EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Bulgaria's former prime minister has been charged with losing classified documents during his term, a move he called "politically motivated" as the European Commission is due to release a report on the country's progress in shaping up its judiciary and fight against fraud and corruption.
According to Bulgarian prosecutors, Mr Stanishev allegedly lost seven confidential reports while he was a prime minister, including Nato files and a national security report on organised crime.
He may face a prison sentence of up to two years, although prosecutors say the case could be concluded with just a fine.
Currently a leader of the Socialist opposition, Mr Stanishev has waived his parliamentary immunity awaiting court procedures. He ridiculed the charges and said they were "politically motivated" as his rival and current Prime Minister Bojko Borisov has promised to perform a clean sweep of the political class and clamp down on corruption and crime, after his country lost millions of euros in EU aid due to these problems.
"There is no doubt that both the investigation office and the prosecutors' office work under enormous pressure from the executive power. They are carrying out a political order by it," Mr Stanishev said, as quoted by Focus News.
Other ex-ministers serving under Mr Stanishev embroiled in corruption scandals, have also been indicted in recent months: former labour minister Emilia Maslarova, two agriculture ministers - Valeri Tsvetanov and Nihat Kabil - and the former defence minister Nikolay Tsonev.
None have received any sentences yet, except for a local businessman, Mario Nikolov, sentenced to 12 years in prison for embezzling 7.5 million of EU farm aid, along with his wife and four accomplices. He may however appeal the verdict and will not be put behind bars until the final sentence is pronounced.
A report on the progress made by Bulgaria, as well as by its neighbouring EU state Romania, in shaping up their judicial systems and consistently pursuing corruption and fraud cases, is due to be published by the commission later this month.
In 2008, the commission froze €500 million earmarked for Bulgaria, mainly in the field of agriculture, as it became clear that a lot of the money had been siphoned off via phony projects into the pockets of local businessmen such as Mr Nikolov.
A report on fraud published by the commission on Wednesday (14 July) highlighted Bulgaria as the country accounting for most of the fraud reported in 2009 in regards to the so-called Sapard agriculture aid scheme.
Also, the bloc's anti-fraud office, Olaf, has launched 41 fresh cases in Bulgaria last year, the majority of which are related to agricultural aid programmes.
"There is a better understanding in Bulgaria after their payments were suspended that they had to take real measures in order to secure the proper management of EU money," an EU official told journalists in Brussels on Wednesday.
"We've started seeing that Bulgarian authorities are taking up responsibilities in regards to financial controls and compliance obligations," he added.