New Prosecutors Tackle Bulgaria's Notorious SAPARD Case
A new prosecutors' team is going to deal with the notorious SAPARD case, according to Sofia City Prosecutor, Nikolay Kokinov.
Speaking for bTV Monday, Kokinov labeled the case a 1:1 draw – one guilty verdict and one aquittal.
He said in Germany the case concluded much faster because the defendants sealed a plea bargain with the prosecution.
"The Bulgarian and the German trials are not mirroring each other. The trial procedures are different as well," Kokinov pointed out.
In September, the Sofia Court of Appeals acquitted on all charges Bulgarian "businessman" Mario Nikolov and the other defendants in the high-profile SAPARD money laundering case.
Prosecutors requested guilty verdicts for Nikolov, his wife Mariana, Lyudmil Stoykov, Ana Sharkova, Valentin Angelov, Lazarina Georgieva and Ivan Ivanov. They were charged with participating in an organized crime group engaged in laundering EUR 7.5 M drained from the EU agriculture program SAPARD.
However, the Sofia Court of Appeals found them not guilty.
On March 29 2010, the Sofia City Court sentenced Nikolov to 10 years behind bars and his wife, Mariana, to 8 years in the notorious SAPARD case. The two were charged, along with Lyudmil Stoykov, with laundering the money drained from SAPARD. Stoykov was acquitted by the Court.
In June 2010 Bulgaria's Sofia City Court sentenced Nikolov to 12 years in prison, and five other accomplices to smaller sentences for draining EUR 7.5 M of SAPARD funds.
However, upon the appeal of the sentence, the Sofia Court of Appeals determined that there were a number of procedural breaches and unclear facts in the proceedings.
The legal process against Nikolov was provoked by revelations of EU anti-fraud body OLAF, according to which a group of 60 Bulgarian, foreign and offshore organizations had participated in tax fraud and money laundering.
The case is considered a crucial test for Bulgaria's justice system, monitored by the EU and OLAF – the European Commission's anti-fraud office and the acquittal triggered strong criticism from both.
Nikolov and Stoykov were both sponsors of now-former President Georgi Parvanov's elections campaign.
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