Judge Vladimira Yaneva has met with Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov after learning about preparations for her removal because of the affair “Worms”, or as is her own expression – to be “finished”.
Tsatsarov immediately responded to the request for a meeting and heard the arguments of Yaneva, who was already under investigation. He told her he would “mask” her violations in issuing permits for the use of Special Surveillance Devices (SSD). But in the same conversation he admitted that Prime Minister Boyko Borisov was pushing him to “finish” her.
This emerges from a recording of a conversation between Vladimira Yaneva and judge Rumyana Chenalova. The conversation was held on the same day when Yaneva was removed from office – February 19, 2015. You can listen to the recording (in Bulgarian) here:
On the next day, February 20, Sotir Tsatsarov issued a statement that Yaneva was not the center of the scandal and not the only guilty person. He pointed out that the Head of the Sofia City Court (SCC) has been swamped with requests for SSD, but failed to consider that this was not in accordance with the law.
However, it becomes clear from Yaneva’s explanations in the recording that she knew very well what she was doing when she allowed the use of SSD beyond the established deadlines and when she met Tsatsarov, she had drafted a strong case in her defense.
So far, the published recordings tell the story of how the Prime Minister has pressured the Chief Prosecutor to “finish” Yaneva (see here). Borisov, on his part, has been pressured by “Tsetso” (most likely Tsvetan Tsvetanov, then Interior Minister from Borisov’s ruling party and Deputy Chairman of the same party – editor’s note). The Chair of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC), Georgi Kolev tried to mitigate the consequences for Yaneva, called Borisov, who did not pick up, and “conspired with the people” from the Supreme Judicial Council, SJC (see here).
Up to now, only Georgi Kolev has commented one the recordings and tried to downplay the scandal. “Two women are talking to each other … Excuse me, my name comes up in conversations all the time, constantly – I am sorry, but this is the situation,” he said last Thursday after the meeting of the SJC.
One of the two women, however, was Chairman of the most important Court in the country and issued permits for 5,000 SSD a year, while the other was presiding over key cases in the same Court, cases of the greatest commercial interests. Both judges are now defendants after a series of scandals in the SCC and the intervention of the French Ambassador.
There is no reaction so far of the SJC to the scandalous content of the recordings. In a similar case with leaked recordings that are not official SSD, the Council started disciplinary proceedings against the District Attorney of Haskovo, Ivan Vanchev, the Appellate Prosecutor of Burgas Emil Hristov and the former Deputy Chief Prosecutor and SJC member Kamen Sitnilski. The SJC Ethics Commission decided that the three violated the Code of Ethics of magistrates as publications citing the recordings were damaging for the image of the judiciary. The prosecution also launched proceedings against the participants in those conversations.
If what Yaneva says about her conversation with the Chief Prosecutor is confirmed, there is every reason to initiate disciplinary and criminal proceedings against Sotir Tsatsarov. The question is who would launch them if he does not resign? As is known, only God is above the Chief Prosecutor in the hierarchy and a change in this hierarchy is not envisaged under the current parameters of the proposed judicial reform.
The violations of the Code of Ethics of magistrates and the Penal Code, committed by Tsatsarov and Yaneva, are marked in the transcripts of the recordings:
VYA: So, I, uh, I called the Chief Prosecutor, and I met with the Chief Prosecutor. He reacted immediately, said to come in 10 minutes. With the Prosecutor we commented on the following point. He says: “What’s your opinion?” I tell him: “Look now.”
Code of Ethics of Bulgarian magistrates:
2.3. When there are pending proceedings, the magistrate cannot make public statements or comments through which to commit to the outcome of the case or give the impression of partiality and bias. He or she cannot discuss such proceedings outside Court hearings with other participants in them, lawyers or third parties, except in cases provided by law;
VYA: And I start telling him these things one by one. First I told him that I think that there is no problem with the duration cuz these are separate requests, there is a break, it is stopped, and a new term begins. There is no requirement in the law to have a term of 180 days for a “subject”. In one operational case or within one year, this requirement only pertains to persons; there is no single online registry; the subject has no legal definition; therefore the one who issues the permit can decide using their own discretion. And the methods to be applied are not included in the grounds for the request, which means that the applicant decides what methods to use. And I told him all the arguments.
Penal Code: Article 289 (amendment – State Gazette, issue 62 from 1997, issue 103 from 2004, effective as of January 1, 2005, issue 75 from 2006, issue 26 from 2010) Someone who entices an official from the investigating, prosecuting or judicial authorities to violate their official duty in connection with the administration of justice, shall be punished with imprisonment of one to six years.
VYA: He said: “Okay. Keep in mind, if necessary, we might question you as witness or your employee for information security”, and he said all these things. But, he said: “Keep in mind that Boyko called me, and told me to finish you. And I told him that I did not want to deal with crap. I do not want to make populist moves.”
Code of Ethics of Bulgarian magistrates:
1.2. The magistrate does not allow and is not susceptible to any external influence, pressure, threats, direct or indirect interference in their work, regardless of their source, cause or reason;
1.5. The magistrate is mandated to inform the judicial authorities and the public of any attempt to undermine their independence.
VYA: And I will try to mask things, so if there is any violation, it will look like you have been misled. As once, he said, (former prosecutor) Roman Vasilev, if you remember, has misled him with some SSD.
RCH: Ah, when he signed in Plovdiv.
Article 288 (amendment – State Gazette, issue 50 from 1995) An authority who fails to timely fulfill duties imposed by their term in office to persecute, or otherwise impedes such persecution in order to save another from a penalty that needs to be imposed on them by law, shall be punished with imprisonment of one to six years and banned from public office under article 37, paragraph 1, item 6.
Article 294 (1) (amendment – State Gazette, issue from 1997) Someone who helps a person that has committed a crime to evade or impede criminal proceedings or to go unpunished, without having agreed with this person before they committed the crime itself, shall be punished for harboring by imprisonment of up to five years, but by a punishment not more severe than the one for the harbored person.
(4) (New – amendment – State Gazette, issue 27 from 1997) If the perpetrator is a judge, prosecutor, investigator or police employee, or an investigating police officer, the punishment is imprisonment from two to eight years.
VYA: So, I leave quite unperturbed. So far so good. Then the Judges Union jumps in my favor against Boyko; then the SJC writes a declaration. Then Boyko, himself, softens and says: “I meant that everyone must take their own responsibility. Although I know her personally, she must take her own responsibility.” This is his second statement.
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