Bulgarian High Court Moves ahead with 'New' SAPARD Case
Bulgaria's Supreme Court of Cassations, VKS, announced Friday it will rule within a month on the request of Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, to start from scratch the notorious SAPARD case.
With this VKS started the case despite the absence of some of the defense counsel, triggering strong protest among the present lawyers.
Three defense attorneys failed to appear, and only one of them sent a doctor's note for sudden illness. The magistrates immediately ruled to replace the other two with Court-appointed ones.
According to several local media reports, the judges have behaved in a strange manner, showing very familiar and sarcastic attitude towards the defense, prompting the latter to suspect violations of rights and a foretold rule.
Back in January, Appellate Prosecutor, Stoycho Nenkov, was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of justice in foiling the prosecution of the defendants in the SAPARD case – Mario Nikolov and Lyudmil Stoykov.
On October 11, 2012, Nenkov stepped back from his protest of the acquittal of businessman Mario Nikolov and the other defendants in the country's highly publicized SAPARD money laundering case.
They were charged with participating in an organized crime group engaged in laundering EUR 7.5 M drained from the EU agriculture program SAPARD.
Nenkov's move fully cleared the defendants of all charges, bringing to an end a strongly politicized trial, which was closely monitored by the European Commission and the EU anti-fraud office OLAF.
It emerged later that Nenkov has decided on his own to not file an appeal, prompting Tsatsarov to ask for the case to be launched again from the very beginning.
The scandal also cost the post of Sofia Appellate Prosecutor Angel Iliev, who resigned in the aftermath.
If VKS rules to restart the case, it will be sent either to Sofia's Court of Appeals or even all the way back to the prosecution. If it rejects Tsatsarov's request, the defendants will be conclusively and forever cleared of all charges and on all counts.
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