative work and critical stance of those media towards the government," reads a statement published by the Association on its website Thursday.
OSCE representative for media freedom Harlem Desir tweeted that he is closely following the criminal procedures against Prokopiev, publisher of CapitalBg and Dnevnik, "known as sources of independent and quality journalism in Bulgaria. Pluralism and freedom of the media must be preserved and respected". MY/VE//