WikiLeaks: Leading Figures in Bulgaria's Ruling NMSP Party Come under Attack

Views on BG | June 16, 2011, Thursday // 13:01
WikiLeaks: Leading Figures in Bulgaria's Ruling NMSP Party Come under Attack: WikiLeaks: Leading Figures in Bulgaria's Ruling NMSP Party Come under Attack The site Balkanleaks, an analogue of Wikileaks has full freedom to publish US diplomatic cables, under strict security measures. File photo

A diplomatic cable of the US embassy in Sofia, dated January 10, 2003, has been revealed on WikiLeaks and provided to the project for investigative journalism www.bivol.bg, bringing out new details about leading figures from the party of former King and Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg, National Movement for Stability and Prosperity (NMSP)

date: 1/10/2003 15:18

refid: 03SOFIA88

origin: Embassy Sofia

classification: SECRET

destination: 01SOFIA2950|03SOFIA23|03SOFIA33

header:

P 101518Z JAN 03

FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA

TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4467

INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 000088

E.O. 12958:  DECL:  1/10/13

TAGS:  PGOV, PINR, BU

SUBJECT:  SQUARING THE LAWYERS' CIRCLE:  LEADING

FIGURES IN BULGARIA'S RULING PARTY COME UNDER ATTACK

REFS:  A) 01 SOFIA 2950, B) SOFIA 23, C) SOFIA 33

(U) CLASSIFIED BY CDA ROD MOORE, PER 1.5 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY:  THE FOUR MOST PROMINENT MEMBERS OF THE SO-CALLED "LAWYERS CIRCLE," WHICH HAS BEEN EXTREMELY INFLUENTIAL WITHIN THE RULING NATIONAL MOVEMENT SIMEON II (NDSV), HAVE COME UNDER VARYING DEGREES OF SUSTAINED CRITICISM IN RECENT WEEKS, MUCH OF IT RELATED TO CORRUPTION.  THE PRIME MINISTER HAS THUS FAR BEEN AVERSE TO TAKING DECISIVE ACTION IN SUCH MATTERS. HIS REACTION TO THE CONTROVERSIES SWIRLING AROUND INTERIOR MINISTER PETKANOV, DEFENSE MINISTER  SVINAROV, SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT GERDZHIKOV AND NDSV FLOOR LEADER PANAYOTOV, WILL SAY MUCH ABOUT HIS LEADERSHIP AND MAY ALSO HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE LONGEVITY OF HIS GOVERNMENT.  END SUMMARY.

2. (C) OF THE VARIOUS GROUPS WITHIN THE HETEROGENEOUS RULING PARTY, THE MOST INFLUENTIAL HAS BEEN THE SO- CALLED "LAWYERS CIRCLE" (REF A).  IT IS COMPOSED PRIMARILY OF FORMER PROFESSORS FROM THE SOFIA UNIVERSITY LAW FACULTY AND THEIR STUDENTS.  THE LEADING FIGURES ARE THE FORMER LAW PROFESSORS OGNYAN GERDZHIKOV (NOW SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT), PLAMEN PANAYOTOV (FLOOR LEADER OF THE NDSV PARLIAMENTARY FRACTION) AND GEORGI PETKANOV (MINISTER OF INTERIOR). ALL ARE REPORTEDLY CLOSE TO THE PM'S NOTORIOUS FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, STOYAN GANEV.  LAWYER NIKOLAY SVINAROV WAS NOT A KEY MEMBER OF THIS GROUP INITIALLY BUT REPORTEDLY OWES HIS APPOINTMENT AS DEFENSE MINISTER AND NDSV DEPUTY CHAIRMAN TO THEIR INFLUENCE.  (THERE HAS ALSO BEEN UNCORROBORATED SPECULATION THAT HIS LEGAL SERVICES FOR REPUTED ORGANIZED CRIME FIGURE VASIL BOZHKOV, A.K.A. "THE SKULL," WHO WAS ALSO CLOSE TO GANEV, PLAYED A ROLE IN HIS SELECTION.)

3. (S) INTERIOR MINISTER PETKANOV HAS BEEN THE SUBJECT OF RIGHT-WING SUSPICION SINCE HIS APPOINTMENT, THANKS TO HIS REPUTATION AS AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF THE COMMUNIST NOMENKLATURA AT SOFIA UNIVERSITY.  HIS SUPPORT OF THE INEFFECTIVE AND PROBABLY CORRUPT PROSECUTOR GENERAL NIKOLA FILCHEV HAS DRAWN CRITICISM FROM WOULD-BE REFORMERS.  NOW HE IS ALSO EMBROILED IN THE "GNOME" WIRETAPPING AFFAIR (REF C).  MOI CHIEF SECRETARY BOYKO BORISOV TOLD THE DCM THAT HE HAD ADVISED THE PRIME MINISTER ON JANUARY 5 THAT AS A RESULT OF THE "GNOME" SCANDAL EITHER HE, PETKANOV, OR THE HEAD OF THE NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE GEN CHOBANOV WOULD HAVE TO GO.  SINCE BORISOV IS WILDLY POPULAR WITH THE BULGARIAN PUBLIC (AND, SEEMINGLY, WITH THE PM) AND CHOBANOV RECENTLY RECEIVED A VOTE OF "ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE" FROM THE PRESIDENT, BORISOV'S CALL APPEARS TO BE A TRANSPARENT ATTEMPT TO OUST HIS LONG-TIME NEMESIS PETKANOV.

4. (S) DEFENSE MINISTER SVINAROV HAS COME UNDER FIRE RECENTLY FROM AT LEAST TWO DIRECTIONS.  A U.S. TEAM INVESTIGATING THE ILLEGAL SALE OF DUAL-USE GOODS TO SYRIA BY THE MOD-OWNED FIRM TEREM BRIEFED THE PM IN DECEMBER ON ITS CONCLUSIONS THAT SVINAROV WAS AWARE OF AT LEAST ONE SHIPMENT AFTER THE FACT, BUT FAILED TO TAKE TIMELY ACTION TO STOP A SECOND SHIPMENT OR TO INFORM OTHER MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNMENT ABOUT THE TRANSGRESSION.  CHIEF OF THE GENERAL STAFF GEN KOLEV (STRICTLY PROTECT) HAS ALSO LEVELED CHARGES OF CORRUPTION WITHIN THE MOD IN A (THUS FAR) STILL SECRET REPORT DELIVERED TO THE PRESIDENT AND SENIOR MOD LEADERS.

5. (C) NDSV FLOOR LEADER (AND THE PARTY'S FIRST DEPUTY CHAIRMAN) PANAYOTOV HAS BEEN A DIVISIVE FIGURE AMONG THE PARTY'S MPS.  MANY NDSV PARLIAMENTARIANS HAVE COMPLAINED OF BEING FROZEN OUT OF DECISION-MAKING.  HE HAS ALSO BEEN CRITICIZED FOR HIS "AUTHORITARIAN" MANAGEMENT STYLE AND FOR MAKING PATRONAGE APPOINTMENTS WITHOUT CONSULTING OTHER MEMBERS OF THE GROUP.  THE PRESS HAS BEEN REPORTING FOR THE PAST SEVERAL WEEKS THAT CHANGES IN THE LEADERSHIP OF THE PARLIAMENTARY GROUP ARE IMMINENT, WITH THE PRIME MINISTER LIKELY TO REPLACE PANAYOTOV WITH AN MP MORE ACCEPTABLE TO THE PARTY'S REBELLIOUS YOUNG TURKS.  (WE BELIEVE RUMORS OF PANAYOTOV'S IMMINENT DEPARTURE ARE STILL VERY SPECULATIVE, HOWEVER.)  RECENTLY PANAYOTOV ALSO MET WITH THE "VUZRAZHDANE" BUSINESS CLUB, WHICH COUNTS AMONG ITS MEMBERS VASIL BOZHKOV AND OTHER SHADY  "BUSINESSMEN" BELIEVED TO BE LINKED TO ORGANIZED CRIME GROUPS.  (ONE MP CLOSE TO PANAYOTOV TOLD US HE HAD SOUGHT AND RECEIVED THE PM'S BLESSING FOR THIS MEETING.)

6. (C) PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN (SPEAKER) GERDZHIKOV, WHO IS CLOSELY ALLIED WITH MINISTER PETKANOV, HAD MANAGED TO STAY ABOVE THE FRAY UNTIL RECENTLY.  HE HAS NOW BEEN DRAGGED INTO THE FILCHEV SAGA BY EDVIN SUGAREV, A FORMER DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF THE OPPOSITION UDF AND AMBASSADOR TO INDIA.  SUGAREV CHARGED IN AN OPEN LETTER RELEASED JANUARY 7 THAT GERDZHIKOV HAS BEEN SUBJECT TO UNDUE INFLUENCE BY THE PROSECUTOR GENERAL BECAUSE OF HIS POSSIBLY CORRUPT INVOLVEMENT IN THE CONTROVERSIAL PRIVATIZATION OF AGROPROMSTROI SEVERAL YEARS AGO.  (GERDZHIKOV HAS STRONGLY SUPPORTED FILCHEV, WHO WAS BEST MAN AT HIS WEDDING.)  GERDZHIKOV HAS DENIED THE ACCUSATION, BUT IT HAS DRAWN ATTENTION TO HIS FORMER BUSINESS RELATIONS WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MULTIGROUP (MG) CONGLOMERATE, WHICH HAS BEEN LINKED TO ORGANIZED CRIME ACTIVITIES.

7. (C) ONE PROMINENT NDSV LAWYER NOT APPARENTLY AFFILIATED WITH THE "LAWYERS CIRCLE" IS JUSTICE MINISTER ANTON STANKOV.  STANKOV'S REFORM EFFORTS HAVE BEEN STYMIED BY AN ENTRENCHED JUDICIAL BUREAUCRACY (REF B), AND HE HAS BUTTED HEADS REPEATEDLY WITH FILCHEV.  WE HAVE HEARD FROM SEVERAL SOURCES THAT THE PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER PETKANOV HAVE NOT SUPPORTED STANKOV'S INITIATIVES TO REFORM THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM, ALTHOUGH RECENTLY THE PM DID INDICATE HE WOULD SUPPORT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS TO THIS END.

8. (C) COMMENT:  THERE ARE NO INDICATIONS THAT THE ATTACKS ON THE "LAWYERS CIRCLE" ARE PART OF AN ORCHESTRATED SCHEME; A NUMBER OF OTHER PROMINENT FIGURES ARE ALSO UNDER POLITICAL AND/OR LEGAL PRESSURE AT THIS TIME FOR VARIOUS REASONS (INCLUDING FILCHEV, DEPUTY PM VASILEV, FORMER INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF ATANAS ATANASOV, FORMER PM IVAN KOSTOV AND SEVERAL OFFICIALS OF HIS ADMINISTRATION).  NOR IS IT CLEAR TO WHAT EXTENT THE "LAWYERS CIRCLE" REMAINS A COHESIVE GROUP.  STILL, SUGAREV'S ATTACK ON GERDZHIKOV APPEARS TO COMPLETE THE CHESSBOARD FOR A MAJOR POLITICAL SHOWDOWN IN 2003.  IN ITS INITIAL STAGES, AT LEAST, IT APPEARS THE GAME WILL PIT THE LAWYERS CIRCLE (ALONG WITH FILCHEV) AGAINST BOTH THE CENTER-RIGHT UDF AND GROUPS WITHIN THE NDSV OPPOSED TO THE LAWYERS. COMPLICATING THIS SCENARIO IS THE FACT THAT A NUMBER OF UDF OFFICIALS REMAIN CLOSE TO FILCHEV, WHO WAS A UDF APPOINTEE.

9. (C) COMMENT, CONTINUED:  IT IS TOO EARLY TO TELL WHETHER THE LAWYERS GROUP CAN RETAIN THE CONFIDENCE OF THE PM, AND WITH IT CONTROL OF LEADING POSITIONS WITHIN THE GOB, AND/OR WHETHER THE BATTLE WILL SPLIT THE NDSV AND PERHAPS FORCE EARLY ELECTIONS. MEANWHILE THE OPPOSITION SOCIALIST PARTY (BSP), WHICH HAS A COMFORTABLE LEAD IN MOST OPINION POLLS, SEEMS LIKELY TO STAY ON THE SIDELINES AND LET THE OTHER PLAYERS BATTER EACH OTHER.  END COMMENT.

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Tags: Stoyan Ganev, Stankov, Anton, Wikileaks, Lawyer's Circle, Simeon Saxe-Coburg, Petkanov, Georgi, Panayotov, Plamen, Gerdzhikov, Ognyan, Kolev, Nikola, Filchev, Nikola, Svinarov, nikolay, NDSV, Vasil, Bozhkov
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