Free access to personal data in Bulgaria’s Commercial Register is helping fraudsters to steal companies by changing their ownership, according to a September 5 2012 report by television station bTV.
An example was the attempted theft of a large construction company in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city ofVarna in April.
Only a “stroke of luck” saved the real owners of the company from the loss of equipment and assets worth hundreds of thousands of leva, according to the report.
Thefts of businesses take place when fraudsters access the personal details and copy the signatures of the real owners in the Commercial Register, then use fake proxies to change the ownership of the company. This is followed by selling the company’s property and undertaking financial commitments on behalf of the stolen company.
In the case of the construction company inVarna, the firm’s lawyers discovered the change of ownership just a few hours before it would have been too late. While preparing documentation for an important transaction, the lawyers found that the ownership of the company was recorded in the Commercial Register as subject to change.
The company sought the help of the police to prevent the change but discovered that in practice this is impossible and fresh documents have to be submitted to establish ownership by the real owners.
With the assistance of the Registry Agency, two of those involved in the attempted fraud were arrested when they arrived at the agency. However, the third involved in the scam – believed to be the brains of the operation – has evaded being taken into custody.
The owner of the company, Rossen Koleliev, said that the three days that his company was owned by someone else cannot be deleted from the company’s history and he called for legislative changes.
He had been lucky, but many company owners and managers were not so lucky, the report said.
Deputy Justice Minister Denitsa Valkova said that the problem was a serious one.
Plans were to provide an SMS service to shareholders, directors or legal representatives of firms so that they would receive mobile phone text messages when changes to the ownership or management of the company are applied for.
The legal owners or managers would have three days to stop the change if it is a scam. The service is expected to be available by the end of November 2012. The fee is not yet known.
From January 1 2013, checks on information in the register will be available only against a signature and managers will be given the option of receiving an SMS whenever someone checks on their company in the Commercial Register.