“We investigate and confiscate assets that are illegally acquired and return them to the state or to the victims of the crime,” explains Dimo Grozdev from the Commission for Illegal Asset Forfeiture in Bulgaria. The Commission is running a project aiming to improve and streamline the asset recovery system in Bulgaria. Currently, they recover around € 7.5 million per year. This could be assets – money, real estate, gold etc. - from crimes such as trafficking in human beings, briberies, thefts etc. The confiscation can take place after a court decision.
The project is supported under the ‘Schengen cooperation and combating cross-border crime’ programme in Bulgaria funded by Norway.
Learning from other countries
“Nowadays we see a lot of trans-border crimes and it is therefore important for us to communicate better with colleagues in other countries and learn from their experiences, methods and practices,” says Grozdev. An important part of the project is therefore to improve the capacity of the Commission by training its staff in languages, good practices and methods from other countries and international legislation, thus enabling them to identify money laundering, offshore assets and all in all improve the asset recovery system in Bulgaria.
How can we increase human rights competences within the courts? Read about the Bulgarian judges that were sent for a placement in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg to gain more knowledge in application of human rights law.
“Our colleagues need training and to improve their investigative practices. The opportunity to network and pick up best practices from abroad is very valuable. We had a lack of training opportunities, and the Norway Grants project is the only opportunity we had to improve our skills and methods,” explains Grozdev.
140 people - lawyers, economists, former police officers etc. - are working in the Commission for Illegal Asset Forfeiture in Bulgaria.
Council of Europe - an important partner
The Council of Europe is contributing to the project as a partner. They make assessments of the legal system for asset recovery in Bulgaria and help organise training and capacity building seminars by inviting high-level experts.
“The cooperation is very fruitful and the partnership has contributed a lot to the project and the capacity building of the Commission,” Grozdev concludes.
Would you like to read other stories from Bulgaria? Through the Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway support several projects in Bulgaria. You can read about some of them here:
More than 2400 police officers in Bulgaria have received training in order to increase their skills and knowledge when working in Roma communities. Read about the project that has worked to prevent and reduce the incidents of human rights violations by police acting in multi-ethnic communities.
Through a project funded by Norway, the Bulgarian National Legal Aid Bureau (NLAB) has introduced two entirely new services providing legal consultation free of charge – services that were not earlier available in Bulgaria.