The new President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, has refused public access to the infamous “CCB Transcript”. The refusal has been formalized in an official response under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA). It was enacted on 26 January, and on February 1, the editor-in-chief of Bivol, Atanas Tchobanov, submitted a complaint against Radev on behalf of the media.
“The CCB Transcript”, pertaining to the transcript from a meeting, back on June 29, 2014, on the collapsed private lender Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) with the participation of now-former President Rosen Plevneliev, has been requested twice under the APIA – first by citizen Stefan Stoykov and the second time by the former head of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Mihail Mikov. Plevneliev has refused both times on grounds of classified information overriding public interest.
According to information leaked to the media, at this meeting it was decided to deliberately let CCB fail; there were discussions on measures to rescue another private lender – First Investment Bank (FIB) – and on a proposal by politicians for a “bank holiday”, i.e. bringing the banking system to a standstill, blockage of the entire country, huge damages to businesses and an unprecedented looting of assets.
In the last days of Plevneliev’s term in office, Bivol’s editorial team requested for the third time access to the transcript under the APIA. The request was filed on January 16, 2017, therefore, Plevneliev was given one last chance to reconsider his decision, but he failed to take advantage. The new President, in turn, has demonstrated continuity. Literally three days after Radev was sworn and delivered a speech filled with loud promises of justice and uncompromising struggle against corruption, we received a formal refusal by his Chief of Staff, Dimitar Stoyanov, on the exact same absurd grounds that have been touted ever since.
Until now, the presidential refusal to declassify of “The CCB Transcript” has not been challenged. Bivol is ending this tradition by filing a complaint in the Sofia Administrative Court.
In the complaint, our lawyer states that the refusal is unlawful, as it recognizes that the requested information is public; its availability and overriding public interest are not denied. The only ground for the refusal is that the said information contains a professional secret within the meaning of Article 63 Paragraph 1 of the Credit Institutions Act (CIA) and therefore could not be released. Our claim notes that a professional secret is not classified information and only people from the central bank and banking supervision have the obligation to protect such secret.
Radev: “I am refusing, but give me some time to become acquainted”
A few days after his refusal, on January 30, Rumen Radev admitted to the correspondent of the site ClubZ in Brussels, Veselin Zhelev, that he had not read the transcript. He asked for “some time” to examine it and decide whether to provide it, citing being in an unprecedented situation over having to appoint a caretaker government in his first days at the post.
“You have waited for years for this transcript. You can wait a little longer,” said Radev.
A lot is at stake with this transcript as it could unveil the perpetrators of a crime that robbed five billion levs from Bulgarian taxpayers or reveal that not one but as many as ten Bulgarian banks are in crisis. It could provide answers whether any foreign diplomatic missions or persons have been involved in the liquidation of CCB and on the motivation of former President Plevneliev to classify this transcript and stubbornly and consistently refuse public access to it.
President Radev admits that he is unfamiliar with the document, but has refused access. If this is refusal has been written and sent without his knowledge, one can conclude that people from his team are rushing to prevent any crack in the establishment, the “backstage rule” and the Model #WHO.
As a sign of goodwill, we give President Radev two weeks to read the transcript and decide whether to review the refusal i.e. whether his expressed will for change and for protecting the interests of all Bulgarians is real or PR. Then, depending on the outcome we will either withdraw the complaint or maintain it until the court issues a rule.
We, the journalists from Bivol, are confident that sooner or later, with or without the will of the President, the government, the Prosecutor’s Office and all institutions, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about CCB and the robbery of the century will come to light and those responsible will be tried and sentenced.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian