May Bulgaria extradite own nationals abroad?

Extradition in Bulgaria generally

By and large, one may be extradited when requested by a foreign government in connection with a serious crime punishable by both the Bulgarian and the requesting country’s law.

Unlike the position in other countries, as a general rule Bulgarian law does not permit the extradition of its own nationals (including those nationals who are dual nationals of Bulgaria and another state or states) abroad. There are however some exceptions from this general rule.

Extradition to an EU Member State

Although not considered extradition per se under local legal doctrine, the European Arrest Warrant (‘EAW’), has an identical effect. Under the EAW legislation, Bulgaria may not refuse to extradite a Bulgarian national to another EU Member State solely on grounds of his or her Bulgarian citizenship. It is nevertheless possible to avoid extradition if Bulgaria agrees to carry out on its territory the prison sentence against that national, handed down by the requesting Member State’s court of law.

Where a Bulgarian citizen is the subject of an EAW for the purposes of prosecution in connection with a crime punishable by life imprisonment, he or she may be surrendered on the condition that he or she is returned to Bulgaria to serve the sentence passed against him in the requesting Member State.

Once extradited to another EU Member State, the Bulgarian national may become the subject of a further extradition request and be extradited onwards from that state to a third state, without Bulgaria having a say at that point whether this should be done.

Extradition to third countries

Exceptions to the general rule of prohibition of extradition of own nationals can be made by express provisions in international agreements, which have been ratified and have entered into force and which specifically allow for extradition of own nationals – and then only on the narrow terms of the international treaty. The existence of Bulgarian citizenship is assessed at the time of receipt of the request for extradition.

As of 2019, Bulgaria is party to about a dozen international agreements covering extradition, including with the USA, the People’s Republic of China, India, and South Korea, but not e.g. with Russia.

Not all of these agreements allow for Bulgarian nationals to be extradited.

For example, in the agreement with the USA, extradition may be possible for one of 29 serious offences. Additionally, own nationals may be extradited by discretion in other cases too.

Extradition of Bulgarian citizens to China or India, on the other hand, is always prohibited and the agreements with those countries do not change that.

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Recent work:

An ~€1M claim on behalf of real estate consultants

NBLO’s dispute resolution lawyers represented UK-based real estate consultants who had structured a € 40-million-worth commercial property project on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.  In breach of an applicable contractual obligation, the consultants had not been paid the agreed success fees for their services. The then director of the defaulting party had been tragically shot dead in the meantime.

Following a hotly contested first instance, with below-the-belt attempts by the other side (the least untypical perhaps being the claim that the contract had been a forgery and a trial-within-a-trial on the issue), our team succeeded in obtaining a judgment at first instance.  The parties were then able to achieve a significant settlement.

The key skills we were able to bring to bear in providing a solution included searching for solutions across the problem domain; appropriately involving representatives of Bulgaria’s EU partner member-states to buttress judicial independence; and resourcefully dealing with heterodox approaches by our judicial opponents.

© New Balkans Law Office 2020