Bulgaria: Former Ministers Simeon Dyankov, Traicho Traikov and Businessman Prokopiev Acquitted in EVN Case
The Specialized Criminal Court on June 28 acquitted former minister of finance in Boyko Borissov's first cabinet Simeon Djankov, the businessman Ivo Prokopiev, former minister of economy Traicho Traikov and three employees of Bulbrokers company in a case related to the privatisation of state-owned EVN electricity distribution company.
They were accused of causing significant detriment to the state, as the sale of EVN's state-owned shares in December 2011 was at a lower than the market price. According to the indictment, Prokopiev, who owns Bulbrokers, by making a statement at a meeting of the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation helped and facilitated Djankov, then deputy prime minister and finance minister, and Traikov, minister of economy, energy and tourism, to commit a crime and malfeasance in office.
Judge Vilislava Angelova's motives for the acquittal were that the privatization was carried out under the Privatization Act, it has not been proven that Dyankov, Traykov and Prokopiev influenced the Privatisation Agency to sell the shares at a reduced price and that the market through the Bulgarian Stock Exchange has determined in ultimately the price at which the state should sell its share of EVN.
The defendants were acquitted at first instance.
The court's ruling is not final and the prosecution will protest it.
According to the prosecution, Ivo Prokopiev, in order to obtain a benefit for another - namely Bulbrokers company, had stated that by September 10, 2010 the remaining state shares in EVN should be privatized through the Bulgarian Stock Exchange and the proceeds from the sale should go to the exchequer. Thus, Prokopiev deliberately facilitated, according to the state prosecution, Djankov to exceed his power and to order the then head of the Privatisation Agency and current Minister of Economy Emil Karanikolov to assign an assessment of the shares of Bulbrokers.
The company made an assessment using a methodology that lowered their real price. Judge Vilislava Angelova did not accept the prosecution's thesis as proven. The prepared financial and economic expert pointed in the opposite direction - the achieved price of over 1680 BGN was determined by the market.
Ivo Prokopiev, businessman and co-owner of the publishing company Economedia: From the very beginning until today it was absolutely clear that this is an absurd case in which there is no crime, no facts, no evidence. And everything is done just to harass some people.
The court pointed out that the privatisation took place in accordance with the Privatization Act and after a government decision, and not by a sole decision of Simeon Djankov. The sale was carried out by the Agency for Privatisation and Post-Privatisation Control and with his statements in the tripartite council Prokopiev could not have influenced the procedure established by law. According to the court, the former Minister of Economy Traicho Traikov had only complied with a decision of the Council of Ministers for the sale of the state shares in EVN.
Traicho Traikov, former Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism: It does not surprise me. I knew from the beginning that it could not be otherwise. I am extremely impressed with the motivation that the judge made for the decision.
On the main question - whether the privatisation from 2011 is profitable, the court rejected last year's complex expert assessment, according to which the share price should have been BGN 1,777, not BGN 1,680, because there was a gross mathematical error. In addition, according to the court, it is incompatible to compare prices in the privatization of the majority state share in the 2004 with the minority share in 2011.
The court will announce its full reasons in due course. The prosecution will protest the 6 acquittals.
Upon the sale of the state shares in EVN in 2011, the state received BGN 92 million. In 2012 - under the same procedure, namely by offering on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange - the state shares in CEZ and EON power distribution companies were sold.
In January 2017, Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office pressed charges against the former Minister of Finance Simeon Djankov in the case for the sale of state-owned shares in EVN electricity distribution company.
The former finance minister has been accused of malfeasance in office in relation to the privatization of state-owned property.
A week earlier in 2017, Sofia city prosecutor’s office had pressed charges against the former economy, energy and tourism minister Traicho Traikov and businessman Ivo Prokopiev in the same pre-trial proceeding.
Traicho Traikov had been accused of deliberate mismanagement causing damages to the state worth more than 20 million BGN as a result of the sale.
According to the prosecution, the former finance minister is alleged in exceeding his authority by ordering the Head of the Privatisation Agency to assign the assessment of the EVN assets directly to the investment intermediary “Bulbrokers” linked to the businessman Ivo Prokopiev, instead of choosing an independent assessor as the law required. Thus, with the help of the investment intermediary, the state-owned stake in EVN was sold at a lower share value, the prosecutor’s office explained.
The damage is worth more than 20,829,000 BGN and the act was committed in order to secure benefit for the investment intermediary which received 1,276,000 BGN as a result of the agreement, the spokesperson of the Prosecutor’s Office, Roumyana Arnaudova said at the time.
The businessman Ivo Prokopiev was referred to as an instigator./BNT
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