Ousted Bulgarian Mayor Lechkov Reinstated
The Bulgarian Court of Appeals in the Black Sea city of Burgas ruled that the ousted Bulgarian mayor of Sliven, Yordan Lechkov, be back in office.
Lechkov did not wait for the court’s ruling and left before the end of the trial. In the courtroom, he said that no one had the right to call him a criminal and warned that he will seek justice for every person who is calling him in this way.
What triggered the mayor’s warning was the comment by the Prosecutor Rumyana Yankova, who said that with his criminal actions Lechkov did not justify the trust of the people who chose him as a mayor.
“Does it mean that I was the head of a 100 000 persons in a criminal group, only because I am managing Sliven’s money, and neither the Court, nor other institutions have found any violations,” the mayor asked.
The ousting of Lechkov was first imposed by the lower court in the southern city of Sliven. The ruling of the Burgas magistrates is final and cannot be appealed.
Prosecutors have raised seven charges against Lechkov, who was a key member of the Bulgarian football squad that finished fourth at the 1994 World Cup in the United States and is currently Vice President of the Bulgarian Football Federation.
The charges involve the sale of the flea market in the city which did not respect the decision of the municipal council. Lechkov is also alleged to have put pressure on the local National Revenue Agency office to cover up tax audits of certain local companies. Companies, linked to the Mayor, are also said to have benefited from dozens of public procurement deals.
The prosecution based their case on the motive that if Lechkov kept his post as mayor, he could influence and pressure witnesses, citing testimony of a former Sliven Deputy Mayor that she has been threatened and harassed, including with being fired, until she was finally dismissed by Lechkov two years ago. Three other witnesses also insisted they were pressured and threatened. The second motive is the missing documentation, which the Prosecutor says, was concealed in order to hurdle the probe.
Lechkov's defense lawyer claims the prosecution lacks any proof his client had concealed the documents, and insists everything that is in the archives had been submitted. According to the defense Lechkov's ousting is against the will of the local people.
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