Bulgaria Notorious SAPARD Case Misfires
Bulgaria's specialized court on Thursday failed to give the go-ahead to the notorious SAPARD case, which has been closely monitored by the European Commission and the EU anti-fraud office OLAF.
This happened after the defendants and their lawyers did not turn up in court. It turned out that the main defendant Mario Nikolov and his wife are no longer to be found at their address of residence and their location is not known.
The news comes just days after Bulgaria's Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov announced in Munich, that the scandalous trial will be started from scratch.
At the end of September Bulgaria's Supreme Court of Cassations, VKS, announced it will rule within a month on the request of Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, to start from scratch the notorious SAPARD case.
With this VKS started the case despite the absence of some of the defense counsel, triggering strong protest among the present lawyers.
Three defense attorneys failed to appear, and only one of them sent a doctor's note for sudden illness. The magistrates immediately ruled to replace the other two with Court-appointed ones.
According to several local media reports, the judges have behaved in a strange manner, showing very familiar and sarcastic attitude towards the defense, prompting the latter to suspect violations of rights and a foretold rule.
Back in January, Appellate Prosecutor, Stoycho Nenkov, was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of justice in foiling the prosecution of the defendants in the SAPARD case – Mario Nikolov and Lyudmil Stoykov.
On October 11, 2012, Nenkov stepped back from his protest of the acquittal of businessman Mario Nikolov and the other defendants in the country's highly publicized SAPARD money laundering case.
They were charged with participating in an organized crime group engaged in laundering EUR 7.5 M drained from the EU agriculture program SAPARD.
Nenkov's move fully cleared the defendants of all charges, bringing to an end a strongly politicized trial, which was closely monitored by the European Commission and the EU anti-fraud office OLAF.
It emerged later that Nenkov has decided on his own to not file an appeal, prompting Tsatsarov to ask for the case to be launched again from the very beginning.
The scandal also cost the post of Sofia Appellate Prosecutor Angel Iliev, who resigned in the aftermath.
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