Bulgaria mulls dropping bank secrecy rules amid new CCB controversy
A bill lifting bank secrecy protection from politicians appeared to gain traction on May 14, as the saga of the Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) took a new turn when Bulgarian media published a list of people who had had meetings with CCB’s former majority shareholder Tsvetan Vassilev.
The media were sent copies of a hand-written ledger allegedly listing Vassilev’s meetings, with the names of several prominent politicians on the list. The files were accompanied by a letter claiming to be from Vassilev himself, but the banker later denounced the letter, saying in a statement on his website that he was not the author.
Adding to the confusion, one Vassilev’s lawyers reportedly confirmed the authenticity of the ledger, while Vassilev’s own statement did not either deny or confirm that he had had meetings with the people listed.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov was quick to point out that his name was not in the list, nor was any name of politicians from the ruling party, GERB. Asked to comment on the name of Stoyan Mavrodiev, the head of the financial supervision commission, who is a former MP for the party, Borissov said that “Mavrodiev is not from GERB”, as quoted by broadcaster Darik Radio.
Another prominent name on the list, MP Yordan Tsonev said that he often met with bankers as a member of Parliament’s budget and finance committee, including Vassilev, but such meetings were always focused on “work topics”.
Tsonev, who is deputy leader of the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) has been at the forefront of the party’s efforts to disprove media allegations of close ties to CCB and Vassilev, which have been made for years by parts of the Bulgarian media.
He has also defended fellow MRF MP Delyan Peevski as having nothing to do with the collapse of CCB – Vassilev and Peevski have been alleged to have had a close business partnership, but the two have clashed repeatedly in the weeks before CCB was put under the central bank’s administration in June 2014, as the two exchanged accusations of murder conspiracies.
On May 13, Tsonev tabled a bill proposing to lift the bank secrecy rules as they apply to politicians’ deposits and loans, although it was unclear whether it was to apply only to the CCB case or as a general rule.
On May 14, GERB MP Menda Stoyanova, chairperson of the budget committee in Parliament, told Bulgarian National Television that the party was leaning toward backing the bill, although the exact language of the amendments was still being discussed.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Photo of shuttered CCB branch in Sofia’s Lozenets borough: Alex Bivol)