During its last days in office, the government of Prime Minister, Plamen Oresharski, has urgently and almost in committing a criminal offense, banned access to the Registry Agency (RA) data. With Government Decree № 230 of July 25, 2014, Bulgarian citizens were deprived of their right to request and receive copies of RA documents. This was legally contrived by changing the Entry Rules. The changes ban the issuance of uncertified copies of recorded deeds and other documents. Certified copies, as before, continue to be issued only to legal parties and their representatives. Thus, the access of ordinary citizens, NGOs and investigative journalists to the otherwise “public” property registry is totally restricted. Oresharski’s decree directly serves the interests of backstage rulers. Covertly and in favor of corporate and oligarchic interests, the government of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and its partner, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS, largely representing the Turkish minority) dealt the last blow to democracy and transparency in Bulgaria, bringing decades back our development as society – to the dark years of totalitarianism.
The public activity of the Registry Agency is limited solely to the issuing of certified property references to persons who are parties in a transaction. With its decision, the previous government has grossly violated the Constitution, experts are adamant. The RA closure will mostly affect ordinary citizens who have decided to make a property transaction or business contact with an unknown entity. If anyone is interested in a property, they will find out who owns it and what collaterals it has only after a lawyer or a notary actually start a transaction and charge fees. The same goes for references for loans, mortgages, etc., and the so-called biography of natural and legal persons. Thus, protection from scammers in commercial transactions, employment relationships and others will become much more difficult. If the publically entered acts cease to be publically available, owners will massively face difficulties in protecting their proprietary rights from encroachment.
The aim of the new regulation is multiplied by the blocking of access of NGOs and investigative journalists to the records of the Registry Agency and making fraud detection nearly impossible. One of the reasons for the creation of the Property Registry – openness and transparency of transactions and assets – is neglected.
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The decree has been published in the Official Gazette on August 1 and has immediately entered into force. Unsuspecting victims have alarmed the civil association SOPA – Association for Optimization of Administration and Justice, in which Bivol participates, and which is headquartered in Varna. On Thursday, the NGO prepared and sent a complaint to the Supreme Administrative Court, attacking the decree of the government Oresharski.
A total of ten breaches of various laws are listed in SOPA’s complaint, with which the organization wants the Supreme Administrative Court to revoke the said decree.
Bivol’s investigation cannot yet give a definite answer on how and by whom the ban on issuing uncertified property references has been included in the decree of the Council of Ministers. It turns out that such change has not been voted.
To change a bylaw, a member of the government shall prepare a draft to be published and submitted for public debate. The draft amendment of the Entry Rules has been prepared by former Justice Minister Zinaida Zlatanova. It has been published on the websites of the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Justice. So far, the law has been adhered to.
At its meeting on July 23, 2014, the Council of Ministers has voted on Minister Zlatanova’s draft, without prior public discussion and debate with experts from the relevant sector as the law mandates. The Ministers have adopted the proposal as it has been prepared and published on the website of the Ministry. There was no clause on the public availability of the registry.
Surprisingly, & 39, item 2, article 51, paragraph 3 pops up in the published on August 1 in the State Gazette Government Decree from July 25, 2014. It states: “the Registry Agency does not provide uncertified copies of recorded documents.”
There is no such text in the draft and its appearance in the Entry Rules is a mystery. The transcript from the Council of Ministers meeting does not make things clear either. According to it, Plamen Oresharski has simply said that there was such draft and “let’s vote it”. It was not discussed, not even read to the Ministers. Then, this text appeared from nowhere in the text of the legislative act.
“I suspect that the ministers did not know what they were voting. Even if they were aware of the proposed change, they were hardly informed about the inclusion of an additional paragraph to it. If the Supreme Administrative Court undertakes a serious approach to the case, the magistrates will likely be able to clarify how a clause that has not been proposed by anyone has appeared in the Council of Ministers Decree, and how come it is possible that Bulgarian ministers do not know what they are voting,” said Yulian Cholakov, chairman of SOPA.
Now the ball remains in the hands of the caretaker government to amend the texts and the laws that the government “Oresharski” illegally adopted in favor of oligarchic and corrupt interests. If Government Decree № 230 of July 25, 2014 remains in effect, this will irrefutably prove the continuity between the BSP – DPS government and the caretaker one, appointed by President Rosen Plevneliev, in lobbying in favor of the mafia.
The panic in the speedy voting and passing of last-minute anti-social and anti-national ministerial decrees provides an answer to the question why did Oresharski delay his resignation for such a long time.
Insider sources suggest that this “criminally” introduced in the “twelfth hour” ban was designed specifically to impede tracking the cash flow from the currently very interesting bad loans of Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) and the money of some prominent borrowers.
The complaint was filed on August 14, 2014 by mail to the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Administrative Court.
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