Former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has been released 24 hours after his arrest despite evidence gathered by police that he blackmailed runaway gambling tycoon Vassil Bozhkov. The prosecution and the government have accused each other of not doing their job, with Prime Minister Kiril Petkov saying that in Bulgaria the prosecution is not independent.
Late on March 17, Borissov was arrested along with his spokeswoman Sevdelina Arnaudova and former finance minister Vladislav Goranov.
Early on March 18, the Interior Ministry said Bozhkov testified that he had been blackmailed and paid millions of euros to be able to continue operating his business.
The case was reported to the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office on the morning of March 18. According to the Minister of the Interior, the prosecutor to whom the case was entrusted refused to meet the police and accept the evidence collected until the afternoon.
Subsequently, the meeting took place, but the prosecution said that they would not have enough time to study the evidence in order to file a complaint, and Borissov was released. Independent investigative news portal Bird.bg released information about the prosecutor who declined to press charges, suggesting his property statement shows a luxurious lifestyle that cannot be achieved on a prosecutor’s salary .
At a press conference after Borissov’s release, Petkov and Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov accused the prosecution of not doing their job. Petkov said Bozhkov’s testimony is being ignored and the prosecution is not allowing the police to do their job.
Bozhkov claimed to have paid 30 million euros in bribes to Borissov and Goranov over three years in exchange for legal protection for his business. Goranov said he gave part of the bribes to Arnaudova.
Petkov accused the prosecution, headed by Ivan Geshev – a nominee from the Borissov era – of sabotage and hiding documents asking him to press charges.
“The information collected by the individual who was blackmailed is concealed and concealed so that an investigation according to law cannot be carried out,” Petkov said during a press briefing on 18 March.
He added that this information was handed over to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
“The ability of anyone trying to fight corruption in our country is hampered. In Bulgaria, there are no independent prosecutions,” Petkov said.
Rashkov said the prosecution is drawing conclusions about the outcome of a case that has just begun.
Rashkov said his department conducted an investigation aimed at gathering enough information to launch an investigation. He added that this information includes Bozhkov’s testimony, although he clarified that it cannot be treated as official evidence until the prosecution conducts a proper interrogation.
“Instead of informing the public that they will do everything possible to investigate, the prosecution said that the Interior Ministry had done nothing and was not competent to undertake a basic verification,” Rashkov said. .
He added that the police checked the statements published by Bozhkov on social networks a few years ago and accused the prosecution of not carrying out any investigation based on them.
Rashkov also said that the police sent hundreds of documents to the prosecutor’s office but no investigation was opened.
The Interior Minister also accused the prosecutor’s office of lying by saying that the police did not provide the necessary documents after Borissov’s arrest.
Meanwhile, Borissov said he was a victim of political persecution and suggested the authorities might assassinate him. He had made this claim before, when the Interior Ministry was gathering evidence of his involvement in corruption.
Borissov’s supporters staged a protest outside parliament on March 18, while Gerb’s MPs nearly started a fight in parliament with MPs from the Bulgarian Socialist Party – a member of the ruling coalition – accusing them of political persecution similar to those of the communist era.