BULGARIAN PRESS ON CORRUPTION

WEEKLY REVIEW

(February 20-26, 1999)

During the period under consideration the number of "corruption" publications has gone abruptly up as against what we had in the previous week. They number 106 versus 54 for the period from February 13 - 12, 1999.

The distribution of publications comes as follows: "24 Hours" -- 14, "Daily Trud" -- 11, "Monitor" -- 11,, "Pari" -- 11, "Sega" -- 9, "Duma" -- 8, "Novinar" --8, "Democracy" -- 8, "Continent" -- 5, "Capital" -- 4, "Cash" -- 3, "Banker" -- 2, "Night Trud" -- 2, "168 Hours" --3.

Of them authors' work (analyses, investigations and commentaries) -- 56, information’articles -- 50.

Issues of the Week

-- Most attention was allotted to the scandal with the eight Bulgarian medical staff and the uncovered USD 5,048,292 mln gone spent by the state-owned company "Expomed".

"24 Hours" of February 24-th published a journalist investigation "How we let go of USD 5,048, 292 in Lybia". The Auditor General Emil Dimitrov comes in saying: "They brushed me off the audit I had undertaken... After I had stood in somebody's way with the audit at the Customs, and Muravey Radev decided I was not the right person to do the audit in Lybia. Things are very serious and let's lope it is not late yet to clean up the mess."

An "Expomed" source states for "24 Hours" that the audit has ascertained that money has been spent on MPs' traveling around, on furnishing a dentist's office for the Government, on sponsoring the government hospital and the Ministry of Interior. According to the source a "strong hand" had stopped the audit at "Expomed".

USD 1,451 million of the amount was written-off as receivables in compliance with a Resolution of the Board of Directors of March 1997. Another USD 3,597 million were transferred as charges for "the Great Lybian River" and as a commission received by a private Lybian citizen against the promise to assist the company in its obtaining of whatever Lybia owed it. The company was run by Dr Stoyan Garov at the time.

There were several schemes for the money to be moved. One of them was other Bulgarian organizations' needs to be covered in Lybia on the "Expomed" 's funds available there, and later on those companies were supposed to pay back owed amounts in Sofia. Thus the embargo imposed by Lybia would have been evaded. Another scheme would imply a confidant well connected in terms of safely crossing the border to take a briefcase full of money as far as Tunis. Secret channels were set up reaching out to certain European banks. The services were used most frequently of Vienna's Central Wechsel und Creditbank. In 1995 SFr 378,529,102 go there.

Things getting ever worse for "Expomed", a new scheme is invented to tap what was left of the dollars. "Expomed" and "Unifarm" conclude a contract under which "Expomed" transfers USD 200,000 and BGL 70 million to purchase substances and produce drugs. "Expomed" also grants an automobile, computer and photocopier equipment amounting to some BGL 10 million. The money diminishing part of the former managers of "Expomed" become "Unifarm" 's employees.

Tripoli's office of "Kintex" gets involved in the "Expomed" tapping scandal, too. A cash order of LD 120,000 extends a credit to the Tripoli's "Kintex" office.

Former Director of "Expomed" Dr Stoyan Garov gives a statement before the daily of February 25-th of this year that it was not about USD 5 million, but USD 12.6 million. The money had been written off by "Medexim" 's management in 1990 because the Bulgarian side did not have documents for them and the Lybian side was not willing to admit its liabilities. Against a charge of USD 700,000 a top-ranking Lybian officer helped some USD 7 million to be returned to Bulgaria. Newspaper's own source the Lybian is currently living in Sofia having bought for himself a house and office in "Lozenetz" with the legal assistance of the former Prime-Minister Dimitar Popov.

-- Party financing as a mechanism for limiting corruption. This is the subject of one author's material -- by UDF deputy Ivan Dimov ("Democracy" newspaper of February 22-nd) and of an interview granted by UDF MP Panayot Lalov to "Sega" newspaper of February 24-th. The gist of what they suggest is that wealthy people should run for a mayor so that the possibility for corruption be ruled out; and the pre-election campaigns themselves should not take too long, to save funds.

-- The sale of "Petrol". Related to the outrageous intervention of the Russian Minister of fuels and energy Sergey Tchizhov on the 25-th of February Bulgarian dailies bring forward the information, drawing on the Russian "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" that Tchizhov is to be dismissed. Such was the personal opinion of the Russian Premier Vladimir Boulgak.

-- The cigarette affair. In connection with the continuous cigarette exposure PGDL deputies proposed to institute a 17-member Survey Commission at the Parliament as well as pass on the data to be investigated by the "Anti-mafia" Commission. This constitutes part of PGDL's preparation for a cabinet trust vote to be proposed by them ("Pari" newspaper of February 20-th). The blue majority rejected the parliamentary commission proposal. A journalist investigation carried out by "168 Hours" states that Hristo Bisserov is the one allocating the shares to go to the distributor companies for "Bulgartabac" -- Blagoevgrad. Shady cigarette affairs in Bulgaria prevent big cigarette concerns from investing in our country, says Balkan Agency author's material published in "Continent" newspaper. An extension to the subject is the new cigarette affair scandal uncovered in Plovdiv's Customs house. Head of the Customs house Dimitar Tolev has defrauded the treasury by USD 7 million through endorsing fake documents for transfers of cigarettes, which instead of going abroad head for the "Iliyantsi" store-houses in Sofia for domestic realization.

-- Trustees and the control over them. The trustees issue and the need control to be exercised over them was first raised last week by the Chair of the Parliamentary Budget Commission Yordan Tzonev. This week trustees' abuses have received wide coverage in "Banker" newspaper. Its page one editorial "Tic, no Tic -- be a Trustee!" states that the closed banks have cost BGL 132.4 billion. In the course of the whole previous year the absurd status quo was attained of a bottom line for all of the 15 closed credit institutions to spend BGL 132.4 billion thus exceeding by BGL 27 million their overall revenues. According to some estimations one third or so, and according to others -- some half of the amounts lost from the closed vaults have landed in the pockets of foreign consultants. It is also announced that a special group formed by the BNB, the MF and the MLLEI are preparing a draft act on bank insolvency.

 

Definitions of Corruption

National Bulgarian media, in other words the public have various definitions for corruption:

In Euroleft's Prof Dragomir Draganov's opinion corruption is the abuse of economic, political and administrative power for the benefit of those in power ("Duma" newspaper, February 25-th).

Quite often lobbyism is taken for corruption. Newspaper "Sega" 's analysis of February 22-nd points to the fact that lobbyism is about to become a state policy. "Lobbyism" means corruption. The reason why lobbyism is widely spread is the missing intermediary link between the interest groups and the representatives of power, hence in most cases the part of lobbyists is usually undertaken by deputies and ministers.

Corruption is often identified with mafia structures, mafia, foul money laundering ("Continent" newspaper of February, 23-rd).

Corruption is among other things giving and receiving bribes, tax frauds, "black" accountancy, document frauds, tapping capitals ("Pari" newspaper, February 23-rd; "Sega" newspaper, February 26-th; "Novinar", February 23-rd; "Continent" newspaper, February 25-th)

Corruption is also associated with post-socialist monopolization, the transformation of state and party power into property, using for that purpose suitable levers -- ideology and ideologists ("Continent" newspaper, February, 23-rd).

Corruption is envisioned in terms of oligarchy as well -- "Continent" newspaper, February, 25-th. In the views of the author the missing spheres of differentiated action at the top of the state's pyramid has been preconditioning conflicts and corruption. The merger of party and state makes a point in the interview of Vassil Kalinov, member of the Executive Bureau of the Supreme Council of the BSP, given to "Duma" newspaper of February 23-rd.

Corruption as a label for local government -- this is the concern of some of Mayor of Varna Hristo Korchev's speculations related with his seven years of mayors’s mandate, published in "Pari" newspaper of February 24-rd.

Areas of Corruption

According to the publications corruption takes place in the following sectors:

Economy (tax administration, tourism, customs houses, BTC, banks) -- the arrest was announced of the head of the "Big Taxpayers" office in Varna Svetoslav Avramov for misappropriation to the detriment of the state amounting to BGL 220 million (BNT, "Standart" newspaper, February 24-th), the cigarette affair ("168 Hours" newspaper); A new scandal to do with the tapping of USD 1.8 million by the state-owned company "Borosport" in Borovets ("Novinar" newspaper, February 24-th); "Anti-mafia" has adopted a project for the urgent reform at the customs implying the setting up of a special unit under the Customs Head Office with a new status and authority ("24 Hours" newspaper, February 23-rd). The project's authors are Tatyana Doncheva (PGDL) and Nikola Nikolov (UDF). The customs' top official in the region of Plovdiv was arrested for endorsing fraudulent documents. The misrepresentations of trustees and the UDF's intentions to demand political answers from the BSP for the banking crisis; the scandalous wish of the Swiss firm "Societe Generale de Surveillance" to exercise control over all country's import and export ("Standart" newspaper, February 22-nd).

Agriculture -- a joint action is announced to be undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Interior, the customs and the veterinary control against the so called "meat mafia" importing low-quality meat in the country ("Standart", February 21-st).

The Executive Power -- Minister Mario Tagarinski has been accused of pushing his brother Valentin Dimitrov into the Board of Directors of "Preciz" -- Montana, and according to unofficial sources -- into several more boards of directors ("Duma", February 25-th).

Roumen Ovcharov accuses Prime Minister Ivan Kostov of lies since the Government obviously did not want to investigate the cigarette affair. Roumen Ovcharov also claims that since the firms quoted by him and those on the Minister Bogomil Bonev's list coincide and are close to Multigroup, hence there are cabinet ministers who are also close to the same group ("Sega", February 22-nd).

Ministers' names are said to be the lobbyists of various companies -- Bogomil Bonev -- of "Mobiltel", Evgenii Bakardjiev -- of the National Bank of Greece, Alexander Bozhkov -- of the Greek insurance company ALICO. The most extensive lobby in our country seems to have George Soros according to a publication in "Sega" newspaper of February 22-nd -- Vassil Gotzev, Emma Moskova, Stefan Tafrov and Jasmine Popova.

The judiciary -- in his interview before "Cash" newspaper, February 25-th the former minister of justice Petar Kornazhev states: "A member of parliament is getting more and more fashionable recently -- Ivan Dimov, who was punished by the Great National Assembly and reduced in judiciary rank as having spent money for purposes it was not extended for. What we obviously do not have in our Parliament is control over the quality... Those practicing law are in quite a situation now -- there are many people among us who do not belong here, there are even people with convictions. There are young colleagues literally hunting for clients along the corridors and extracting huge amounts from them". The question about the reason why the Parliament did not come to considering the Alexander Karakachanov's law on the credit millionaires -- due to insider disagreement -- was answered: "This is not disagreement, but rather protection of interests. I would like, however, to be able to see apart from the credit millionaires' list the lists of former BNB employees who have allowed licenses and bank credits without any coverage.

The deputies from the Law Commission rejected Alexander Karakachanov's draft law on sanctioning illegally acquired property of over USD 100,000 whose origin cannot be proved. As Commission's Chair Svetoslav Louchnikov views it, the draft is anti-constitutional as introducing confiscation before the commitment of a crime has been proved. ("Sega" newspaper, February 26-th). The same daily says that the Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev has suspended acts of Ivan Tatarchev and Mikhail Doichev, thus preventing the incurring of losses over the state. The Decrees allowed the export of 4,500 masterboxes imported cigarettes and the return of DM 83,000 and USD 2,000 to a person. The breaches were uncovered by the Head of Customs Head Office and Plovdiv's Prosecutor at the Court of Appeal Rossen Dimov.

A material in "Novinar" of February 24-th has the names of three magistrates who will probably be fired by the new Prosecutor General Nikola Filchev. These are Mikhail Doichev -- the most discredited of Tatarchev's people, Slavcho Karzhev, head of Sofia's District Prosecutor's Office, accused of the City Prosecutor Nestor Nestorov of issuing hundreds of suspension orders against payment for fraud, robbery and theft cases, and Rousko Karagogov, reduced from a position in Prosecutor General's Office to one in District Prosecutor's Office for hooliganism.

Municipal and District Administration -- In Varna the former Head of "Property and Farming" at the municipality Ivan Cholakov, who was arrested in July last year will be held responsible for racketeering of scale. He is also accused of illegal ownership of a weapon. In Blagoevgrad -- city's Mayor Kostadin Paskalev has dismissed for breach of discipline two officers under the construction department for illegal additions to the cadaster. The scandal of issuing a plot of parcel of land owned by the municipality and turned private property by the new documents burst out a week ago. The bosses in Sofia's water supply and drainage get equipped with new Peugeot -- a material in "Nightly Trud", February 24-th.

Parties -- The Euroleft deputy Dragomir Draganov states that 950 cousins transfer state money into UDF ("Duma", February 25-th). To this effect were the findings of a draft report prepared for the "Anti-corruption" Commission. Those people have money from the national economy tapped to go into UDF's treasury and spare for themselves as well. In some 70 cases there are proofs of participation in Boards, asserts Prof Dragomir Draganov. The overall impressions are stunning -- corruption extremely varied in its forms among those in power. What they have withheld so far amounted to some USD 500 - 600.

On the other hand an information from February 20-th this year announce a visas scandal exposing the involvement of Alexander Tomov's party. The scandal is serious with a BEL leader arranging Turkish visas against enormous payment ("24 Hours", February 20-th).

Healthcare -- the exposure in Lybia, information about a Montana doctor embezzling BGL 20 million extended for diabetics ("Trud", February 25-th).

Education -- concrete data on party dictatorship on the part of Sliven's regional school inspector Liliana Yakimova in the secondary schools ("Duma" newspaper, February 23-rd); the closing down of the Slavonic University in Sofia ("Pari" newspaper, February 25-th).

Public sector -- the member of the National Council for Radio and Television Ivo Draganov is being checked for BNT malpractices. The former Director General of BNT Hacho Boyadjiev is a company to him in that. ("24 Hours", February 23-rd).

Sports -- "Eurofootball" fraud disclosed in Kardjali ("24 Hours" newspaper, February 24-th).

Quotations of the Week

Roumen Ovcharov, PGDL ("Sega" newspaper, February 22-nd)

"Bulgartabac" is one of the few springs of regular incomes for a certain circle of people directly associated with it. In this material Roumen Ovcharov points among other things that the cigarette affair is evidence of the existence of a mafia, of extensions reaching out all over the country."

Elena Poptodorova, BEL ("Novinar" newspaper, February 22-nd)

"Our politics today secures posts against financial support. Everything is giving and taking, and on an absolutely conspicuous material basis -- against political support. The motivation of closed natural economy has been put forward... Our politicians are assessed according to the personal gains they have secured for themselves and those close to them."