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Cablegate: Bulgaria's Prosecutor General: What a Difference A

VZCZCXRO2271
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSF #0364/01 0781025
ZNY CCCCC ZZH ZEL
R 191025Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3421
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 SOFIA 000364

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DOJ FOR SWARTZ, OPDAT/ICITAP FOR JONES, ALEXANDRE,
EHRENSTOMM, ACKER

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADDED PARA MARKING FOR PARA 1)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/19/2017
TAGS: PGOV KJUS KCRM EU BU
SUBJECT: BULGARIA'S PROSECUTOR GENERAL: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A
YEAR MAKES

REF: 2006SOFIA198

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Classified By: Amb. Beyrle, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: A year into his term, Bulgaria's Prosecutor
General Boris Velchev is staying true to his goal to reform
the dysfunctional Prosecution Service and make it an
effective law enforcement and judicial tool. He has
improved the country's image abroad by candidly speaking
out against corruption and organized crime (OC), and has
rebuilt some public confidence by cleaning up the
prosecution service: 12 corrupt prosecutors have been fired
or forced to resign, and 10 are under investigation.
Despite noteworthy progress, Velchev still faces major
hurdles, most notably the internal opposition loyal to his
predecessor, an overwhelming case backlog, and lack of
legally-admissible evidence against the big players.
Though major OC figures and corrupt government officials
are in his sights, the going is slow. Perseverance,
political backing, and plenty of money will all be
essential to get the job done.

--------------------------------------------- -----------
THE CRIME FIGHTER WHO IS RESTORING BULGARIA'S REPUTATION
--------------------------------------------- -----------
2. (C) Boris Velchev's appointment as Prosecutor General
(PG) in February 2006 was a breath of fresh air for both
Bulgarians and European Union representatives. A former
legal advisor to President Purvanov and a respected
academician, Velchev was an outsider to the system. His
immediate predecessor, Nikola Filchev, left office in near-
disgrace, accused of deliberate manipulation of cases,
arbitrary decisions, and failure to prosecute a single
major organized crime figure. The Prosecution Service was
widely considered a political instrument used for personal-
score settling and crime-hiding. The service's failure to
indict a single suspect in over 120 contract killings, many
in broad daylight, was a glaring testament to its utter,
deliberate mismanagement.

3. (U) An outsider to the Prosecution Service, Velchev had
to confront hacks cultivated by his predecessor in a system
tightly bound by legislative limitations on investigations.
Over the past year, Velchev has polished up the image of
the prosecution service and built up public confidence in
the institution. He became the first high-level official
to speak openly about the links between organized crime and
the political elite, underlining that Bulgaria would be "a
much safer country if a few dozen people were sent to
jail." He created an Anti-Corruption Unit within the
Prosecution to focus specifically on organized crime,
corruption, and money laundering. Velchev also reached out
to other government watchdog agencies to establish more
formal information sharing. His energy and resolve in
tackling high-profile shortfalls in the prosecution service
may have spared the country a prosecution safeguard clause
to its EU membership.

4. (U) Velchev's actions are catching the public's
attention. Local media and NGO observers favorably note
the greater prosecutorial transparency and activism. The
media regularly reports on important criminal cases as the
prosecutors begin to speak candidly on record. A July 2006
survey attested to the improved public perceptions --
Velchev was ranked fourth most popular public official,
after President Georgi Purvanov, Sofia mayor Boyko Borisov,
and Culture Minister Stefan Danailov.

-----------------------------------------
CRIME FIGHTING STARTS WITH HOUSE CLEANING
-----------------------------------------
5. (U) Velchev's first priority remains to clean up the
corrupt ranks of the prosecution service. Shortly after
assuming office, he ordered an internal inspection and
requested a special investigation of contacts between
magistrates and individuals suspected of engaging in
criminal activities. The results came four months later,
when, for the first time ever, the Prosecution Service
admitted to unethical ties between senior prosecutors and
individuals under investigation. The inspection showed
that two high-ranking prosecutors had close ties with a
local businessman -- with a mafia-style nickname "Mazzola"
-- who had been investigated for 14 different crimes.
Velchev swiftly requested the dismissal of one prosecutor,
while the other voluntarily resigned. The internal
inspection continues to bring results -- to date, seven
prosecutors have resigned, five were dismissed (including
two of Filchev's close circle), and at least 10 have been

SOFIA 00000364 002 OF 003


investigated for malfeasance.

6. (U) Velchev also established a special unit of
prosecutors-investigators, his own innovation, to pursue 25
high-profile cases of corruption, organized crime, money
laundering, and smuggling. The special unit of five young
prosecutors is headed by Sofia deputy regional prosecutor
Bozhidar Dzhambazov. (Dzhambazov is also in charge of the
most publicized corruption case against former chief of
Sofia's Heating Utility Company Valentin Dimitrov, accused
of gross embezzlement.) Five months after its launch, the
unit produced its first results -- an indictment against a
former Sofia regional prosecutor for abuse of office and
another indictment against eight persons involved in a
major contraband scheme.

-----------------------
FACING TOUGH BATTLES...
-----------------------
7. (C) Despite noteworthy progress in cleaning up the
Prosecution Service, Velchev still faces major hurdles.
One challenge is internal to the Service, where Filchev's
followers view reforms with suspicion and are responding
with bureaucratic inertia or rear-guard action. Two of
Velchev's deputies, Mitio Markov and Hristo Manchev, are
Filchev's cronies whom Velchev cannot touch until the end
of their five-year elected terms in 2009. Velchev has
worked to diminish the old guard's influence by empowering
a younger generation of prosecutors, like Dzhambazov.
These new ranks are extremely loyal to Velchev and readily
implement his reforms, yet even they admit that systemic
change has not yet reached full momentum.

8. (U) Another hurdle is the atrocious backlog of cases,
which, according to Velchev, has acquired the proportion of
an "epidemic." Some 10,000 cases have gone past the statute
of limitations, effectively rendering the perpetrators
pardoned. In a particularly notorious case, a suspect was
murdered before the prosecutor indicted him for any of the
seventeen charges against him. While Velchev publicly came
down on the errant prosecutor, the case highlighted the
extent of the problem.

9. (C) Perhaps Velchev's greatest disappointment is the
Prosecution's failure to indict a single major organized-
crime figure. As he acknowledged in a recent interview,
"the 'thick-necks' are continuing to parade their
impunity." This is a hard blow for a man who'd hoped to
move against a major OC player within months of starting
office (reftel). Part of the challenge is inexperience --
many police investigators and prosecutors lack the
necessary expertise to conduct complex organized-crime
investigations. Yet another is political will -- many of
the erstwhile criminals have become powerful businessmen,
and some are now generous political sponsors.

-----------------------------------------
... AND CORRUPT OFFICIALS
-----------------------------------------
10. (C) Velchev openly admits that corruption exists all
across the political spectrum and is vehement that "there
will be no protection for anyone if there is evidence that
a crime has been committed." So far, eleven MPs have been
stripped of immunity on Velchev's request, including an MP
elected on the ticket of the Socialist-led Coalition for
Bulgaria. (That MP, Toma Tomov, is the only Roma member of
the National Assembly.) Nevertheless, progress on
investigations has been sluggish, and only one case, that
of an Ataka MP accused of pedophilia, has reached the trial
stage. While publicly Velchev is optimistic about bringing
more corrupt officials to trial, privately he is frustrated
by lack of solid evidence against major political players.
"The files are empty," he recently vented to the
Ambassador; indeed, no serious observer doubts that the old
guard simply emptied the case folders.

---------
COMMENT
---------
11. (C) Velchev is solidly in the reformers camp, but he
operates in a political environment that often ties his
hands. He has done well in areas directly under his
control -- the Prosecution Service is in better shape than
it was last February, and some of the most blatant
offenders have been removed in disgrace. Yet his 'war'
against organized crime and public corruption moves slowly,
primarily because of the major interests involved. His
greatest challenge is the symbiotic relationship between

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dirty money and political interests that still plays a role
in Bulgarian politics. To effectively battle it, he needs
the full support of reform-minded politicians committed to
weeding out cronyism and crime, more institutional
capacity, and plenty of funding. Follow-through on our
plans for a three-year prosecutorial training initiative
using SEED performance funds is essential both to help
Velchev build a stronger team, and as a strong signal of
U.S. support for the central figure in the fight against
crime and corruption here. END COMMENT.
BEYRLE

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