Bulgaria ex-spy chief sentenced to 15 years for misappropriation of funds

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s former intelligence chief Kircho Kirov was sentenced to 15 years in jail on Tuesday for what prosecutors described as the misappropriation of 5.1 million levs ($3.19 million) of public funds between 2007 and 2011.

It was the second verdict against Kirov, who is already appealing a 10-year prison sentence handed down in 2015 in an earlier misappropriation case.

In the latest case, prosecutors said Kirov had ordered a subordinate to draw up false documents to siphon funds from the intelligence service budget.

He has denied wrongdoing and said he would appeal the new conviction, which he described as part of a politically motivated campaign to persuade foreigners that Bulgaria is cracking down on corruption.

“I think this case is of political nature,” Kirov, 67, told Focus news website “It is obvious that we have to show the international factors and our European partners that an important figure had been convicted.”

The European Union has repeatedly criticized Bulgaria, which now holds the EU’s rotating presidency for the first time since joining the bloc in 2007, for failing to jail corrupt senior officials or overhaul an inefficient judiciary.

Bulgaria’s center-right government, led by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, faces a no-confidence vote over accusations that it has failed to tackle corruption. The motion is expected to fail this week.

Kirov was dismissed as the head of the national intelligence service in 2012 after nine years in office. Borissov initially named him as an adviser, but fired him after only two months.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Peter Graff