Bulgarian Finance Minister promises ‘Panama Papers’ probe

Bulgarian Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov has promised checks of the origin of the funds and tax payments by Bulgarians named in the “Panama Papers” reports about offshore holdings.

The state had a strategy for acting on the information, Goranov said on April 12, as the National Revenue Agency confirmed – several days after media reports to that effect – that it had asked the International Association of Investigative Journalists for information about Bulgarians with offshore funds.

Goranov said that the state’s first step was for the National Revenue Agency to determine whether funds were being diverted offshore to avoid the payment of taxes due in Bulgaria.

“For me, the use of offshore companies shows that you want to run away from something, whether from your identity, whether the origin of the funds, whether from taxation,” Goranov was reported as saying by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio.

People who had offshore accounts and offshore companies had to give answers, and in any event, the answer should not be that they were hiding from the state, he said.

Goranov said that the journalists’ association had not yet responded to Bulgaria’s request for information.

He did not think that the owners of capital offshore would be forced to return it to the country and said that one could not speaking of “draining”.

“Funds are drained when they are stolen or because of taxes not being paid or they have been acquired as a result of criminal activity, things that would be investigated by the state.”

Repatriation of the funds depended on the owner, Goranov said. In this regard, there was no legal method to force the repatriation of the capital without infringing on fundamental rights.

He said that Bulgarian legislation on offshore companies was quite strict compared with other member states of the European Union.

There were limits on such companies doing business in major sectors of the economy such as holding licences for mobile operators, the organisation of gambling, among other sectors. Bulgaria had the most restrictions on the activities of offshore companies in its economy, Goranov said.

So far, according to reports in daily 24 Chassa, Bulgarians named in the “Panama Papers” include Evgeniya and Nikolai Banevi, Petar Mandzhukov, Chavdar Kunchev, Todor Batkov and Angel Bozhilov. The last-mentioned was the employer of Petko Sertov, the former head of the State Agency for National Security whose mysterious disappearance and equally mysterious re-appearance in December 2014 made national headlines. Bozhilov was director of and shareholder in two companies registered in the Seychelles.

In interviews with 24 Chassa, those named have denied any suggestion of wrongdoing and have insisted they have nothing to fear from a tax authority investigation into their financial affairs.

(Photo: Darren Deans/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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