On June 30, 2016, a draft Bill on prevention of corruption and asset forfeiture was adopted at first reading (i.e. as a concept) by the Bulgarian Parliament (the Draft Bill). The Draft Bill follows the National Strategy for preventing and combating corruption in the Republic of Bulgaria 2015-2020 and builds on current legal provisions spread across a range of legal texts. The Draft Bill sets out principles and mechanisms for (i) prevention of "corrupt behaviour" by high public officials, (ii) forfeiture of illegal assets and (iii) establishment of a conflict of interests compilation and respective sanctions. Under the future framework, any information about a committed criminal offence and related materials should be sent to the prosecutor's office in order to initiate criminal proceedings. Proceedings for forfeiture of illegal assets are conducted independently from criminal proceedings.
In brief, the Draft Bill provides:
- a definition of “corrupt behaviour” (extending the definition of "bribery" set out in the Criminal Code by including acts that could not be considered criminal offences.
- an extension of persons submitting declarations (by including: municipal counsellors, presidents of state universities, etc.);
- an extension of assets and interests to be declared (by including those of the declarant's spouse or non-marital partner and minors);
- an increase of the minimum threshold for declaration from BGN 5 000 to 10 000;
- a legal presumption that an asset is illegal unless proved to the contrary, i.e. the burden of proof is shifted - the person under scrutiny should prove the ground of the acquisition;
- the establishment of a single anti-corruption body which takes over the functions of four currently operating institutions.
The Draft Bill is subject to criticism by members of the Parliament and the Supreme Court of Cassation. It is questionable whether an analysis of the actual benefits and/or disadvantages of codifying some of the current legal provisions governing those fields of law has been conducted.
After the first reading, the Draft Bill will be further discussed by Parliamentarian committees and voted on text-by-text in a full plenary session.