Bulgaria's Special Anti-Mafia Court Kicks Off
January 3, 2012, was the first working day of Bulgaria's brand-new "anti-mafia" court and the respective prosecutor's office.
The controversial institution has been initiated by the ruling center-right part GERB and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov against the protests of the Socialists and centrist formations, who slammed it as a dictatorship device that is unnecessarily seizing powers from the regular courts.
It was initially supposed to try high-profile organized crime and corruption cases but was later designed to focus primarily on organized crime such as murder, contraband, and abduction, drug trafficking, and bribery.
The Court has already taken up about 80 cases on organized crime charges from regular courts across Bulgaria, according to the heads of the Specialized Prosecutor's Office and the Appellate Specialized Prosecutor's Office Borislav Sarafov and Svetozar Kostov.
Each of the two prosecutor's offices will have a criminal and economic crime division, with three prosecutors – two from the lower and one from the appellate office – participating in each trial in order to make sure the third prosecutor could follow-up on it if the case is appealed.
According to judicial data, the cases that would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the new anti-mafia tribunal in Bulgaria were 135 in 2008, 172 in 2009, and 209 in 2010.
"It is a challenge for me to make this court work and answer the expectations of the society for a fair, efficient, competent, and principles court. I am not taking over this position to fight anybody, and I don't expect political interventions in the work of court," its Chair Georgi Ushev declared upon his appointment.
The formation of the new institutions has seen some difficulties with respect to raising sufficient staff with some of the candidates withdrawing, and others failing to get the approval of the Supreme Judicial Council (VSS), which is in charge of managing Bulgaria's judiciary.
The Bulgarian state has already BGN 4 M plus BGN 2.5 M from the VSS to set up and equip the new anti-mafia court, which will have five courtrooms at its disposal. For the first time in Bulgaria the new court will feature a glass cell for detainees, which has been known in the country only for foreign movies.
The combined salaries of the entire 134-member staff of the two courts and prosecutor's offices are estimated at BGN 2 M annually.
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