site.btaUPDATED Parliament Adopts Conclusively New Counter-Corruption Act
Bulgaria's Parliament on Thursday passed conclusively a Counter-Corruption Bill tabled by GERB-UDF Floor Leader Desislava Atanasova and a group of MPs.
Under the Act, the existing Commission for Anti-Corruption and Criminal Assets Forfeiture (CACCAF) was split into two: a Criminal Assets Forfeiture Commission and an Anti-Corruption Commission. The legislation was backed by GERB-UDF, Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF).
The Anti-Corruption Commission personnel are now vested with new powers, in addition to searches of databases for public office holders, operational checks of the data collected and documenting these data, cross-checking of documents and taking statements from individuals.
From now on, this personnel will also be empowered to carry out surveillance, to enter and search premises and transport vehicles, and to take samples for comparative tests. Operational detection activities will also be carried out by marking sites and objects, operational identification, operational experiments, confidential transactions, controlled delivery and personal tracing, the MPs resolved.
Operational detection will be initiated in response to a counter-corruption alert or check on the basis of collected, analyzed and verified information in connection with reports on corrupt practices committed by public office holders. The results of operational detection will be reported to the competent directorate director who, on the basis of this report, will decide on further action. If there is reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed, the director will forward the report to the Bulgarian prosecution service or to the European Public Prosecutor's Office, whichever is competent to handle the case. If the report finds a discrepancy of at least BGN 25,000 in the assets as declared by a public office holder or a conflict of interest, the Criminal Assets Forfeiture Commission will be notified.
Under the hitherto effective law, a CACCAF check for ascertaining criminal assets was triggered by a discrepancy of at least BGN 20,000.
The National Assembly will elect the members of the new Anti-Corruption Commission within three months after the entry into force of the Act. Until the election of the new bodies' complements, the CACCAF members will perform the functions of members of the commissions concerned, and after the elections will continue their term in office as members of the Criminal Assets Forfeiture Commission.
The Anti-Corruption Act does not provide detailed provisions on the Criminal Assets Forfeiture Commission, which will be subject to a separate law. GERB floor leader Dessislava Atanassova told the press that her party is ready with the bill and will submit it to Parliament next week.
The Anti-Corruption Act will enter into force as from the day of its gazetting with the exception of amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code, which will enter into force as from March 1, 2024.
The conclusive passage of the Counter-Corruption Act in the debating chamber was met with ovation by the legislature.
In the corridors of Parliament, CC-DB Co-chair Kiril Petkov commented for the press that it has been a "very successful day because this law is Bulgaria's key to Schengen". "This law is also Bulgaria's key to a 3% deficit and, above all, this law is the key to the real fight against corruption. The law is synchronized with EC representatives and was a key requirement from the Netherlands. Not only did they want it to be passed, they wanted it to be passed in a way that they believed would work. In fact, today we have shown our European partners that we do not pass laws to tick legislation, but we make laws that really have a chance of making the fight against corruption institutional", he added.
Delyan Peevski MP of MRF said: "We have adopted the best version of this law. The new anti-corruption commission will have a changed structure of three governors, an extremely independent director with great powers, which will allow it to refer cases to both the Bulgarian and the European prosecution service. This shows that there will be an independent person who will not select the signals. I hope that this body will work well, but time will tell."