The National Revenue Agency has initiated a special tax audit of human rights watchdog the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee in a move that the group suspects is political retaliation for its stance on topical issues including statements by a nationalist group against refugees.
The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee has taken a critical stance against the current Bulgarian Socialist Party government, joining in mid-2013 in calls for its resignation after the appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security.
The committee has been critical of Bulgaria’s performance in dealing with the increase in the number of refugees entering Bulgaria amid the Syria crisis in 2013, at the time calling for the resignation of the head of the State Agency for Refugees. The committee subsequently added a call for the government to resign over the refugee issue.
The committee currently also is supporting several dozen applicants in court actions against the Bulgarian state in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The National Revenue Agency confirmed that it had begun an audit of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee but did not say who had made the complaint that led to the audit.
The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said that the complaint to the revenue agency had come from ultra-nationalist minority party the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (VMRO).
In November 2013, the committee sent a report to prosecutors about hate speech against refugees allegedly used by VMRO leader Angel Dzhambazki.
Prosecutors said at the time that they had begun an investigation.
The following day, VMRO called for a tax audit of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, saying that it was acting in foreign interests and that the sources of its funding should be checked.
The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said that this was the first time since its founding in 1992 that it was being subjected to a tax audit.
The committee said that its financial statements were certified annually by reputable auditing fims in compliance with the requirements of its donors and Bulgarian law. Copies of these statements were given to the Ministry of Justice.
The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said that it was fully prepared to assist the tax authorities in their inquiries, but also required information about the reasons for the audit and which other political parties and non-government organisations in Bulgaria had been subject to similar checks in recent years.
The committee said that in its activities since its establishment, it had no contractual or financial relations with the VMRO that would justify it complaining to the National Revenue Agency about it.
(Photo: Darren Shaw/sxc.hu)