A five-judge panel of Bulgaria's Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) found controversial politician Ahmed Dogan innocent on charges of conflict of interest in a case that saw him receive a one million euro consultancy fee from state-owned electricity utility NEK.
The panel confirmed the earlier ruling of a three-judge panel and cannot be appealed further. In its reasoning, the court said that Dogan's consultancy contract was signed before January 1 2009, when the Bulgaria's law on conflict of interest went into force, even though part of the payment was carried out when the law was already in effect.
The contract in question was signed between Dogan and the private Institute of Mining with the help of Minstroy Holding, one of the subcontractors at the Tsankov Kamuk hydro-power array, developed by NEK at a total cost estimated at 460 million euro.
Dogan is the leader of the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which nominally held the Government mandate in 2005/09, when Bulgaria was governed by a Socialist-led tripartite coalition that included MRF.
"The claims that a member of Parliament could influence political decisions in his role as mandate-holder during this period and as the leader of a political party are outside legal considerations and do not prove the real possibility of the person under investigation of exercising influence, using his power, to acquire the respective benefit," the court said.
The SAC chose to disregard Dogan's campaign speech from 2009, when he told voters that he was "an instrument of power" and could greatly influence the distribution of state funds.
"The court must find violations by following strictly defined procedural rules and proof admissible by law – parliamentary session protocols, contracts, equity statements and written proof of money transfer," the court said.