ApartmentGate: Bulgaria’s Anti-Corruption Head Resigns

Published: 02 August 2019

smaller-bulgarian-parliamentPlamen Georgiev is the latest Bulgarian politician to have resigned because of “ApartmentGate” (Todor Bozhinov)

By Maya Perry

The head of Bulgaria’s anti-corruption authority resigned on Wednesday, several months after he was first implicated in the country’s “ApartmentGate” scandal, in which several senior politicians were found by journalists to have purchased prize real estate far below market value.

Plamen Georgiev began heading the so-named Commission for Combating Corruption and the Withdrawal of Illegally Acquired Property in March 2018, and as such was put in charge of leading the official probe into ApartmentGate after the first few articles were published by Bivol, an OCCRP partner, in mid-March 2019.  

Later in the month, however, two articles by Bivol revealed discrepancies in the tax declarations and property record valuations of the two apartments and a garage owned by Georgiev and his wife. 

In one case, they bought a parking garage that is listed in the national property register as costing BGN 17,158 (US$9,698) but their tax declarations stated that it had a value of BGN 6,845 (US$3869).  

The investigation also found factual errors in the couple’s tax declarations, where, for example, they did not state the full square meterage of their three-level apartment and its various terraces. 

Shortly after the investigations were published, Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev announced that he had “withdrawn confidence” from Georgiev, and the country’s Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov said his office would be launching an investigation into the matter.

Tsatsarov himself was investigated by Bivol shortly thereafter, and was also found to have purchased a villa at well below the market price.

Georgiev has been on leave from his position since April.

He finally declared his official resignation at Wednesday’s parliamentary session, the last before Bulgaria’s MPs disband for the summer.  

“I haven’t committed an offence,” he told reporters at the Parliament, “I took the decision to resign a long time ago. My family has been subjected to incredible harassment by some media.”

Among the other high-ranking politicians to have resigned because of ApartmentGate are Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the deputy chief of Bulgaria’s ruling GERB party, the country’s Justice Minister, the Vice-Minister of Sport, and the Vice-Minister of Energy. Nearly all have continued to maintain their innocence.