Enough is Enough – ‘ApartmentGate’ home scandal proves to be too much corruption for Bulgarian people
An upmarket Sofia neighbourhood has become the focus of anti-corruption campaigners who are probing how a group of prominent Bulgarian politicians and state officials were able to purchase luxury apartments at knockdown prices.
The scandal, dubbed “apartmentgate”, has infuriated ordinary Bulgarians who normally shrug off corruption as an inevitable part of life in the EU’s poorest member state.
The affair was sparked by Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who is number two in the GERB ruling party, as well as driving the party’s campaign machine and serving as president of its parliamentary group.
As revealed by the Bulgarian section of Radio Free Europe, Tsvetanov made an agreement to acquire a newly built luxury flat with a dedicated elevator from the garage, in a posh Sofia neighborhood. The deal involved him exchanging two other apartments and making a payment of 100,000 lev (around $57,520) to the construction company. On the same day and through the same notary, the construction company sold Tsvetanov’s two older apartments to someone the politician knew.
The problem was that the prices declared to the notary for all the apartments involved in the deal were well below market value – meaning less tax for the state. Additional questions arose, as to whether the construction company enjoyed legislative favors from their connection to Tsvetanov.
Similar stories about other, artificially discounted apartments emerged, involving other members of the ruling party, and the scandal gradually spilled over into almost every institution of power, including the opposition, the president, and the wife of the chief justice.
Initially, Tsvetanov tried to defend himself, arguing that he had not broken the law. However, although he was Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s right-hand man, the latter had much to lose. It was just a month before the European Parliament elections in May – and, perhaps for the first time, Borissov and his GERB party might struggle to win.
Via FT / Radio Free Europe