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Bulgarian Judicial Authority Votes to Fire Controversial Prosecutor Ivan Geshev

Sofia’s Supreme Judicial Council on Monday voted to dismiss highly controversial Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev, seen by many Bulgarians as a leading defender of the country’s mafia kingpins and a key impediment to the establishment of rule of law.   

The council, which is Bulgaria’s top judicial authority, said it voted by a margin of 16-4 to remove him.

The decision now has to be approved by President Rumen Radev.

Bulgaria’s new government, which took power earlier this month, has vowed to set the NATO member of 7 million people on a trajectory toward democratic EU norms. For many years, Bulgaria has been a “captured state,” where oligarchs and their political protectors have effectively operated with impunity in league with organized crime groups.  

The role of Geshev — nicknamed “The Cap” because of his trademark headwear — is particularly sensitive as he was identified in massive anti-mafia street protests over 2020 as the all-important central figure in the judiciary, who can ensure that no big fish are ever brought to justice.     

Even before the formation of the new government, time appeared to be running out for Geshev as he lurched into open feuding with former allies including ex-Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

Faced with impending departure, Geshev is accusing his enemies of trying to assassinate him and has started to spill the beans on a host of previously suppressed investigations — including an infamous money laundering case involving Borissov and the acquisition of an expensive property in Barcelona.  

Vowing to take down the parliamentary politicians opposing him, Geshev pledged in May to rid the National Assembly of its “political garbage.”

The Supreme Judicial Council cited this outburst in explaining its vote to remove him, arguing he had crossed red lines.

“The principles of ‘politeness and tolerance’ and ‘honesty and decency’ in the Code of Ethical Behavior of Bulgarian Magistrates were violated with his remarks at a press conference held on May 15, 2023.”  

President Radev has limited powers to oppose the Supreme Judicial Council, but could delay Geshev’s departure to allow him to create problems for the new government. Radev takes a soft line on Russia, and is hostile to the reform-minded new government under Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov, which is pledging to take a more openly pro-NATO and pro-Ukraine position.

Source: Politico