Critics slam Bulgarian corruption probe

June 2019
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Critics slam Bulgarian corruption probe. Bulgaria's Anti-Corruption Commission says it has found no conflict of interest in a property scandal that led four senior government officials to resign after they were found to have bought luxury apartments at discount prices. Four high-level government officials from Bulgaria's ruling GERB coalition resigned from office amid a criminal investigation launched after their suspicious real estate deals with the Arteks development firm were uncovered in March by RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service, the Bivol.bg news website, and Bulgaria's nongovernmental Anti-Corruption Fund. But after a three-month investigation the Anti-Corruption Commission concluded there was no conflict of interest on the part of any officials from the ruling GERB-coalition when GERB lawmakers amended the country's construction code to the benefit of Arteks. Meanwhile, the European Commission said in April that Bulgaria's GERB-led government has to do much more to combat fraud and corruption.


Cybercrime Gang that Stole $100 Million Dismantled

May 2019
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Cybercrime Gang that Stole $100 Million Dismantled. European and U.S. police have dismantled an international crime gang that used malware to steal $100 million from tens of thousands of victims, Europol said. The operation involved investigations in the United States and five European countries -- Bulgaria, Germany, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. It said the gang used GozNym malware to infect the computers and capture online banking details of more than 41,000 victims, primarily "businesses and their financial institutions." The network laundered the funds it stole through accounts held by its members in the United States and elsewhere, according to Europol.


IMF publishes a Selected Issues Paper on Bulgaria

March 2019
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IMF publishes a Selected Issues Paper on Bulgaria. The paper published on 22 March 2019 highlights key governance challenges and corresponding reforms. These relate to the fight against corruption, the judiciary, fiscal governance including public procurement and state owned enterprises’ (SOE) governance, and anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). The paper found that despite many reforms since EU accession, public perception of weak judicial independence and widespread corruption has changed little. Based on experience-based indicators, corruption appears to have improved throughout the course of the EU accession and shortly after, but deteriorated after 2010 and remained high.


Deputy leader of the ruling party in Bulgaria quits Parliament over property scandal.

March 2019
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Deputy leader of the ruling party in Bulgaria quits Parliament over property scandal. Tsvetan Tsvetanov, deputy leader of the ruling party in Bulgaria, quit the parliament in Sofia on 27 March after a media investigation revealed he had bought a luxury flat for a fraction of its normal price. The scandal, now referred to in the media as “ApartmentGate”, emerged as the result of an investigation by the newly created branch of Radio Free Europe in Sofia and the anti-graft watchdog Anti-corruption Fund. “I have nothing to be ashamed of,” Tsvetanov said, adding that he was only leaving the parliament in solidarity with the other GERB ministers who had “done nothing wrong, but took moral responsibility”.


Bulgaria charges six with financing Syrian 'Terrorist' Groups As Network Uncovered

January 2019
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Bulgaria charges six with financing Syrian 'Terrorist' Groups As Network Uncovered. Bulgarian prosecutors have charged five Syrians and a Bulgarian woman with financing terrorist groups in the Middle East. "The group transferred at least 25 million euros [$29 million] to terrorist organizations over four years," said Rumiana Arnaudova, a spokeswoman for the attorney general. Deputy Attorney General Ivan Guechev said the network was "without precedent in the European Union." The money transfers are alleged to have taken place since 2016.


Bulgaria revokes citizenship for Russian millionaire Adonev

January 2019
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Bulgaria revokes citizenship for Russian millionaire Adonev. A Bulgarian official says the Bulgarian citizenship of Russian millionaire Sergey Adonev has been revoked over a 20-year-old fraud conviction in the United States. Bulgarian Vice President Iliana Yotova said she had signed the final document revoking Adonev’s citizenship in May 2018. According to Bulgarian law, her office has the final say about granting or revoking citizenship. The revocation came just days before the expiry of the 10-year period during which it could be done. Yotova says she signed the document “following a thorough analysis by our security services.” Yotova said, as far as she knew, “authorities did not have such information back in 2008 when the citizenship was granted.” Adonev, 57, who co-founded the Russian mobile operator Yota, sponsored one of the candidates in last year’s Russian presidential election, Ksenia Sobchak. The Free Europe Bulgaria news service broke the story last week, just a day before the European Commission issued a warning against countries having “golden passports” schemes. The EU executive warned that selling citizenship or residence permits to wealthy individuals could help foreign organized crime groups infiltrate the bloc and increase the risk of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.


Bulgarian Police Make Terrorism Financing Arrests

January 2019
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Bulgarian Police Make Terrorism Financing Arrests. Bulgarian special police forces have dismantled a suspected terrorism financing ring and detained 43 people in coordinated raids across the country. Deputy Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev said on 18 January that one of the suspects was a Syrian citizen permanently residing in Bulgaria who allegedly transferred money to people abroad linked to militant groups. Geshev told a news conference in Sofia that "the main suspect has been in touch and has financed people who provide logistics to international terrorist groups." Geshev said that the bust follows a yearlong investigation in several European Union member states. He added that the investigation was not about any direct terrorist activities in Bulgaria.


Stymied on 'golden passports', EU sets up expert group

January 2019
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Stymied on 'golden passports', EU sets up expert group. The European Commission, unable to crack down on multi-billion euro schemes run by Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta that allow wealthy non-EU nationals to buy passports to gain EU citizenship, is setting up an expert group to probe the abuse. The commission announced on 23 January the plan as part of broader effort to fight crime, money-laundering, and tax evasion. "We cannot afford to keep any weak points, and here we see the weak points - especially in the citizenship schemes, which are run by Malta, by Cyprus, and still by Bulgaria," said EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova. "The country sells the EU citizenship, so in practice, the country sells something that it doesn't own," she said, noting that the EU has no legal avenue to ban the practice. The commission is demanding Member States offer greater guarantees that people who do purchase citizenship have a genuine link with the state.


Changes to the Anti-corruption Law adopted in Bulgaria

December 2018
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Changes to the Anti-corruption Law adopted in Bulgaria. Bulgarian lawmakers adopted amendments to the Anti-Corruption Act on 20 December 2018. The draft was adopted in first reading by the Bulgarian parliament on 14 December. The ruling party abandoned the idea of perpetual checks for unlawfully acquired property. The pending proceedings would be completed according to the previous order. The law also provides that in the event of terminated criminal proceedings, there should be no legal obstacle to the confiscation of illegally acquired property. The government also proposed that the term “confiscation”, previously used in the title of the draft law, to be dropped.


Bulgarian police seize huge amount of weapons during raids

December 2018
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Bulgarian police seize huge amount of weapons during raids. On 5 December 2018, Bulgarian authorities announced that they have seized a huge amount of weapons and munitions during police raids in the capital Sofia and a small village in central Bulgaria. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said the amount of high quality weapons confiscated by police exceeded that available to the country’s special force unit. Deputy Chief Prosecutor said that police found Kalashnikov automatic assault rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and tens of thousands of bullets. According to investigators, some of the weapons were manufactured in a factory in central Bulgaria. One suspect has been detained.