Lobbies, intrigues, secret plots, conspiracies, pressure and brown-nosing the power, gross violations of the Code of Ethics of magistrates and even of the Penal Code emerge from recordings of conversations between judges Vladimira Yaneva and Rumyana Chenalova, leaked through the platform for anonymous sharing Balkanleaks.
In a series of articles, Bivol will publish these recording that lift the veil on the dark backstage dealings of the Bulgarian judicial system. The picture, as you might guess, is ugly. It turns out that the institutional separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, procedures, rules and the rule of law are only make believe “for Brussels”. Behind this veil of appearances, a ruthless struggle for power and influence is boiling, pandering is swirling. This is the model #WHO in all its beauty.
The conversations that Bivol is publishing coincide with real events and this confirms their authenticity. They show that there were flows of informal communication between representatives of different powers about pending legal investigations. Supreme magistrates and members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) have attempted to influence their colleagues to provide cover-up for a judge close to them.
The actions of those magistrates involved in the scandal may constitute not only a violation of the Code of Ethics of the Bulgarian magistrates, but of the Penal Code.
Saving Private Yaneva
The removal of the Head of the Sofia City Court (SCC), Vladimira Yaneva, in the height of the illegal snooping affair codenamed “Worms” happened on February 19, 2015, after a memorable SJC meeting. The request for removal was tabled by Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov on grounds of the pre-trial proceedings against Yaneva for illegal extension of permits for the use of Special Surveillance Devices (SSD) in the “Worms” case. The judiciary fell into a stupor. First SJC decided to hear Yaneva, though there is no such procedure whatsoever. Then the Head of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC), Georgi Kolev, (referred to in the recordings as Joro Kolev or Joro) suggested Yaneva be removed as head of the SCC, but not as judge. Ultimately, SJC voted to remove Yaneva.
In a conversation with judge Rumyana Chenalova, held on the same day, Vladimira Yaneva comments on these events and reveals that Georgi Kolev had made every effort to protect her. According to Yaneva, Kolev had told her on the phone what was happening in SJC; had been giving her advice and even tried to reach Boyko Borisov by phone. The Prime Minister, however, “had not answered the call”.
VLADIMIRA YANEVA: But what happens today? What happened today is that they were at each other’s throats savagely. They decided that they should hear me, a procedure that does not exist anywhere under the sun. There was a swarm inside.
VLADIMIRA YANEVA: Joro Kolev calls me and says: “Here, the people do not want to remove you. However, he says, I am very worried. Because the Chief Prosecutor says that if we do not remove you, he will indict you.”
VALYA: And then now, you know, by law, they will be required to remove me. Because 230 from the Judiciary Act says (if you’re indicted, it is imperative), if proceedings are initiated against you – there could be removal, paragraph 2, and paragraph 1 if you’re indicted – removal just follows.
VLADIMIRA YANEVA: And he says: “I do not know whether it is better to remove you. And I said, Joro, act as you deem necessary, conspire with the people; it is better to remove me. I just want this thing to be over.
VLADIMIRA YANEVA: And even, if they do not remove me, I will write my resignation tomorrow morning and submit it.
RUMYANA CHENALOVA: Well, why, I do not understand this, how can he write you and send your signals and…
VLADIMIRA YANEVA: I do not know … I cannot tell you, I do not know.
VLADIMIRA YANEVA: You know very well that Joro and Boyko know each other and that Joro can always ask Boyko.
VLADIMIRA YANEVA: With this difference, however, Joro called Boyko, Boyko did not answer the phone.
VLADIMIRA YANEVA: Joro says: “I called him several times; he did not pick up.”
Such actions of the SAC Head would be a gross violation of the Code of Ethics of magistrates. Bivol approached Georgi Kolev for comment.
Georgi Kolev: “This is absolutely false”
“That is my comment,” said the SAC Head. “Of course, I know Vladimira Yaneva, I don’t think she needs any advice, she knows how to behave and what to do. I have not approached the Prime Minister about this issue. No way. And we never talked on this subject.”
Rumyana Chenalova did not deny that she met and talked with Vladimira Yaneva, but declined to provide details. “I would not like to make any comments,” she said by phone.
Vladimira Yaneva hung after a journalist from Bivol introduced himself and did not even want to hear the reason for the call.
The former “family friend” of ex-Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, close to Georgi Kolev and to “apparatchik” Deliyan Peevski, was elected Head of the key Sofia City Court despite evidence of conflict of interest and profits for her family from her work as magistrate about which Bivol also wrote.
For a long time, Yaneva was protected and cared for by lobbies in the SJC. She was not sanctioned despite the blaring scandals with random allocation of cases in the SCC and the protests of judges. Yaneva remained at her post even after the scandal “Belvedere” over which the French ambassador in Sofia said that the Bulgarian judicial system has some “bad apples”.
The affair “Worms” and the Prime Minister’s anger after Tsvetan Tsvetanov got a conviction on first instance proved decisive for Yaneva’s fate. On February 12, 2015, Boyko Borisov said in Brussels that if Tsvetanov had to spend four years behind bars, those guilty for “Worms” deserve 400 years in prison. He named Yaneva and said she must bear responsibility.
The Prime Minister’s intervention elicited a reaction of the Judges’ Union which issued a stand in principle against the interference of the executive in the judiciary. The actions of Georgi Kolev, who, according to Yaneva, has tried to negotiate with the Prime Minister to reverse the vote in the Supreme Judicial Council, should be considered from this viewpoint as well.
SAC Head Georgi Kolev was the subject of one of the first investigations of Bivol five years ago, when our website revealed that his wife had acquired a large amount of property that Kolev failed to declare. These facts did not prevent the appointment of the former graduate of the Communist police (militia) school near Sofia at the highest post in the Administrative Court.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian