A month ago, Bivol issued a grim forecast that “Dunes Gate” will end badly … for the dunes, the rule of law, the state. And that the mafia will win. And so it happened.
Today, the site Flagman.bg reported that bulldozers of SLE Group have invaded again the land plot near the sea, after the company won a lawsuit against the state in the Administrative Court in Burgas.
While we were fighting to rescue Strandza, mafia associates, characters who will be remembered for their heinous nicknames, quietly won – Tsetso Kumetso (nickname of the best man of former Interior Minister in the government of the party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), Tsvetan Tsvetanov – editor’s note), Tiholov (architect Kalin Tiholov, who was briefly Minister of Investment Planning in the current socialist-led government before being dismissed amidst public resistance – editor’s note) Fassa (nickname meaning “cigarette butt” of former GERB MP Emil Dimitrov, who left the party after a falling-out with Tsvetanov; he is known for having major dealings in the cigarette and forestry business – editor’s note), the Carrion (nickname of former Agriculture Minister in the GERB government, Miroslav Naydenov – editor’s note).
“Dunes Gate” is a prime example of political hypocrisy, lies and the uniform core of the past and present governments.
Orders to stop construction, announced in the midst of the scandal, were set so as to be lost in court. And this is now a fact.
Corroborations of former Burgas ecologist Boycho Georgiev, actions of the Deputy Agriculture Minister (who was signing documents because someone brought them for signature), the lies of the Carrion, the appropriation of state land by Fassa …. – NONE OF THIS WAS EVER PROSECUTED!
TODAY WE ASK CHIEF PROSECUTOR SOTIR TSATSAROV – WHY? WHOM IS BULGARIA’S PROSECUTION SERVING – THE INTERESTS OF THE STATE OR CRIMINALS IN POWER?
Where is the Regional Directorate for National Construction Control; where is the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Waters; why isn’t there a new order banning construction on the dunes?
The story of the “Dunes Gate” scandal
On December 30, 2012, Bivol published its article “Ugly Corruption: GERB Directly Sells Public Lands on the Cheap,” which gave birth to “Dunes Gate.” The journalistic investigation was prompted by pictures of bulldozers plowing dunes, posted the previous day on the Facebook profile of environmentalist Toma Belev.
Bivol revealed that the land in a protected area was sold by the state for 581 thousand levs and was resold the next day at a cost of 4 million levs to the company “SLE Group.”
The scandal shook the government so much that on December 31, Minister Naydenov convened a press conference to explain that the price included the fee for the exclusion of the land from the forest fund, which is absurd. Naydenov lied that these procedures for distribution of land by the sea for pennies dated from the time of the Triple Coalition and GERB had nothing to do with them. Instead of pinning the scandal, Naydenov’s botched justification sparked it even more. Revelations about abuses continued without a break throughout the month of January. It became clear that the sale of the dunes in Nessebar was not an accidental act, but a well-developed and organized system of public plundering, launched by the Triple Coalition government, but continued, deepened and finalized by GERB. The scheme exposed affiliations of the company “SLE Group” with the Deputy Chairman of GERB, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Tsvetan Tsvetanov. The topic gained publicity as “Tsetso and Kumetso” (Tsvetanov and His Best Man – editor’s note).
Bivol’s investigations showed that everything worked as a well-oiled machine for the benefit of people associated with the power now and then. For these investigations, the site received an environmental award from Foundation “Biodiversity.”
Did “Dunes Gate” rescue the last undeveloped, wild dunes and beaches?
It is a fact that procedures of the type “Dunes Gate” were suspended only due to publications of Bivol about the specific parameters of the deal to sell 29 decares of dunes between Nessebar and Ravda. The signing and the finalization of other sales of land plots from the state forest fund near the sea has been literally a matter of hours. The deals were not inked because the scandal with the dunes gained explosive popularity.
“Dunes Gate” also unlocked interest in old cases such as construction on the beaches Coral and Irakli. Eventually, all this led to a temporary moratorium on construction, voted in July 2013, and the Ministry of Environment and Waters was given a one-year deadline to prepare a proposal for the protected area National Park “Bulgarian Black Sea Coast,” including the beaches “Irakli,” “Karadere,” “Kamchiya-Shkorpilovtzi,” “Durankulak – St. Anna,” “Krapetz,” “Shabla Lakes,” “Coral,” “Arcutino,” “Dunes” and Maslen Nos (the coast and the beaches between “Perla” and the natural reserve “Ropotamo”).
Indeed, amendments to the Acts for Territorial Development, the Development of the Black Sea Coast, for Forestry, and for Preserving Agricultural Lands were adopted, with texts prohibiting construction on dunes and their sale, but with many exceptions. Some of the planned changes in the Act for the Development of the Black Sea Coast give reason to conclude that the new Triple Coalition is going to revive the most evil practices in the total destruction of the last remaining wild places along our coast, still untouched by concrete. If the planned changes pass, they will legitimize the currently-existing illegal construction on the coast and will reinvigorate the oligarchy to occupy lands and construct for the purpose of specula on the Bulgarian coast, dooming the country to be the tourist ghetto of Europe. Moreover, nearly six months after the announcement of the launch of the National Program “Black Sea,” it is not clear whether this task is assigned at all.
As usual, as early as the moratorium, the country’s rulers left a loophole “for building infrastructure facilities of local and national significance,” which bodes new collisions. Let’s not forget that the infamous GERB MP Emil Dimitrov (Fassa) attempted to acquire land from the forest fund under the scheme “Dunes Gate” and changed its purpose on grounds of an existing “hydrologic facility.” This was actually an illegally built pool.
At the same time, the new rule of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) made an effort to recruit the mastermind of “Dunes Gate,” Architect Kalin Tiholov as Minister of Investment Planning. After public resistance, Tiholov was replaced by his colleague from the University for Architecture and Construction, Ivan Danov, notoriously known as the “French Unemployed” for having drained the social welfare system in France. At the end of November this year, Danov directly revealed his intentions by stating that the dunes were too many and interfered with construction. He also tried to exonerate his friend Kalin Tiholov in the affair “Dunes Gate,” despite the existence of incriminating documents – https://bivol.bg/danov-frenski-bezraboten-rila.html. All this does not bode well for the future protected area project, which should have tamed once and for ever the appetites for construction on the last virgin spots of the otherwise covered with concrete Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
The Prosecution with eyes wide shut
In the case “Dunes Gate,” the actions of the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office are particularly indicative as it fully closed its eyes for the violations of the central government in the criminal underestimation of prices of state land and for the origins of money of the young people from “SLE Group,” who became millionaires in just months. Charges were pressed only against local “dignitaries”; completely innocent people were fired, and the most vocal corruption perpetrators kept their posts.
The prosecution did not investigate the scandalous revelation of Deputy Agriculture Minister Boyanova that she “was signing documents because someone brought them for signature.” The question of WHO was bringing these documents for signatures was asked full force even then. Who is this backstage power that disposes of state land as it was inheritance from his or her father, lugging documents for signatures around the ministries? How come a senior civil servant did not know what she signed and is this person at all responsible for signatures detrimental to public interest?
Bivol has reported that “the bearer of documents for signature” is a very thick and heavily-hated in Bulgarian society cover up, standing behind the millions of property-nouveaux-riche such as Lachezar Bogdanov and Stanimir Stoyanov from “SLE Group.” The capital of these enterprising young people is well hidden in the Dutch offshore islands under the known pattern.
Yet, another loophole in our criminal law emerged from “Dunes Gate.” It turns out that there is no sanction under the Penal Code for those who build arbitrarily in a forest. There are sanctions for agricultural lands and pastures, but not for forests. This conscious or not “loophole,” in reality enables some, such as Fassa’s mother, to not be held liable for the illegal swimming pools, the tennis court and the establishments around her hotel.
Art. 323a. (New – State Gazette (SG), issue 27 of 1973, amended, issue 28 of 1982, corrected issue 31 of 1982, amended – SG, issue 75 of 2006, effective October 13, 2006) (1) Any person who constructs a building on arable land, agricultural land or pasture without having the right to do so, shall be punished with imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of one thousand to three thousand levs.
In Bulgarian mentality such legal standards are pure invitation for robbery. That is why the prosecution did not hold accountable the company of Emil Dimitrov for appropriating land from the forest fund, on which it has built a swimming pool and a bar, declared as pastry shop. Anyone can go in the state forest, build a house or a pool and use them wholeheartedly, while the sluggish State Construction Control pushes the demolition procedure to end.
Bivol calls upon Bulgarian MPs to cause the closing of this legislative gap that serves only major criminal interests.
In land swaps and in “Dunes Gate” – -the root of evil is the land appraisals
Manipulated appraisals of state land are a key mechanism for enriching the right people at the expense of the state through land swaps and purchases at non-market prices. In the scheme “Dunes Gate,” prices of directly sold lands are artificially lowered much below market ones. But there is another scheme, where land prices are artificially increased. It fully came to light in the scandal with the swap of Bro Sali in Samokov – a meadow, purchased for the price of 19 cents per square meter, was swapped for urban property in regulation, after a certified appraiser increased the price hundred times. Bro Sali, himself, revealed that there are many other similar swaps locally and voiced outrage that he alone is in the media focus.
Appraisals were the top “swaps” instrument of the Triple Coalition, for which Bulgaria is in the EC’s crosshairs, but which the government of GERB never annulled.
In all these cases, the biggest absentee is the Prosecution, which keeps silent rather than investigating and pressing charges to ultimately lead to the court returning in the budget losses from unprofitable deals. It is advantageous for someone to have schemes for plundering public land above the law and to “keep them alive” through convenient loopholes. Here we should recall that the wife of the very Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, who is a notary public, has used schemes with declaring concocted property prices. After Bivols’ revelation in December 2012, the future Chief Prosecutor announced that he saw nothing wrong with manipulating prices that hurt the budget.
So, the judicial system in Bulgaria remains permanently in the “Twilight Zone,” playing a role not to protect the law and the interests of the state and its citizens, but of providing cover up for the merge between power and mafia. The latest report of the European Commission confirmed this analysis.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian