MEASURING CORRUPTION IN SEPTEMVRI

by Stamen Manolov

The Bulgarian government is serious in its fight against corruption. The latest example of a legal action against someone suspected of corruption happened in Septemvri, a town in central Bulgaria.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor, which is the state attorney ordering corruption probes, took things with quite some determination as it ordered an underground probe to verify whether a water pipe recently installed under one of the town's streets was up to standard. This happened as part of an ongoing investigation against the town's mayor who the prosecutors suspected of embezzlement.

The methods used in the probe evoked a Monty Python sketch. The deputy mayor of Septemvri was ordered personally to dig a hole in the street using a spade so that a police investigator could use a tape to measure the water pipes. As the digging progressed, a telephone line was cracked and the people in the neighbourhood lost their phone and Internet connections. A local who did not know the police probe was going on and did not expect a hole where there had been a road... drove into it, damaging his car.

In addition to the water pipe, a local city council road had to be measured, using the odometer of a police car, against the protestations of the police who said the measurement might not be very precise as the car's tyres were low profile. Probes were then taken from the road to verify whether the amount of sand and gravel used was right.

The state prosecutors and the police left the water pipe hole open, then the Septemvri City Council refused to pay for its repair.

It is unclear whether the evidence collected in this way was used against the mayor of Septemvri, but the police refused to issue the man who smashed his car with a police report. Instead, a uncalled-for towing truck appeared to pull the car out of the hole.

The man was infuriated as he needed the report to file insurance claims. The police responded he himself had refused to be issued a report, a claim the man vehemently denied. Asked who had called in the towing truck, the police said they didn't know. The service, however, was free.

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