BY ORDER FROM HIGHER QUARTERS BANK LAWSUITS TO BEING AGAIN
Accusations against former bankers for criminal breach of trust under article 282 of the Criminal Code are as substantial as demanding penal responsibility from mass media for hooliganism. I want to thank the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor's Office for the experts whose services it resorts to when drafting the indictments against former bankers. In my opinion their well-done work is extremely useful for the defence of the defendants....
This is an excerpt from the statement of lawyer Alexander Novkov to the BANKER (Issue 26, dated June 25, 2003) immediately after the Sofia Regional Court acquitted his clients Petko Kamenov - former head of the division of First Private Bank (FPB) in the Nadezhda residential quarter in Sofia, and Vesselin Zhekov, owner of Sole Trader Sirius - Vesselin Zhekov.
At that time the renown Sofia lawyer had already won at the court of first instance two of the so-called bank lawsuits - against the heads of MINERALBANK and TSBANK. Therefore, he had good reasons to share loudly his opinion of the State prosecution's work in that kind of criminal procedures and of the worthiness of the well-known article 282 of the Criminal Code. What is bad in that case is that instead of realizing what they are told, the then supreme heads of the State prosecution ... took offence at the BANKER for publishing such insulting qualifications.
Not long ago the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor's Office sent to the State prosecution's five structures of appeal - in Sofia, Plovdiv, Bourgas, Rousse and Veliko Tarnovo, and to the Martial Prosecutor's Office of Appeal - Sofia, unique instructions. They are formally signed by Assen Arsov, head of the investigation department with the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor's Office. But it is evident that it is collective work of several high-ranking magistrates: Prosecutor General Boris Velchev, the Director of the National Investigation Service Angel Alexandrov, and three of Mr. Velchev's deputies - Hristo Manchev, Kamen Sitnilski and Valeri Parvanov.
The above-mentioned instructions are not long - some 35-40 lines. However, they are essentially amazing as they are about to somersault the policy which the State prosecution has been pursuing for a decade regarding the so-called bank trials.
To cut a long story short, the word goes about the following. All lawsuits, initiated under article 282 of the Criminal Code which have not been brought to the court with indictments should be qualified again as crimes under other appropriate provisions of the Criminal Code. For instance: article 201 - article 206 (embezzlement), article 219 (dereliction), article 220 (closing disadvantageous deals), article 311 (drawing up official documents of false contents), etc.
Regarding the suits which are already in court prosecutor Arsov's instructions point to two possible options.
If they have grounds, supervising prosecutors of lawsuits which are still pending after hearing at first instance should demand from court to return them to the preliminary phase for requalification of the accusation. And regarding cases in the courts of second instance, where accusation cannot be changed, supervising prosecutors should do something else: carry out careful, checks and find out those grounds that could allow court return the lawsuits for additional investigation, i.e. for requalification of the accusations.
If that happens work on some 100-120 cases will have to start again because the requalification of accusations should necessarily be accompanied by gathering entirely new evidence, new interrogations of witnesses and defendants, new appraisals by experts, etc.