Ivan Geshev

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Ivan Geshev
Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor, Nominee for Chief Public Prosecutor
Personal details
Born (1970-12-19) 19 December 1970 (age 48)
Bulgaria
NationalityBulgarian
Domestic partnerDetelina Hancheva
ProfessionJurist, Prosecutor

Ivan Stoimenov Geshev (Bulgarian: Иван Стоименов Гешев) is a Bulgarian prosecutor whose nomination for Chief Public Prosecutor of Bulgaria by the country’s Supreme Judicial Council led to public protests in the summer of 2019.[1][2] Prominent civil society members and NGOs, including the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, assert he lacks the professional and moral qualities which are required for the position because of his record of abusing the law and human rights.[3][4][5][6] Geshev’s career took off when the current Chief Public Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov entered office in 2012. Geshev was initially promoted to Head of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office (2016-2018),[7] then to Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor (2018-present),[8] and finally to a candidate for Chief Public Prosecutor in 2019.[9]

Geshev’s time in office has been characterized by highly publicized show arrests, speculative criminal proceedings, and controversial public statements in interviews and press conferences.[10][11] Geshev says he is against the separation of powers, which he views as an extreme right idea.[12] One of his famous operations, the Mladost case, was included in the 2018 Human Rights Report by the United States Department of State as an example of human rights violations.[13] Geshev claims he “prefers lifelong sentences and sentences to death by firing squad” as a form of punishment, but “sentences to death by firing squad are not envisaged in Bulgaria”.[14] Geshev participates in an exchange with Russia’s prosecution, which the current Chief Public Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov supported.[15]

Biography[edit]

Ivan Geshev graduated from the Academy of the Ministry of Interior, in Sofia with a degree in law in 1994.[16] He worked as an investigator before becoming a regular prosecutor in 2006.[17]

His career took off when Sotir Tsatsarov became Chief Public Prosecutor in 2012. It is believed Geshev was promoted to Head of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office in 2016 and then to Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor in 2018 because of his involvement in the Corporate Commercial Bank case.[18] While many view that controversial media mogul and Member of Parliament Delyan Peevski is behind the raid on the bank, Geshev whitewashed Peevski and said that Peevski had as much in common with the bank as Putin and Obama.[19]

Nomination for General Prosecutor[edit]

Upon the suggestion of current Chief Public Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, all 11 members of the prosecutorial chamber of Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council nominated Ivan Geshev as Bulgaria’s next Chief Public Prosecutor in July 2019.[20] Minister of Justice Danail Kirilov refused to nominate a second candidate, which, in practice, left Geshev as the only candidate for the position.[21]

Geshev’s nomination mimicked the pattern of his prior promotions. In 2018, upon the suggestion of current Chief Public Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, all 11 members of the prosecutorial chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council unanimously elected Ivan Geshev as Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor.[22] In 2016, Geshev was the only candidate for Head of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office: he was elected with an overwhelming majority as only one member of the prosecutorial chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council voted against him.[23]

Earlier in 2019, Ivan Geshev said that “it was 99.9% likely” that he would not compete for the position of General Prosecutor.[24] However, after his nomination, he admitted that an “informal meeting” with the Supreme Judicial Council changed his mind.[25] Geshev says he has been nominated by "the most successful General Prosecutor" Sotir Tsatsarov.[26]

Protests[edit]

Ivan Geshev’s nomination for General Prosecutor and the subsequent refusal of Minister of Justice Danail Kirilov to nominate a second candidate, which guarantees Geshev’s appointment, sparked mass protests in Bulgaria in the summer of 2019.[27][28] Those protesting demand Geshev’s withdrawal from the competition for General Prosecutor. “Geshev is a disgrace,” “Resign” and “Mafia should go” were the slogans of the protests.[29][30]

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee says: “The nomination of a single candidate by the prosecutorial chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council with full unanimity casts doubt that Geshev’s high moral qualities or his in-depth knowledge of the law were the motivation behind his nomination. This is not possible because all prosecutors who nominated him are not independent, but functionally dependent on the Chief Public Prosecutor”.[31]

Protests against Ivan Geshev on 25 July 2019

Political scientist Evgenii Dainov criticized the nomination too: “Ivan Geshev clearly told us he will prosecute people from a list, without respecting the separation of powers. He will prosecute people who are inconvenient for him. He is extremely dangerous and he has revealed himself as the gravedigger of Bulgarian democracy”.[32]

Former Minister of Justice Hristo Ivanov has called Geshev a “baseball bat which violates all standards”.[33]

Judge Zdravka Kalaidjieva, former judge at the European Court of Human Rights, is also concerned: “In his interview with the Bulgarian National Television, Mr. Geshev presented his views on the prosecutor’s office as a repressive body against pre-selected ideological and economic opponents – views which are contrary to the principle of equality before the law, pluralism of opinions and free competition. He believes the prosecution is a body whose main purpose is to arrest and conduct show operations and convict people instead of sending the suspects of a crime before a court which can hand down a verdict”.[34]

In response to the protests, colleagues of Ivan Geshev from the prosecution started a petition in his support. However, journalist Rossen Bossev discovered most people who signed are direct subordinates of Ivan Geshev.[35]

Some analysts believe Ivan Geshev may be a rocket carrier for a less public but equally controversial candidate who may be nominated after protests escalate.[36] Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has already expressed his support for Member of European Parliament Emil Radev.[37]

Famous Investigations[edit]

Corporate Commercial Bank case[edit]

Ivan Geshev is most known for his role in the Corporate Commercial Bank case – he describes himself as “the face of the team which worked on it”.[38] After a rift between the bank’s majority shareholder Tsvetan Vasilev and Delyan Peevski in 2014, the prosecution raided Vassilev’s offices and triggered a run on the bank.[39] Vassilev says the bank was attacked because he refused to transfer assets to Peevski “for free”.[40] The Bulgarian National Bank did not provide a liquidity injection to the bank, put it under conservatorship and revoked its license.[41] Depositors and shareholders were not allowed to appeal the decision – there is pending litigation before the European Court of Human Rights and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.[42][43] Clients of the bank have also submitted a claim against Delyan Peevski and Bulgarian institutions in New York under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.[44]

In 2017, Geshev indicted Vassilev and 17 other people for leading an organized criminal group, which allegedly drained the bank. Geshev compared writing the indictment to “landing on the Moon with a diesel engine”.[45] When commentators wondered why Peevski was not questioned during the investigation, Geshev said that Putin and Obama were not questioned either.[46] Critics have observed that the main witness against Vassilev, Biser Lazov, became a millionaire after the bank’s closure by appropriating assets of the bank.[47] Many believe the bank was purposefully bankrupted, so that its assets could be appropriated by political circles.[48] In December 2018, the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office raided the offices of Vassilev’s lawyers and confiscated documents. Journalists commented that “the message was clear” – “if lawyers do not want to end in trouble, they should choose their clients carefully and avoid those who the prosecution wants to convict not based on proof, but on bla-bla from 1001 Nights”.[49] In 2019, the prosecution arrested witnesses in the Corporate Commercial Bank case and raised charges against them.[50] Free Europe reported that the charges have been raised based on unclear documents – it was also “unprecedented” that the gendarmerie was mobilized and surrounded the court building when the people’s measures were examined by the court.[51]

Mladost case[edit]

A second case for which Ivan Geshev is known is the arrest and subsequent trial of Desislava Ivancheva and Bilyana Petrova, mayor and deputy mayor of the Mladost municipality of Sofia. The two were held in handcuffs for hours while media were invited to film.[52] The women were held in custody during the trial in conditions which Bulgaria’s ombudsman Maya Manolova described as unacceptable.[53] In the summer of 2018, Ivancheva was escorted to hospital with handcuffs, leg cuffs and a protective belt, which human rights experts deemed to be an example of torture.[54]

Bilyana Petrova’s lawyer Irène Savova was subjected to prosecutorial pressure as the prosecution opened 11 proceedings against her.[55] Her apartment building was plastered with her obituaries – an incident the prosecution refused to investigate even though it looked like a death threat.[56]

Ivancheva and Petrova were accused of asking for a bribe to provide a construction permit quickly, but the main witness against them retracted his testimony, arguing he was pressured to provide false statements by the prosecutors. Ivan Geshev said thаt “all gypsies do this” and this was “expected”.[57] Media reported that the other witness against Ivancheva and Petrova had common business interests with Ivan Geshev’s spouse Detelina Hancheva.[58]

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee argues the arrest of Ivancheva and Petrova in 2018 was a “drastic violation of human rights”.[59] They also claim: “Geshev’s behavior either shows his lack of knowledge of human rights or the purposeful violation of human rights. Both hypotheses are inadmissible and their consequences will be examined by the European Court of Human Rights”.[60]

The arrests and abuses in custody of Ivancheva and Petrova were included in the 2018 Human Rights Report by the United States Department of State as examples of human rights violations.[61]

First case of preventing terrorism[edit]

In June 2019, Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office arrested a 16-year old boy with the claim they “prevented a terrorist attack”.[62] Ivan Geshev said this was a “classic case of recruitment by ISIS which lasted for up to a year” and this was “the first case of prevention of a terror attack” in Bulgaria.[63] Geshev stated parents had to be vigilant because children get radicalized through the Internet.[64] Shortly after, it turned out the parents of the boy contacted the authorities themselves because they were worried about the child’s mental health.[65] Even though the prosecution demanded the child’s permanent arrest, the court released him under the condition of being monitored by a child psychologist.[66] Commentators believe this operation is a publicity stunt aimed at improving the image of the prosecution.[67][68]

Hacking of the National Revenue Agency[edit]

In July 2019, the personal data of millions of Bulgarians was distributed to the media – it appeared the database of the country’s National Revenue Agency was hacked.[69] "So, at least for a year, the Bulgarian society, politicians, those who are in charge of the country, they knew quite well about the serious cybersecurity problems in the government infrastructures and they didn't do anything about it", a victim was quoted saying.[70]

The National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria and its gardens: the prosecution argues the hackers conspired to hack the gardens' sprinklers, spray cars and cause political instability

The prosecution initially detained a 20-year old information security worker.[71] However, Ivan Geshev announced that the main lead on which they work is “cyber racketeering” and “a conspiracy against the state”.[72] Geshev also said the prosecution found “horrifying things” on the security worker’s computer: he was searching information about Delyan Peevski, Boyko Borisov and Sotir Tsatsarov.[73] Subsequently, the prosecution modified the charges – the head of the company in which the information security expert worked, the commercial director and the expert himself were accused of terrorism. Prosecutor Evgeniya Stankova told the media that the three carried out “activity against the political system”.[74] She said the three conspired to hack the sprinkler system of the gardens of the Bulgarian Parliament, to spray the cars of guests, and to induce panic among the general population in order to destabilize the whole political system.[75] Free Europe, however, inquired before the Bulgarian National Assembly and found there was no electronic irrigation system: the gardens were watered with water carriers.[76] The water terrorism theory by the prosecution inspired jokes and memes which were covered on national television.[77]

Other Scandals[edit]

Threats against journalists[edit]

Investigative journalists from Bivol.bg complained that Ivan Geshev spread false information about them, “demonstrating subjectivism, lack of professionalism and threats for repression against them”.[78] Bivol had previously reported that General Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov acquired luxurious property below the market price, which could serve as evidence of corruption.[79]

Statements about the Romani people[edit]

When asked about the fact that a witness in the Mladost case withdrew his testimony, Ivan Geshev commented: “All gypsies do the same thing”. In response, a Roma activist submitted a claim against Geshev for discriminating against his ethnic group and insinuating that all Roma people were liars.[80]

Personal life[edit]

Ivan Geshev has two daughters with his partner Detelina Hancheva.[81] In 2019, media reported that Detelina Hancheva had common business interests with the key witness in the Mladost case in which Geshev was the main prosecutor.[82] Neither the prosecution nor the Supreme Judicial Council opened an investigation to establish if this conflict of interest influenced the proceedings.[83] In August 2019 Bivol established Detelina Hancheva had bought a flat from a company owned by the main witness at below the market price.[84]

References[edit]

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