Top Bulgarian opposition politician charged in money laundering case

Top Bulgarian opposition politician charged in money laundering case
By bne IntelliNews January 23, 2019

Bulgaria’s special prosecution charged Elena Yoncheva, spokeswoman for the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) parliamentary group, with money laundering on January 22, her party said in a statement.

Yoncheva, an investigative journalist with many years experience, was considered one of the main candidates to lead the list of BSP candidates for the May European Parliament election. As the BSP’s rating is virtually equal to that of the ruling Gerb party, the accusation was seen as a political move aimed at hitting the party and Yoncheva.

The BSP gave no further details and its leader Kornelia Ninova only said she stands firmly behind Yoncheva and is sure of her innocence.

“I have no doubt that this has been done because of her bold journalist investigations of the thefts of those in power and the firms related to them,” Ninova said in the statement.

Yoncheva said that the investigation against her is a “repression” and is based on defamations.

According to Mediapool, the spokeswoman of chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said Yoncheva is accused of laundering money from collapsed Corpbank through an offshore firm. Prosecutors say Yoncheva was aware of the origin of the money and the sum was equal to around BGN650,000 (€323,340).

Yoncheva was among six MPs whose immunity was lifted in November upon the request of Tsatsarov. She had been accused of money laundering in a report to the prosecution filed by Gerb MPs several months earlier.

Yoncheva has been busy investigating alleged high-level corruption cases involving Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and other top Gerb members. 

In July 2018, Gerb MP Delyan Dobrev accused Yoncheva of being related to Corpbank’s majority owner Tsvetan Vassilev. She replied that these accusations will not stop her investigations of the alleged purchase of a luxury house in Barcelona by Borissov. She claims the prime minister gifted the house to a young model, who is believed to be the mother of his six-year-old daughter.

Most recently, she accused the ruling party of preparing to steal a huge amount of money after the government has approved BGN1.35bn (€690mn) for the construction of a 134.2 km stretch of the Hemus motorway that links the capital city Sofia to the Black Sea port of Varna.

The sum was approved without a tender or a contract with a construction company and will be provided to the state-owned company Avtomagistrali, which will grant sums to subcontractors without tenders.

According to Yoncheva, such practice does not exist anywhere in Europe and she claims those in power intend to steal significant amount of this sum.

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