“KONPI did a lot of work.”
Prime minister Boyko Borisov’s words are from an interview for bTV in reply to the question whether he trusted the chairman of the Commission for Combating Corruption and the Withdrawal of Illegally Acquired Property (KPKONPI), Plamen Georgiev. In the course of the interview Borisov never replied to the question whether he trusted Georgiev.
But he pretended to answer in the positive. “More than 2 billion is the money KPKONPI has confiscated or seized,” the prime minister said, repeating one of Georgiev’s main praises. And then switched to the check-up conducted by the Sofia municipality which had established some minor problems about the terrace of KPKONPI’s chairman.
In truth, Borisov has no reason to be dissatisfied with the anti-corruption commission. But not because it is doing a good job. Just the opposite. Borisov can be and is satisfied, because KPKONPI is not doing what it is supposed to do by law. That is, to combat corruption, to establish such cases and hand over senior government officials to court. Under Plamen Georgiev, the commission has turned into an instrument for harassment of the government’s inconvenient opponents but also in an excellent laundry service for the incumbents’ image. It washes, softens and perfumes it.
Only a few days after Borisov praised the job KONPI did it emerged that the anti-corruption commission had edited and deleted data from the public declaration of agriculture minister Rumen Porozhanov. He came under the spotlight in connection with the scandalous program for subsidizing the construction of guest houses through the Agriculture Fund.
What is more, the data had been deleted at the request of the minister himself. The very fact that there can be declarations with deleted content in the otherwise public KPKONPI’s register makes the existence of the commission a comedy series.
But there is more than that. Less than a year ago KPKONPI cleaned up Rumen Porozhanov in another scandal. In May 2018 the commission terminated a corruption investigation launched on a tip-off against the minister of agriculture and replaced it with an investigation into a conflict of interest.
The decision was not even published on KPKONPI’s website but on the website of the already extinct Commission for Prevention and Ascertainment of Conflict of Interest.
The look of the announcement is even more absurd. On grounds that it contains personal data, not only Porozhanov’s name but a lot of single words have been deleted, which makes the decision difficult to understand. And virtually makes its publication useless.
The tip-off is a description of a classic scheme for siphoning off European funds. It alleges that in November 2017 two people offered consultancy services that guaranteed full subsidy and no following inspections. Not much is understood from the document but there is enough undeleted information to conclude that one of the two is Porozhanov’s son.
In the end KONPI neither checked the data, nor, as far as it is known, referred the tip-off to the prosecution. The minister of agriculture was literally cleaned up.
Cleaning up Peevski
But that is not an exception in the work of the commission. The first to have undergone its clean-up procedures is Movement for Rights and Freedoms’ MP and media oligarch Delyan Peevski. Shortly after KPKONPI was set up the commission received a tip-off from civil society organization BOETs against Delyan Peevski.
After a long silence on the results of the check-up, in October 2018 Plamen Georgiev announced in a TV interview that everything was OK.
“I can guarantee in person that there is not a single line about something illegal. That is evident from all the documents. The person investigated is one of the biggest taxpayers in the country,” Georgiev stated.
“Probably some people are not happy about that and make us look like we haven’t done our job. There is nothing illegal about him in the enormous volume of documents we have checked up and analyzed. I cannot see what else I can say about that case.”
Finally it turned out that the commission had investigated the MP by documents only and did not inquire into the matter in substance. It had requested all documents about check-ups conducted against him by the National Revenue Agency and the prosecutor’s office and saw that neither of the two institutions had established any violations, so that was sufficient for the commission to conclude that everything about Peevski was fine.
Tsvetanov, too, had a clean-up
Documents received from BOETs and published by Bivol show that GERB’s deputy chairman and former head of the parliamentary group Tsvetan Tsvetanov also used KONPI’s clean-up services. In 2013 the commission started an investigation against Tsvetanov, who was then in opposition. It was connected with a pre-litigation procedure against Tsvetan Tsvetanov initiated by the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office and his indictment on charges of obstruction of justices, on which he was later convicted in two instances and then acquitted.
However, the investigation was completed in 2015 when GERB was back in power after winning the election in the fall of 2014.
The check-up covered the period 2003-13 and during its course KONPI compared Tsvetan Tsvetanov and his wife’s incomes and expenses, as well as the property acquired.
The results showed that Tsvetanov’s family was 119,000 leva short. Since under the law KONPI can initiate proceedings for withdrawal of property when discrepancies above 250,000 leva are established, the check-up was simply terminated.
In the course of the procedure however one can see the officials’ desire to follow quite a conservative approach when evaluating the property of the investigated. Under the law KONPI has to use market prices when estimating acquired real estate. In Tsvetanov’s case, however, that was not exactly so.
The three examples show one thing: that KONPI takes great care to avoid circumstances that incriminate people in power. At the same time a number of “government enemies” have been subject to detailed check-ups by the commission.
The commission was set up in response to criticism against the government of GERB and Borisov that they were doing nothing to fight high-level corruption. But since its establishment it has failed to indict a high-level official. Unless we count the scandalous case of Mladost district former mayor Desislava Ivancheva in whose detention KPKONPI had a leading role.
At the same time there are more and more cases when the commission intentionally tries and manages to clean up the incumbents’ image. And that turns it into a power-cleaner that is absolutely unnecessary for the society.