The US has sanctioned on Friday (10 February) five high-profile Bulgarians including two former ministers, under the Magnitsky act, stating that they were “extensively involved in corrupt activity in Bulgaria.”
The two ministers under sanctions are Vladislav Goranov, the former finance minister of GERB in the government of Boyko Borissov, and Rumen Ovcharov, former energy minister from the Bulgarian Socialist Party in the government of Sergei Stanishev.
The other three sanctioned are two former heads of the Bulgarian nuclear power plant Kozloduy, as well as Nikolay Malinov, leader of the “Russophiles” Movement, who is under trial for espionage to the profit of Russia.
The new batch of sanctions was announced in Sofia in the presence of Jim O’Brien, head of the Office for Coordination of Sanctions at the US State Department.
The US Treasury Department says the five people under the new sanctions were “extensively involved in corrupt activity in Bulgaria.”
“The United States is supporting its NATO ally, Bulgaria, in fighting both deep-seated corruption and Russian influence undermining democratic institutions,” Brian Nelson, who is the Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, was quoted as saying.
“The actions highlighted today span across political parties and governments, demonstrating the urgent need to dismantle the networks that have for years reproduced illegal activities, particularly in the energy sector.”
“Corruption robs the Bulgarian people of hundreds of millions of dollars and hinders investments and the country’s economic growth,” he added.
“Goranov used his position as Minister of Finance to support the bribery of Bulgarian government officials and deprived the Bulgarian state of tax revenues for the benefit of Bulgarian oligarchs. As Minister of Finance, Goranov participated in a corruption scheme, as a result of which Bulgarian officials received tens of millions of euros in exchange for favorable legislation benefiting circles in the gambling business,” the US authorities said in a statement.
At the same time, the United Kingdom also announced that it was imposing corruption sanctions against Delyan Peevski, Vasil Bozhkov and Ilko Zhelyazkov. The three were sanctioned under Magnitsky a year and a half ago by the US.
Reportedly the US sanctioned Goranov for his connections with Peevski and the gambling business.
“Goranov used his position as Minister of Finance to facilitate the bribery of Bulgarian government officials and deprived the Bulgarian state of tax revenues for the benefit of Bulgarian oligarchs. As Minister of Finance, Goranov participated in a corruption scheme, as a result of which Bulgarian officials received tens of millions of euros in exchange for favorable legislation benefiting circles in the gambling business,” the US authorities said in a statement.
The US say that Ovcharov has received millions of euros in bribes.
“Ovcharov has repeatedly engaged in corrupt energy contracts with Russian energy companies, receiving bribes and other benefits in exchange for fixed-price contracts for Russian gas and nuclear fuel and maintenance contracts for the Kozloduy nuclear power plant.” He has received more than €5 million in offshore bank accounts since he was minister of energy, the US statement said.
Regarding the two previous heads of Kozloduy, Alexander Nikolov and Ivan Genov, The US Treasury Department says that they coordinated the taking of commissions by corruptly redirecting the service contracts for the Kozloduy NPP to their own business interests. The business arrangements resulting from these corrupt contracts reportedly continued until at least 2020, when businesses supported by Ovcharov won a service contract with the Kozloduy NPP and provided it “with a portion of the revenue”.
Nikolay Malinov is said to have bribed a Bulgarian judge to allow him to travel to Russia, while he was investigated for espionage, to receive the Order of Friendship personally from Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with a cash prize of 2.5 million rubles.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]