The former director of Bulgaria’s intelligence services, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Tuesday after being found guilty of embezzling 2.6 million euros from Bulgaria’s national intelligence agency.
According to prosecutors, Kircho Kirov, who was director of the intelligence service from 2003 to 2012, was complicit with a subordinate in siphoning funds from the agency’s budget.
The closed-door tribunal found in favour of the prosecution and, besides being sentenced to 15 years in prison, half of Kirov’s assets have been confiscated.
This is the second time that Kirov, 67, has been convicted of corruption. He is currently in the process of appealing a ten-year sentence he received in 2015 for the misappropriation of public funds. In that case he was found guilty of falsifying receipts for non-existent expenses between 2007 and 2011.
Kirov, who said he will appeal Tuesday’s ruling, has denied the charges, calling them “political” in nature and designed to convince Brussels that Bulgaria is determined to crackdown on corruption.
“I think this case is of political nature,” said Kirov, according to Reuters. “It is obvious that we have to show the international factors and our European partners that an important figure had been convicted.”
Kirov was dismissed as the head of the national intelligence service in 2012 after nine years in office. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov initially appointed him as an adviser, but fired him just two months later.
He is one of the few former high ranking Bulgarian officials to be convicted of corruption in a country that consistently comes last in Europe in Transparency International’s corruption perception index. Bulgaria’s struggle to eradicate organised crime and corruption have been put under increased scrutiny since Sofia took over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, which it joined in 2007.
Prime Minister Borisov faces a “no-confidence” vote in parliament next week over a new anti-corruption law that critics say is designed more to cover up corruption than counteract it. The bill has already been vetoed by the Bulgarian President Rumen Radev who said: “the adopted law not only does not create an adequate legal basis for tackling corruption but will even make it difficult to fight it.”
Borisov’s centre-right Gerb party and their far-right coalition allies had the numbers in parliament to overturn the president’s veto and they are also expected to comfortably defeat next week’s “no confidence” vote.