The Customs’ protocol from the infamous inspection in the brewery of “Misho the Beer,” obtained by Bivol through the price tag of one and a half year of court battles, clearly demonstrated our initial assumption. The progress and the completion of the action of the Customs group in the factory “Ledenika,” in the town of Mezdra, have been indeed hindered.
“The questioning (of factory workers and staff – editor’s note) was hampered by,” is written in the protocol from the Customs inspection in the factory of the late Mihail Mihov AKA Misho the Beer. All names in it are deleted, thus it is still unclear who prevented the government body to meet its obligations.
The so-called “Misho the Beer” scandal erupted at the beginning of 2011, after recordings of phone conversations of then Head of the Customs Agency, Vanyo Tanov (VT), leaked to the media. In one of them, former Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov (BB), is heard ordering Tanov to stop a Customs probe:
BB: Hello. This one, Misho the Beer, called me again.
VT: I am listening.
BB: Some people have entered his factory, customs agents, tax agents, I don’t know… They are confiscating cell phones, are conduction some action…
BB: OK, take them out of there; we made a commitment.
VT: Yes, but we are working in different directions. I am doing one thing, the Minister another.
BB: OK. If needed, call him right now and tell him what we agreed on, because I made a commitment; I am not Parvanov. When I promised to not touch him, it means I would not touch him.
VT: I will call the Minister right now and tell him.
BB: Tell the Minister. Call him and tell him what I have said, and call Misho and tell him too.
Full transcript of the conversation and analysis of previous and subsequent events, surrounding the scandal known as “Misho the Beer,” can be found in an article of Bivol from March 1, 2011.
The prosecution opened a probe, but limited it to searching how the scandalous Special Surveillance Devices tapes leaked, and quietly canceled it a few months later. Bivol asked then the Prosecutor’s Office why the probe was terminated, and received on February 1, 2012, the following letter from the spokesman of the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office, Steliana Kozhuharova:
“The gathered evidence and the established facts led to the inference that the Customs inspection was not hindered, but was properly carried out by Customs officers. There is no evidence of criminal offense, which the prosecution should investigate.”
Kozhuharova’s response indicated the exact dates and the sequence of events. In March 2012, Bivol requested from the Customs Agency protocol N°286 from its inspection, conducted on March 13, 2010, from 8 pm until midnight, which documents what happened in the factory of late Mihail Mihov.
After Vanyo Tanov refused to provide this document under the Access to Public Information Act, Bivol filed a lawsuit against the Customs Agency and won the case with a final Court rule in October this year. So today, the protocol is a public fact, and from what is recorded in it, it became clear that there is, after all, data indicating that a general criminal offense has been committed, despite claims of the Prosecution.
In July 2012, in an interview for the site Politikat.net, former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov made a confession that he ordered Vanyo Tanov to suspend the Customs inspection in the factory “Ledenika” because President Parvanov has asked him to do so as a favor. New Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov reopened the probe and Boyko Borisov was summoned for questioning. Recently, Prosecutor Roman Vassilev from the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office made a statement before Pressa (Press) daily that magistrates were determined to “unravel the affair.”
The protocol clearly shows that for nearly two years the prosecution has been “unraveling” something else, but not the evidence for criminal offense under Articles 272 or 288 of the Penal Code, documented by the Customs officer in the protocol.
By the time of the editorial closing of the article, the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office has not responded to Bivol’s requests to provide information whether the protocol was attached to the documentation from their investigation. The answer to this question is important because if the protocol was not handed over to investigators as the law requires, suspicions about connivance of officials of the Customs Agency in concealing the crime arise.
All names in the protocol, finally provided to Bivol, are deleted and it remains unknown who obstructed the questioning of the factory workers.
“As the protocol is not an investigation or other secret, the person removing the name of the individual, who hindered the Customs probe in the factory, is an accessory to crime, and if this person fails to present the entire document, they should be referred to the prosecution,” commented for Bivol lawyer Mincho Spassov, former Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs.
The “protocol” you obtained should have a “memorandum” attached to it and I do not know why they did not give it to you,” is the terse comment by email of former Deputy Chief of the Customs Agency Anthony Strandzev, who was the only one to confirm the authenticity of one of the conversations with Vanyo Tanov, leaked in early 2011.
Bivol requested again from the Customs to provide the protocol with undeleted names and the said memorandum. These documents should make clear exactly who and how obstructed the questioning. However, other issues that prosecutors must “unravel” arise along with this one:
– Was an act of findings for infringement in the factory issued? If not, why wasn’t it issued?
– Why the investigators did not pay attention to the “obstruction,” recorded in the protocol, which is a crime under the Penal Code and failed to investigate all facts and circumstances surrounding it?
Questions whose answers position the State machine on the demarcation line between the rule of law and the rule of power; questions that media have moral obligation to ask all the way.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian