Saxe-Coburg ‘quickly selling off forests’ – media report

While Bulgaria is considering court action to recover some of the forests given to Simeon Saxe-Coburg, the country’s former monarch and former prime minister, he has started to sell of them off quickly, Bulgarian-language daily Sega alleged on October 10 2009.

Saxe-Coburg got the forests through the country’s post-communist restitution process, but the state forestry agency said on October 2 that he had been given more than was due to him and the state would go to court to get it back.

According to Sega, it had established by checking the property registry that of the total 1654ha of forests owned by Saxe-Coburg in 2007/08, close to 137ha had been sold.

The three larges-scale transactions were concluded with an off-shore company on December 30 2008, the Sega report said.

Before the state forestry agency’s announcement in October, critics of Saxe-Coburg had long alleged that the awards of forests to him were not lawful.

As The Sofia Echo reported earlier, Saxe-Coburg, in an interview published by Israeli Maariv newspaper on October 5 2009, referred to criticism that his motivation to return to Bulgaria in 2001 to enter politics — in that year, the former exile won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections and became prime minister — was so that he could have had former crown property handed to him.

Saxe-Coburg was briefly boy king of Bulgaria after the death of his father, Boris III, but was dethroned and exiled through a referendum, conducted by Bulgaria’s post-World War 2 communist regime, on abolishing the monarchy. Saxe-Coburg spent most of the ensuing years as an exile in Madrid.

In 2003, during Saxe-Coburg’s term as prime minister, Parliament decided to return the assets of the former royal family, seized by the Communist regime in 1946.

It was later alleged that during the restitution, about 452ha of forests near the town of Samokov were transferred to the former royal family with no legal basis for doing so.

“Can I pack this real estate in a suitcase and take it back to Madrid?” the report quoted him as saying.

“Was this real estate the property of the people during the past 50 years? Those in power had them and after that, these properties were left without care, and I ask what should have I done: to spend money on them and their maintenance, or to leave them without proper care. No one in Bulgaria who had the right to restitution refused it, no matter who you are” he told Maariv.

“When in 1998 the constitutional court said that I, as a Bulgarian citizen, had a right to restitution, no one said anything against it. When we donated 90 hectares to Sofia city hall, no one said ‘wait this is not yours to give’ and everything was great.
“But from the moment I became prime minister they started searching for such things,” Saxe-Coburg said.

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