After the new publications on #Yaneva Gate in Bivol, the media owned or controlled by controversial lawmaker Delyan Peevski launched yet another smear campaign against Bivol and in particular against the Editor-in-Chief of the website Atanas Tchobanov, who lives in Paris. They are reporting rumors that the French Prosecution has begun “hunting” Tchobanov and turned him over to a Criminal Court for libel.
The prosecution is not “hunting” anyone, but has formally acted on a private claim by the former Minister of Investment Planning, Ivan Danov, who is close to Peevski’s party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS). He was exposed in publications of Bivol and in French media for milking the French welfare system. Danov is now claiming that he has been discredited in a report by the French TV M6.
In France, similar private criminal cases are routine for journalists and the media, as they are in Bulgaria as well. At this point, Bivol has several legal cases against claims for libel by protagonists in our publications. Atanas Tchobanov and his French colleagues from the French TV M6 have not been in any way bothered by the French Prosecution and there are no restrictions whatsoever on their rights. The Court will assess the claims and allegations of the complainant and will take into consideration the veracity of the allegations, the good faith of the reporters and the public interest stemming from the facts disclosed in the publications.
Danov’s claims against Thobanov before the French Court are that the Editor-in-Chief has taken to the employment services in Paris a letter with questions about his case.
It is not clear why Danov believes that a formal request for information from an institution slandered him. However, with his claim, Danov provides an excellent opportunity to have the authenticity of all documents, evidence and testimony that incriminated the former Minister for draining nearly 15,000 euro as a fake “French unemployed”, be proven categorically in Court. The routine journalistic consultation with the institutions in this case is proof of due diligence and thoroughness in the process of the investigation of circumstances of great public interest.
In case Danov claims end up being rejected by the Court, he will have to pay court costs and might be sentenced for false accusations.
Earlier, Danov attempted to have the prosecution send Atanas Tchobanov to stand trial in Bulgaria for false accusations. The Sofia District Prosecutor’s Office initiated pre-trial proceedings against Tchobanov, which were terminated by the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office. The reasoning of Appellate Prosecutor Hristo Dinev was based on a reasonable assumption of existing evidence that Ivan Danov has committed a crime – document fraud – by declaring false circumstances before the French authorities in order to benefit. The former Minister, however, escaped criminal prosecution over a statute of limitation.
The above opinion of the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office is part of the evidence that will be presented by the defense counsel of the French journalists and their Bulgarian colleague.
The credit for dragging the investigation against Danov until the statute of limitation expires goes to Prosecutor Boryana Betsova, an emeritus member of the “special unit” for “finishing” and “concealment” of Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov. Betsova also became known for terminating the probe into suspected illicit enrichment of Delyan Peevski on a tipoff from members of the civil group, known as “protest network”.
In recent days, mercenaries of Delyan Peevski, posing as journalists, have been, once again, taking shifts in front of Tchobanov’s apartment in Paris and are harassing his family by entering without permission on private territory. This fact is attested by an on-the-spot check by the police.
A year ago, the same mercenaries harassed Thobanov and his family in Paris, after Bivol published a series of investigations into the hidden ownership of tobacco manufacturer Bulgartabac and the complicity of First Investment Bank (FIB), the bank financing Peevski, in criminal schemes to steal European funds.
These attacks on French territory were accompanied by a series of defamatory and libelous publications in all Peevski media, targeting the journalists and owners of Bivol. The smear campaign was condemned in publications of Reporters Without Borders, OCCRP, the International Committee to Protect Journalists CPJ and the organization Index of censorship.
Tchobanov has filed personal complaints to the Prosecutor’s Office against the uninvited visitors, whom he has identified, and against their employers for systematic harassment and violation of privacy.
Meanwhile, the professionalism of Bivol and the work of Atanas Tchobanov have been highly appreciated by their colleagues who chose him as their representative on the Board of Directors of OCCRP – an international network that brings together investigative journalists and has a worldwide reputation.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian