The ban on changing the purpose of the land has not been recorded in the Cadaster for any of the scandalous swaps done during the term of the Three Party Coalition. This is what a check of Bivol of all known 192 swaps of forest lands showed.
Only for 78 forest properties, swapped by the Municipality of Smolyan near the village of Mugla, there is an entry “According to the Forestry Act; no change of purpose”.
The problem is that without such entry, municipal and state authorities may issue documents for change of purpose and building permits, and justify it with the lack of data on restrictions. Such a scenario has been already played in the dunes in Nessebar and elsewhere, as Bivol revealed in the scandal known as “Dunes Gate”.
A detailed inspection in the swapped properties showed that some of them have been already resold more than once, divided in parts, consolidated and mortgaged. After the European Commission finally announced that the swaps are unauthorized State aid, owners are expected to take action to impede the cancellation of these transactions and avoid the payments, which the State is obliged to request from them.
If the Ministry of Regional Development does not order an urgent entry of the restrictions in the Cadaster, there is a danger that the bill will be ultimately paid by taxpayers, as Bulgaria faces the threat of a multi-billion fine.
Full inactivity regarding swaps by two governments
Before coming to power, Boyko Borisov made loud statements about the swaps and promised retribution.
“If we win, I promise you retribution for those who were stealing; who through swaps appropriated thousands of decares of land…”
(Borisov at an election campaign rally on June 20, 2009, in the city of Haskovo)
Despite its numerous threats, the government of Borisov’s centrist Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party (GERB) did nothing more than voting a moratorium on changing the purpose of lands. None of scandalous swaps was annulled and so it came to warnings of sanctions by the European Commission.
But now it appears that they also left a convenient loophole to circumvent the restrictions by simply not registering them in the Cadaster. This is hardly a coincidence. During GERB’s term, the forests were actually run by one of the most prominent “swappers” – former GERB lawmaker Emil Dimitrov, and as Bivol revealed, high profile businessmen, close to GERB, have benefited from swapped lands.
Information System “Swap Gate”
For the purposes of the investigation “Swap Gate”, Bivol prepared an information system, which is summary of data for all swaps of forests for the period 2003 – 2009. During this time, 33,050,815 square meters of State forests in the most attractive seaside and mountain resorts were swapped. They are “modestly” appraised at nearly 154 million levs or an average of 4.66 levs per square meter.
The information system is being developed with the aim to provide additional information about each property – the listing number of the property, owners of the companies declaring the swaps, appraisals of property, the fate of the property after the swap (resale, divisions of the plot, mortgages), change of purpose before the ban from the end of 2009, and whether the ban on changing the purpose is marked in the Cadaster.
This database will also cover, at a later stage, all swaps of State agricultural land and swaps of the municipalities, where the scale of public damage is not yet known in fullness.
The preparation of the database requires significant financial resources due to the need of frequent and detailed consultations with the system IKAR, which requires to pay a fee. To help our work, you can make a small donation here.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian