Bulgarian National Bank said on June 30 that it has put forth amendments to the country’s Penal Code that make it a criminal offence to spread misleading information about financial institutions. The central bank has lodged the amendment bill with the budget committee of the National Assembly.
The amendment envisions an effective prison sentence of two to five years for anyone who “spreads misleading or false information or other reports about a bank or financial institution that may lead to creation of public panic.”
However, the amendment does not define what represents “misleading or false information”. Currently, the central bank has the power to impose administrative fines in such instances.
In cases where such activity has resulted in “significant damage” or yielded “significant profits”, the proposed jail time is five to 10 years, accompanied by a fine of 5000 to 10 000 leva.
BNB said that the amendments were made necessary by the “dissemination in recent days of misleading reports and malicious rumours regarding Bulgarian banks” and was meant to criminalise such offenses.
Bulgaria’s third-largest lender, First Investment Bank, became the target of a bank run on June 27 following reports that BNB described as an “outbreak of rumours and malicious public statements” and “criminal actions directly aimed against the savings of every Bulgarian citizen and against the financial stability as a key element of the national security of the country.”
(Bulgarian National Bank. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)