¿HABLAS ESPAÑOL, ANYONE?

by Stamen Manolov

In the days of Communism, Todor Zhivkov used to stash away those who had erred to party, state or to himself by… providing them with diplomatic appointments in unimportant and faraway locations.

Out of sight, out of danger, he reasoned, provided the diplomatic appointees felt sufficiently content in their jobs not to stir up any trouble from wherever they had been sent to. Boyko Borisov, Zhivkov's bodyguard and now prime minister of Bulgaria, likes to tell his voters that he protects them from Communism, but apparently he has perfected the art of stashing delinquent officials away by providing them with comfortable diplomatic appointments abroad.

Take the case of Plamen Georgiev, the former boss of KPKONPI, the Bulgarian commission to seize assets it deems illegally acquired. Behind the monstrous acronym stands a scary organisation, set up in the 2010s under Western pressure, that was supposed to fight corruption and organised crime the way similar agencies do in the UK, Germany and elsewhere. In the realities of Boyko Borisov's Bulgaria, however, things are rarely what they seem to be – or what Mr Borisov tells everyone they are.

The chief of KPKONPI, supposedly, ought to be a person of moral integrity who can deal with criminals efficiently and selflessly. Above all, he or she are supposed to obey the laws they are supposed to administer. Whilst in office Georgiev, it emerged earlier in 2019, had equipped himself with a well-appointed apartment that commanded a huge balcony replete with a party space, a grill and a private sauna. Significantly, Georgiev never bothered to declare his property in full to the taxman. In the face of the growing media scandal he asserted his title deed contained an "error." Then he quickly went on to produce a "correct" – and backdated – title deed for the property.

Georgiev was forced to resign in the summer, and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov appointed him… a consul in Valencia, Spain. But did Georgiev have any qualifications for the diplomatic appointment? Did he speak any Spanish?

Some media revealed that in the CV he submitted to the National Assembly he had marked he had some basic knowledge of Spanish. However, now he produced a certificate issued by a private company to testify his knowledge of Spanish was a lot more advanced. It further emerged that the certificate issuing company had been awarded a lucrative contract for "language training" of KPKONPI staff. Georgiev had approved that contract. Then a Spanish university professor wrote an open letter saying the certificate was full of basic mistakes, and suggested it may have been complied using… Google Translate.

In his inimitable style Prime Minister Boyko Borisov justified the new appointment thus: "Plamen Georgiev is a man with several educations [sic], with thousands of awards [sic], with billions of seized and confiscated funds [sic], with several languages [sic]… There are thousands of consuls like that [sic]."

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