Probe launched into “Bulgaria’s Watergate”

Probe launched into “Bulgaria’s Watergate”
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia May 23, 2021

Bulgaria’s prosecution has launched an investigation into allegations that opposition politicians were wiretapped around the April 4 general election. 

The probe sparked yet another political scandal in the country where a snap vote will be held on July 11 after political parties failed to form a government following the last general election.

The investigation was initially revealed by Atanas Atanasov, one of the leaders of reformist Democratic Bulgaria and a former chief of the counterintelligence services. Atanasov claimed on May 20 that 32 opposition politicians were wiretapped ahead of the elections, including members of Democratic Bulgaria. It is not known whether former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was aware of the illegal wiretapping.

Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said he has information that the State Agency for National Security (DANS) is destroying evidence of the wiretapping of politicians, including those leading the lists of opposition candidates for the April 4 vote.

Moreover, Rashkov said that among the politicians who were wiretapped was the current caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev, who was previously President Rumen Radev’s secretary. Rashkov did not say whether Radev was also wiretapped.

Public broadcaster BNR reported that the special investigation services initially demanded information on the phone conversations of politicians and then initiated wiretapping of those contacts they were talking to most often.

Meanwhile, Slavi Trifonov, a popular showman and the leader of the second-largest political party in the current parliament, There Are Such People, said that those who ordered the wiretapping must be sentenced.

“I don’t know whether you realise how monstrous this is,” Trifonov wrote on his Facebook profile.

He compared the scandal with the Watergate, which had cost President Richard Nickson his post.

“However, this is the US in 1972, and we are in Bulgaria, member of the EU and Nato, in 2021. And why is all this monstrous? Because it shows that the country has not been ruled by the Democracy but by the Mafia. It was controlled by mafia structures that used the state for their personal interests and did not hesitate to use the state security services for their personal interests. Greatest proof that the mafia had a state,” Trifonov says.

He added that those who ordered and committed this crime must be indicted, tried and sentenced as the only way to prove that Bulgaria still has some democratic principles left.

On May 21, Hristo Ivanov, a co-leader of Democratic Bulgaria, called on DANS and the prosecution to provide information on the alleged wiretapping urgently, by May 25.

Another member of Democratic Bulgaria, Ivaylo Mirchev, suggested that the proofs of the wiretapping have already been destroyed, claiming the archive where they were kept was deliberately flooded. 

While there is no proof that Borissov has been involved in the wiretapping, a poll carried out by Gallup International showed that majority of Bulgarians believe he was involved in a racketeering scandal revealed by a local businessman in his testimony to a parliament committee. 

54.3% of respondents believe that Borissov and his Gerb party were involved in blackmailing businessmen, while 23.2% say they were not involved and 22.5% are not certain.