“Petko Arnaudov is an engineer with a Forestry Degree from the Forestry University of Sofia with over 17 years of experience in the industry. In his many years of work, he has held almost every position in the forestry hierarchy… there are no pre-trial proceedings against Arnaudov and he has not been convicted for offenses. Relevant documents have been provided that prove this,” this is how the Ministry of Agriculture and Food motivated on August 21 keeping the controversial former mayor at the post of Head of the Forestry in Tsarevo. This happened a week after Minister Dimitar Grekov personally and publicly announced that the appointment of Arnaudov will be reviewed in order to avoid social tensions.
It is not clear what documents were presented, and by whom, to obtain this indulgence from the Agriculture Ministry for Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, activist Petko Arnaudov, but it is a fact that at that time pre-trial proceedings for an offense under Article 282 § 1 of the Penal Code (criminal breach of trust of a public official) were still ongoing against Arnaudov. They were launched on April 23, 2012.
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The pre-trial proceedings were not terminated until October 10, 2013, by Yordanka Dacheva, prosecutor from the Burgas District Prosecutor’s Office.
We are talking about the famous case of the sale in 2002 of 130 decares of municipal land to a private company linked to the current Mayor of Burgas Dimitar Nikolov (GERB). The company “Vitatur” bought the land at a low price – $7 / per square meter against pledged investments. After it acquired the land, “Vitatur” forgot about the investments and resold it several years later at huge profits.
The terminated pre-trial proceedings represent the third denial of Burgas prosecutors to lead to logical end the investigation of this deal, which is landmark for the transition period, and to prosecute the former mayor of Tsarevo. In the first two probes, Burgas prosecutors also exonerated the mayor and thoroughly missed the most important moments in the incriminating information submitted by Bivol journalists, who investigated the deal “Coral.” There was a directive of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassations, VKP, to renew the probe and to carefully investigate all circumstances.
The pre-trial proceedings were launched namely over VKP’s instructions, but after the Socialists returned to power, these proceedings were again closed with all so-familiar motives. As it emerged, they were even concealed in order to not endanger the Socialists darling’s pending appointment as Head of the Forestry in Tsarevo.
The Deal “Coral” – Symbol of the Criminal Plundering of Public Resource
Huge profits for the circles associated with Burgas Mayor Dimitar Nikolov have been made possible because as mayor, Petko Arnaudov failed to follow the decision of the Municipal Council to include termination clauses in the contracts for the deal, in case the pledged investments are not realized. Instead, Arnaudov and the legal advisor of Tsarevo municipality, Evgeni Mossinov (now head of BSP in Burgas) included in the contract just some penalties.
The decision of the municipal council was to treat the failure to adhere to the conditions in the contract as grounds for its termination.
The contracts concluded by Arnaudov have NO termination clause for non-delivery of the investment plan. They include only penalties.
In 2006, Vitatur quietly paid 261,000 levs in penalties to the municipality, as the pre-trial proceedings established. Then, through related companies, the company began selling the land at prices from 200 to 400 euros, showed an earlier investigation of Asen Yordanov and Atanas Tchobanov, published in Mediapool. Ultimately, circles around Dimitar Nikolov earned about 40 million euros from the resale of the municipal land.
And this is quite alright for the prosecution. There is not a single word in the decision to terminate the proceedings about Arnaudov’s fundamental violation – failing to include a resolution of the Municipal Council in the contracts. It allowed “Vitatur” to pay a ridiculous penalty and sell the land with a profit at a rate of thousands of percentage points, which the prosecution explained with “increased market prices during the time period between the two transactions.”
As one can see from the text of the decree of prosecutor Dacheva, it is ornate in the style of a defense attorney plea to protect the guilty official. The decree may be appealed before the Burgas Court, which we will do. The court hearings will be open to the media and Bivol will promptly inform about the scheduling of the case.
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