Saturday

19th Sep 2020

Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish leader under scrutiny for corruption

After 21 years heading Bulgaria's 10 percent ethnic Turkish minority, one of Bulgaria's key politicians, Ahmed Dogan, has come under increasing scrutiny for corruption.

For the past couple of decades, the 56 year-old bespectacled philosopher has been an influential power broker and wealthy businessman, reportedly skillful in cashing in on his political weight.

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  • Mr Dogan founded the MRF shortly after the 1989 regime change and has been its leader ever since (Photo: Vesselin Borishev, Trud Daily)

But now the judiciary is looking into remunerations worth the equivalent of €750,000 that Mr Dogan allegedly received from a private firm to consult on four hydroelectric projects in southern Bulgaria, Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev said.

"An assessment of the circumstances around Dogan is underway," he said, stressing that the proceedings are preliminary and no charges have been brought yet. As a member of parliament, Mr Dogan enjoys immunity against prosecution, which needs to be lifted for any legal action against him to start.

Although a law-maker may receive a consultancy fee, as long as it is declared, a report about Mr Dogan's revenues in the Sofia daily Trud triggered a storm of indignation in Bulgaria, the poorest EU state, which is struggling with a severe economic crisis. Many saw the payment as a sign of murky links between politics and business.

In the recent past, Mr Dogan outraged the public with a statement that his predominantly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) has built "rings of firms" around it. He lives in a posh Sofia suburb, in a sumptuous mansion officially labelled an MRF party house.

Commentators have been particularly sarcastic about Mr Dogan's qualifications for building river barrages, dams and hydroelectric power stations. His party colleagues contend that their leader, who rarely appears in parliament, is consumed by science. He relentlessly reads physics and chemistry books and works in a scientific laboratory installed in his mansion, MRF officials said.

Thanks to Mr Dogan's political skills, the MRF has repeatedly emerged as the kingmaker in Bulgaria's ever-divided and cantankerous parliament. The party's support was essential in forming the previous two governments, whose legacy is now being closely watched for corruption.

Imprisoned by the Communists in the late 1980s, Mr Dogan founded the MRF shortly after the 1989 regime change and has been its leader ever since. He remained undeterred by a disclosure that he was an informer for the former Communist secret police, whose archives Bulgaria started opening in the late 1990s.

The majority of Bulgaria's 700,000 ethnic Turks remain a part of the poorest segment of the country's 7.6 million population. Democratic governments restored their rights after a Communist campaign to change their names into Slavic ones caused an unprecedented exodus of 300,000 Bulgarian Turks to Turkey in 1989.

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