Bulgaria Ethnic Turks Leader Fully Acquitted in Graft Case

Crime | February 14, 2011, Monday // 13:26| Views: | Comments: 0
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Ethnic Turks Leader Fully Acquitted in Graft Case The embezzlement allegations against Ahmed Dogan have been keenly watched in both Sofia and Brussels, widely considered to be a litmus test for the government's willingness to combat high-level corruption. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

The Supreme Administrative Court has acquitted Ahmed Dogan, leader of the opposition ethnic Turkish party, who received huge consulting fees on hydro energy projects while his party was in power.

The court said there was no evidence that Ahmed Dogan had breached the public interest by receiving the fees. According to the judges the prominent politician had not been obliged to make public the contracts as he signed them before the conflict of interest law was enforced.

The ruling is final and is not subject to appeal.

The case was opened after a parliamentary commission on corruption notified it of a possible conflict of interest. Ahmed Dogan has been involved in large-scale political corruption schemes, has breached the conflict of interest provisions and has served private interests, according to the allegations.

At the end of October a three-member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court did not find grounds that Dogan acted in conflict of interest and acquitted the liberal leader of all charges filed against him. The ruling was upheld on Monday by a five-member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court.

The leader of the ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), which was a member of the former three-way coalition cabinet, allegedly pocketed BGN 1.5 M as a consultant of four large-scale hydroelectricity projects, funded by the state - 'Tsankov Kamak', 'Dospat', 'Gorna Arda' and 'Tundzha' Dam.

The scandal erupted in May last year after a visit of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to the site of the hydroelectric power plant 'Tsankov Kamak', where he revealed that a huge hike in the initial price has been discovered.

The money for the hydro power plant "Tsankov Kamak", from where Dogan took the sky-high payment as an "expert," was paid by the state-owned National Electricity Distribution Company (NEK), left in tatters after the ruling of the previous cabinet.

Dogan holds a philosophy degree and has no qualifications in civil engineering.

The new center-right government of Bulgaria was elected on an anti-corruption mandate in June 2009 and on the promise to bring to justice those involved in huge-scale corruption schemes.

The latest embezzlement allegations against Ahmed Dogan have been widely considered to be a litmus test for the government's willingness to do so in practice.

If found guilty, Dogan faced a fine from BGN 1 000 to BGN 3 000. The Supreme Court could have also deprived him of the payment he received as an expert.

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Tags: Dogan, Ahmed, embezzlement, Supreme Administrative Court, Tsankov Kamak, hydro-power plant, conflict of interest
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