Today, on March 31, 2015, at the Conference Hall of the House of Europe in Sofia a round-table discussion “Forfeiture of Illegal Assets: European Perspectives in the Combat against Serious Crime” took place.

The round-table discussion follows a public discussion dedicated to the subject of confiscation/forfeiture of illegal and criminal assets that took place in Brussels, Belgium last week with the active participation of the Vice-president of the European Commission, other representatives of European Commission, members of the European Parliament, experts, NGOs, etc.

Among the guests of the event in Sofia, were constitutional judges, the president of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Members of the parliament, representatives of the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture, experts, representatives of civil society, ambassadors and media.

The event was opened by Mr. Kalin Slavov, Executive Director of TI-Bulgaria, who said, that Bulgaria is among EU Member States which apply non-conviction based confiscation model, which gives an advantage in prosecution of the organised crime groups’ ill-gotten gains, which are usually hard to be reached.

Mr. Ognyan Zlatev, Head of the European Commission Representation Office to Bulgaria, who was among official guests on the event, emphasized on the important role of the criminal and illegal assets confiscation in EU context. According to Mr. Zlatev common EU policy on this issue should be further developed because of the overspread of transnational crime.

In his speech Mr. Plamen Georgiev, President of the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture, pointed out that CIAF’s results increase progressively every year. Mr. Georgiev announced Commission’s proposal to decrease the threshold  amount between suspect’s identified assets and lawfully acquired income to 120 000 leva (now 250 000 leva). CIAF President also said that the new Bulgarian legislation has its deficiencies but  the Commission is undertaking  steps to  suggest improvements.

Ms. Diana Kovatcheva, former Minister of Justice of Bulgaria, presented the Policy Paper suggesting an “ideal national model” for confiscation/forfeiture of assets. The model is based on the principles of transparency, efficiency and protection of human rights. It also contains all the advantages of existing national models, which have proven their efficiency, and tend to avoid their weak points. In addition the Policy paper provides recommendations for improvement of the regulation of confiscation/forfeiture of assets at EU level which could contribute to easier mutual recognition of judicial decisions, identification and freezing of assets.

In her presentation Ms. Kovatcheva pointed out  that Bulgarian legislation is quite modern and outstanding compared to the legal framework in the majority of MSs. This is why it goes beyond the scope of the current Directive 2014/42/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime in the European Union adopted in April 2014. This demands further development of the legislation on EU level in view of the adoption of common standards to encompass all existing models of confiscation/forfeiture existing in the EU MSs, the mutual recognition of court decisions and identification and management of assets located in other MSs.

In the course of the round-table discussion Mr. Krum Zarkov presented a comparative analysis of the models for confiscation/forfeiture of illegal assets in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania. Assoc. prof. Antoniy Galabov was also among key-note speakers. He pointed out the significance of civil monitoring over the work of confiscation authorities as a key factor in the process of forfeiture since it can put pressure for higher level of  transparency, integrity, accountability and effectiveness of the procedures for confiscation/forfeiture of illegal and criminal assets.

During the event before Bulgarian audience the Comparative report elaborated by researchers’ teams of the national chapters of Transparency International in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania was presented. The report includes summaries of the three national models of confiscation/forfeiture of illegal and criminal assets and the conclusions from the civil monitoring on the confiscation procedures in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania.

The initiative is part of the “Enhancing Integrity and Effectiveness of Illegal Asset Confiscation – European Approaches” project implemented by Transparency International Bulgaria, Italy and Romania with the financial support of the European Commission.

The event was hosted by Transparency International Bulgaria – a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to fighting corruption.

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