Friday, August 07, 2009

Bulgarian resisting corruption is punished by authorities

Architect Georgi Yanev (not to be confused with demagogue politician Yane Yanev) is well known in Bulgaria as practically the only ordinary citizen who tried to fight the massive corruption in the country. First, I am translating part of the Mediapool article Agricultural minister "forgave" architect Yanev for alleging corruption (Feb. 6, 2008), changing the order of some sequences for clarity:
"Architect Georgi Yanev filed a complaint about a 50,000 leva (EUR 25,000) bribe asked from him by two officials from the Republican Road Infrastructure Fund. Last week, a journalist asked him why he, wanting to change the statute of a piece of land, preferred to bypass the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and turn to the road administration. (Yanev) answered that "corruption in the Agricultural ministry is a nightmare". Immediately after that, (agricultural) Minister Nihat Kabil gave him a deadline until Feb. 5 (i.e. 24 hours - M.M.) to either prove or retract his words. "If I do not receive an apology, I will report (Yanev) to the Prosecutor General for libel against a government institution," Kabil threatened... Architect Yanev publicly apologized to the agricultural minister for "having delivered in public space, in a moment of stress, allegations for corruption that cannot be proved". The Minister of Agriculture accepted the apology..."
The next translation is from the June 13, 2009 article "Authorities deceived the architect whose courage they had awarded," by A. Aleksandrov in Sega daily:
"The case with the corrupted officials in the road fund will discourage even the most intrepid from testifying against corruption... The story began in 2008 when after a complaint by architect Georgi Yanev two officials from the road agency were arrested for demanding a bribe of 50,000 leva in order to manage quick acceptance of his project. The arrest of the employees as they were receiving the first half of the bribe was made in a very public way. From the 25,000 leva, 10,000 belonged to the architect and 15,000 to the police. This happened just shortly before one of the important European Commission reports warning that the European money for Bulgaria would be stopped (unless corruption is fought)... The (previous) government several times pointed this story out to Brussels as an example of successful anti-corruption measures. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the prosecution awarded Yanev... Then-Interior Minister Rumen Petkov and Prosecutor General Boris Velchev boasted and repeated many times that they need more citizens like him...
What a surprise when it turned out that the same authorities, after forcing the architect to give his own 10,000 leva to be labeled for proving the corruption, has no intention to give the money back to him. In the beginning, we were told that the money in question was forensic evidence and could be returned only after the case had to pass through the court... Here you see the first insanity - to charge somebody with corruption, Bulgarian authorities represented by the police and the prosecution take money from the victim of the crime for labeling... Is it so impossible to take the money from the Bulgarian National Bank and later return it back there?... Police and prosecution do the same with victims of telephone frauds - those who complain are forced to give their own money for labeling. In other cases, again under the pretext of "keeping forensic evidence", authorities were holding stolen and then found cars for years... It turns out that crime victims become victims of the state as well.
However, this wasn't everything in the case of the architect. Suddenly tax authorities remebered that he owed them 4,000 leva. They even blocked his bank account, and he had no money to pay because another government institution was holding his 10,000 leva...
In the last verdict sentencing the two accused officials from the road fund (one of them got 4 years, and the other who actually took the money just a suspended sentence - M.M.), the court surprisingly ordered confiscation of the money in question. It explained that the behaviour of the witness Yanev deserved condemnation because the project presented by him for approval "had apparent flaws". Therefore, by giving the sum he actually asked the accused for assistance and they just agreed..."
According to a today's report in Trud daily, those same judges said in their verdict that Yanev should be charged as co-defendant for giving the money.
To sum up, what is the result of being a good citizen, speaking out about corruption and helping law enforcement agencies to charge corrupted officials? - A fine of EUR 5,000, the danger of being prosecuted plus the humiliation of a forced apology to a notoriously corrupted minister.
To me, the most disturbing thing in the story is that back in 2008, when it was first made public, a number of journalists and analyzers immediately predicted that Yanev would be forced to pay a high price for his courage and honesty.
You can read about the case in English at the Frog News site, here and here.

1 comment:

Andrés Baldrich said...

In my country (Argentina) we have free press, really free press. They criticize the government a lot, and it helps prevent corruption because the journalists put a lot of effort in publicizing any illegal activities within the government.
There are many NGOs like "Citizen Power" and "Argentina for the citizens". Those organizatios watch the politician's taxes and investigate (on their own) anything that seems out of place, they even organize massive-scale control during the elections (every urn has at leat two "civilians" preventing fraud).