After years of media and legal battles with the participation of journalists from Bivol (the first publications of Asen Yordanov in the case “Coral” date from 2006), on Thursday, the government made two decisive moves to stop construction on one of the last pristine beaches on the southern coast.
The Ministry of Regional Development sent the building permits to the Prosecution and the Ministry of Environment and Waters issued a compulsory administrative measure to stop construction until the conclusion of procedures under the Protection of the Environment Act.
This way, Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva fulfilled her commitment, made at a meeting with activists of the association “Let’s Preserve Coral” and journalists from Bivol in late August.
The measures of the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Environment and Waters are a temporary and urgent solution to not allow excavators to enter the beach after the end of the tourist season. However, Minister Zaharieva also promised permanent and long-term protection of the State by declaring “Coral’s” dunes as dunes. For this to happen, the Cadaster Agency must publish the special cadastral map of the dunes of “Coral”.
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Local authorities against dunes and parks
The special maps of the dunes are the most important environmental benefit from the huge public scandal “Dunes Gate”, exposed by Bivol at the beginning of 2013. The National Assembly (Parliament) mandated by a decision the Ministry of Regional Development to create these maps in order to be known where dunes are located and their type as to avoid destruction. It is not a coincidence that this move stirred the largest opposition from local authorities. Their representatives are refusing to sign the minutes of meetings of the committees in the case. Such is the situation with the map of “Coral”, which, according to Minister Zaharieva, is almost ready and can enter into force within weeks.
According to information from the Ministry of Environment and Waters, more than half of the properties slated for construction on “Coral” are on the dunes. The Mayor of Tsarevo, Georgi Lapchev, from the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party (GERB), is firmly against the entry into force of the special map that derailed the construction ”dreams” of companies close to people in power. He is also in charge of revalidating building permits, which have now been given to the prosecution.
After three years in office, Lapchev, on whom hopes were pinned to break with the policies of his predecessor – the destroyer of Strandza Petko Arnaudov – entered the mainstream of the same schemes. He is also stopping changes in the development plan of Tsarevo with the pretext that he was protecting the interests of local residents. In reality, Lapchev protects the best interests of the infamous architect Kalin Tiholov and lawmaker Yordan Tsonev, from the party of the Turkish minority, Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), known by the nickname “Dancho the Fraud”. As Bivol revealed, they are the main beneficiaries of the scheme to appropriate huge plots of beachfront property through false inheritance powers of attorneys, fabricated by five Burgas lawyers. Once the properties are restored by the Court, they are immediately transferred to companies and individuals close to Tiholov and Tsonev.
Precisely Kalin Tiholov is the author of the controversial development plan of Tsarevo, prepared during the term in office of Petko Arnaudov, in which the entire coast of Park Strandza, from the town of Tsarevo to the village of Varvara and large areas south of the town of Ahtopol, are slated for construction. The Master Development Plan permits pouring of concrete on a total of 40% of the park. The plan also includes a golf course, which will automatically destroy all biological diversity due to the chemical treatment of the meadows. Because of this plan, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Bulgaria but Lapchev still “selflessly” protects it and blocks changes in it that would make it compatible with Natura 2000 and the management plan for Park Strandza.
Burgas Prosecution – cover-up for political corruption
In a series of investigations, supported by documents and testimony, Bivol exposed in detail the massive corruption scheme for the sale of “Coral”. This happened in 2003, after negotiations between the incumbent Burgas mayor Dimitar Nikolov (now from GERB, then from the right-wing Union of Democratic Forces, UDF) and then-Mayor of Tsarevo, Petko Arnaudov (from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP). According to witnesses, the seal of the deal happened in the office in Nikolov’s factory “Victory” and was “Land against Power”. Dimitar Nikolov and his partners Sava Choroleev and Milko AKA “The Ponsa” received 130 decares of “Coral” for a symbolic price, and the “Blue” (right-wing – editor’s note) Nikolov secured votes for the “Red” (Socialist – editor’s note) Arnaudov to be reelected as mayor.
Against the low price of eight US dollars per square meter, the “investors” promised the municipality to build infrastructure and 500 job openings for skilled workers. Municipal councilors, however, had reservations and were worried that the land was taken with the purpose of future specula. That is why they required from the Mayor to include a termination clause in the contracts in case the promises ended unfulfilled. Arnaudov, however, deliberately failed to follow exactly this decision of the Municipal Council, which in itself constitutes a crime. In the contracts, prepared by lawyer Evgeni Mosinov, there was no termination clause. Several years later, the land was sold at huge profits at prices from 200 to 400 euros per square meter, investment and jobs are gone, and the infrastructure is in poor condition.
The Burgas Prosecutor’s Office was informed about the deal and saw nothing wrong in the actions of the Mayor and terminated the investigation on several occasions. Bivol filed an appeal with the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassations and it returned the case to the Court with instructions to examine in substance the effect of the “forgotten” termination clause. Exactly this argument, however, was systematically ignored by the District and Appellate Prosecutor’s Office in Burgas, which operated against public interest and acted as attorneys for the “red party” Gauleiters, Arnaudov and Mosinov. So, for more than 10 years after the “Coral” deal, there are no guilty and punished parties.
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