Bulgaria’s Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov is pushing for an investigation into the controversial meeting between chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov and businessman Sasho Donchev. Donchev owns the gas company Overgas and daily newspaper Sega.
The meeting was organized by Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) politician Georgi Gergov. The meeting has turned into a scandal known as Tzum-gate because the meeting took place at Gergov’s office, located in same building as Tzum department store in Sofia.
A release of a video of the meeting sparked rioting in the streets of Bulgaria and calls for Tsatsarov to resign. Tsatsarov allegedly urged Donchev to pressure prosecutors in an investigation involving sale of natural gas, and also questioned Donchev about his ties to Hristo Ivanov’s Yes Bulgaria party.
Panov laid out several “indisputable facts” about the meeting, essentially arguing that it was suspect for two businessmen to meet with the Prosecutor General so close to elections, adding to the fact that the meeting was orchestrated by a BSP Executive board member.
On April 27, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) decided that there was no need to further investigate the controversy.
Tsatsarov allegedly admitted to Panov that while the meeting did take place, Panov was in no position to question him about it.
On May 13, Panov said that Tsatsarov refused to respond to the Supreme Judicial Council about the meeting. Panov said, "Thus, the public is satisfied solely with his assessment of what happened. Thus [the] Prosecutor [is] put above the law and ethical rules. Henceforth Mafia can feel comfortable and with impunity. The case is now closed and the next thing is propaganda to do its job.”
Panov stressed urgent legislative changes to “to stop the deification of the Attorney General” who has “unlimited power.”
On May 15, Panov wrote a letter to Bulgarian President Rumen Radev requesting that Radev form a committee to investigate the Tsatsarov-Donchev-Gergov meeting. Panov emphasized that Bulgaria's reputation and standing with the European Union could be jeopardized if no action is taken.
Panov wrote “the Prosecutor General [Tsatsarov] is the supreme guarantor for supervising compliance with the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria and his refusal to meet members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) in connection with his unregulated meeting and the lack of any institutional response casts reasonable doubt on the existence of a rule of law.”
After receiving the letter, Radev said that the conflict was "bickering" and that fulfilling Panov's request was not in Bulgaria's agenda.
Both the Green Party and Yes Bulgaria party are calling for Tsatsarov's resignation and further investigation into the meeting.
Panov was elected chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation (VKS) in January 2015. He has a seven year term. VKS is the top court in Bulgaria.
Panov has fought an uphill battle against corruption in Bulgaria. According to the Gulf-Times, “Panov is one of the only senior judges to openly accuse magistrates of political interference and to campaign for reforms in a system governed by greed rather than justice.”