After the elections, there will be a timelessness in the legislation for a long time
Protected witnesses are so until they give helpful testimony
What makes a person become a criminal? This is best known to the people before whom the accused confess as if to a priest – the lawyers. What they talk to each other is a secret. In the last 2 years, the Bulgarian was once again run over by bandits and began to remember more and more the time of the 90s, when it was scary to pass out on the street. Parliaments cannot last even half a year, after which they disband, adopting only controversial laws. Arrests for political reasons, the likes of which we had not seen in decades, began to become a reality. We sought the opinion of Lyudmil Rangelov – one of the most famous lawyers in criminal cases – about what is happening.
– Lawyer Rangelov, do you have observations of how crime has changed over the years – since the 90s?
– The change in the forms of crime is mainly related to the changes in the economic situation itself and the completion of the initial distribution of territories. If at first there was too much violence – murder, bodily harm, until the disobedient become obedient or withdraw from a certain territory claimed by the stronger groups, now everything is done mainly through corruption. What are the main territories for extracting illegal profit? These are the illegal receipt of VAT through various fraudulent actions and the receipt of public procurements that are performed with low quality, so that a large profit can remain on top for those who make it possible to receive the procurement and for those who perform it themselves. At the moment, these are the main areas of corruption and major crime mainly thrives there. Otherwise, the other things remained the same – car thefts, drugs. It is seen that modern civilization without drugs cannot exist.
– Why is there a recent boom in serious crime?
– Serious crime has increased not because of any systemic reason, in the sense that it tends to impose itself. It increased for the simple reason that morals, morality, the level of education, the authority of institutions and of the law decreased enormously. That is why such unimaginably cruel crimes are committed in the country. They are not organized, there are simply extremely primitive people. You will agree that only incredibly primitive people could kill two people, dismember them, put them in jerry cans and drive them somewhere. In completely solvable domestic conflicts, murders occur again because of this low morality, this alienation and hatred between people. Especially in serious domestic crime, we have come a long way in the last 1-2 years. This is due to the simplification of people.
– Is there any solution to this problem?
– There is no solution in sight in the short term. It is only through the uplifting of a nation in moral, educational, property-if you will, attitude, that such serious crime can be expected to decrease. The organization and actions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs cannot influence these crimes. There is no way they can prevent a crime that is committed in the family, between friends over a cup of tea. It is true that now there are also crimes of interest. It could be established that the Delta Hill murder was somehow related to some financial interests. The person who killed the municipal councilor in Velingrad admitted that it was about an unpaid debt. Which in turn speaks of a very low standard of self-control, of self-demandingness, of restraint. And all this is because society no longer has boundaries that everyone knows they should not cross.
– Are protected witnesses protected in Bulgaria?
– Protected witnesses in Bulgaria are protected only until they give useful testimony. I am involved in cases where they are afraid to even appear in court to repeat their testimony. The main reason for this is that the authorities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs abuse such persons who are pressured by their own responsibilities for committed criminal offenses. Therefore, they willingly agree to testify about facts they did not witness, to give testimony based on hearsay with the certainty required for the pre-trial proceedings and the Criminal Procedure Code in general. And that is why most often there is something to fear from the persons against whom they testify, because very often such testimony is done in bad faith, just so that the protected witness can solve his own problems with the law. Therefore, the court often does not take these testimonies very seriously, the persons who give the testimonies hesitate, and sometimes they are refuted by other evidence. If a person is serious, it is difficult to agree to accept the role of a protected witness. These persons are mainly a criminal contingent.
– Was the arrest of Boyko Borisov a political order?
– Absolutely. It was a very elementary act, words can hardly be found from the point of view of the law and the right to carry it out. The very idea of interrogating the Prime Minister at that time in order to give testimony that would create some precondition for the detention of Boyko Borisov is a monstrous abuse and distortion of the right and the law. It was shockingly far from any legality. Yes, one would expect this person to have committed crimes, there are such allegations, but there was no evidence whatsoever. The prosecutor’s office was not involved there, these were entirely the actions of the Ministry of the Interior. They did not even have legally recorded statements from Mr. Vasil Bozhkov, because one of the main reasons for the detention of the three arrested at the time was precisely his claim that they had received bribes. And that wasn’t even framed. The prosecutor’s office stayed away, at least for the moment it kept face and authority.
– Don’t the words political arrest sound very scary, are we returning to some dark times that we have forgotten?
.- It sounds very scary. I am not a sympathizer of the persons who were detained, but if to this political arrest – arbitrary, illegal, brutal, we add that project for the Bulgarian “Magnitsky Law” that appeared and was found to have been produced and discussed by the executive branch, really it’s scary This law seriously surpasses in its brutality, in its violation of human rights, the pre-September 9 “Defense of the Nation Act”, which is undisputed among jurists and scholars as fascist. So these people who created all this are very, very far from democracy, from respect for human rights, from respect for the rule of law. However, my expectation as a citizen is that no stable majority in parliament will be created by the current rulers, which will lead and continue to create such laws. But in fact, nothing will be done, we will remain in limbo for a long time, especially when it comes to legislation.
– You are also an opponent of the Anti-Corruption Law, why?
– The new anti-corruption law is the old one with some amendments. But to give such weight to the chairman of the Anti-corruption Commission means that once again a showdown with the politically and economically inconvenient is being prepared. Because the philosophy of this law, of which I am an opponent in all its variants, is that the main work should be carried out by the territorial directorates of the Commission. And I wonder why there is so much holding on for a certain person to take that position. Because if the law functions as a law respecting the protection of private property, human rights, it does not matter much who will be the chairman of the Commission, he would simply be an administrator of the work of the territorial directorates. And they turned the personality of the one who will head the KPCONPI into something more important than the content of the Law, which absolutely does not work and is far from protecting the rights, freedoms, honor and dignity of citizens. It creates inadmissible presumptions against which the citizen who is the victim of this law can defend himself at a very late stage, when most of the matter is over. His right to defense has been violated.
– What follows after the decision of the court in Strasbourg that KTB was deprived of a fair trial when its license was revoked?
– This is probably the beginning of a review of many previous actions of the authorities, but I am not competent in banking law. It was rather clear to me that these were the actions of the then executive power, not the Banking Supervision of the BNB and financiers who understand this matter. Then it was clearly an order to deal with this bank.
– You were also an investigator. Which is more complicated – solving crimes or defending the accused?
– The more complicated thing is to investigate, and I’ll tell you why. The investigator builds a structure and must make it strong so that it can withstand the further path – prosecution and court. The defender has the task of compromising and destroying this construction, which is always easier. That’s why I think investigation is hard work. There is a contradiction here regarding the competence and preparedness of the people who investigate and the people who defend. To be a good investigator, you must be motivated by a sense of justice, be intelligent, and be hardworking. When you’re a public servant, you rarely have all these qualities, because you’re getting a salary anyway, and no matter how you do the investigation, it’s the same. However, when you are defending a defendant or an accused, you are working in a very competitive environment where in order to be respected, sought after, heard by the court, you have to make extraordinary efforts to be able to stay in the market of sought-after lawyers. Therefore, there is often a preponderance of preparedness on the part of a defense attorney versus an investigator. I see this as the reason for the failure of some of the investigations. The other reason is when the investigation starts on some order and it should not initially lead to the conviction of the accused person.
– Have you refused to undertake someone’s defense?
– Oh yeah. First, I am not inclined to take up defense in violent crimes, where there is brutal crushing, beatings, etc. I am not comfortable there, because it is difficult to communicate with the people who commit them, they have a completely different view of life. And the other reason I sometimes decline defense is when it seems to me that the client thinks they know a lot about the law and can give me advice on what to do. A very common mistake that especially younger colleagues make is that they act as accomplices, accomplices of the client, in the sense that they are ready to accept his thesis uncritically, unconditionally. And in fact, the job of the defense attorney is to carefully familiarize himself with all the evidence and have his own strategy, uninfluenced by what the client tells him. That is, he must retain complete autonomy in the assessment of behavior and line of defense. A lawyer must know the truth, and above all it must be communicated to him by his client. When the client from the first conversation tries to lead you by the nose, to tell you his story, which is not true, then you should really give up immediately. The lawyer cannot go to collect evidence himself, but he can ask for it to be collected, in this sense there are great opportunities.
– Your client was, for example, the Serbian Sreten Josic. How true is the information in the public space that he offered to pay Bulgaria’s foreign debt in exchange for his freedom?
– This is a story from 20 years ago. It all ended in August 2002 with his extradition. And as for the foreign debt, this remained only as a statement in the reports of the persons who withheld it. Such proposals of his were mentioned there, but further on in the entire extradition proceedings this was not repeated as a fact, as a statement. He is indeed a very rich man and at that time – very influential in Serbia. I don’t rule out that there was such a line, but I’ve only seen it in the detention group report.
Lyudmil Rangelov is among the top criminal lawyers in Bulgaria. He graduated from the Faculty of Law of Sofia University “Kliment Ohridski”. For more than 15 years, Rangelov worked as an investigator before turning to law practice.
He works on some of the most high-profile and complex cases with prominent clients from the underworld and has over 30 years of experience as a lawyer.