Bulgaria: Former Heating Company CEO Acquitted of Embezzlement

An indictment in a high profile corruption case has been reversed on judicial technicalities raising further questions about whether the Bulgarian justice system is working.

The former CEO of Sofia’s central heating company Toplofikazia, Valentin Dimitrov, was acquitted of charges of large-scale embezzlement on Friday by the Sofia Appellate Court. The new ruling revoked Dimitrov’s 2009 sentence for embezzling BGN6 million (US$3.87) from Toplofikazia.

Dimitrov was was originally sentenced to 14 years in prison, and all of his assets were to be confiscated. His sentence was revoked on technicalities because a panel of judges found irregularities in his first trial. This is the second time Dimitrov has had an indictment thrown out.

Dimitrov’s case is among several white collar crime cases which have shaken the confidence of the Bulgarian people in the country’s judiciary. Concerns over corruption in the Bulgarian law enforcement and judiciary are one of the main obstacles in the country’s efforts to fully integrate into the European Union.

Dimitrov was arrested in 2006 on charges of money laundering, embezzlement, tax evasion and currency fraud. He was released on bail after spending 10 months in prison. In 2008 Dimitrov was found guilty of failing to declare deals worth millions to the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB), and was sentenced by the Sofia Regional Court to five years in prison for violations of the currency law. But the Sofia City Court revoked the five year sentence in 2011. Further, in 2010, Dimitrov was sentenced to three years for abuse of office. Dimitrov’s current verdict is not final, and the prosecution can file an appeal with the Bulgarian Supreme Appellate Court.

Bulgaria is currently bracing for the European Union report on progress in Bulgaria, expected in August. In a June 13 interview for the Presa newspaper, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boris Boykov rejected the predictions that the EU’s new report on Bulgaria will be damaging. He praised Bulgaria’s progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime – results that the European Union sees with less optimism.