For the first time since it was founded five years ago, Bulgaria’s Commission for the Forfeiture of Unlawfully Acquired Property has confiscated a ship, the Balkan Princess, long previously used as a river restaurant in Rousse – but later used to smuggle fuel into the country from abroad.
The confiscation by the commission, announced on October 23, proceeded after the Appeal Court in the city of Veliko Turnovo rejected an appeal by Vassil Kanev against a claim by the commission for a sum of 300 600 leva (about 153 653 euro).
Kanev had been found guilty of heading an organised crime group and smuggling ship oil. An investigation leading to his trial had established that the Balkan Princess had been used by its crew to buy fuel from foreign ships and smuggle it into Bulgaria without paying duties, excise and VAT.
The Balkan Princess is currently in port in Vidin, the commission said. The vessel had been bought in 2001 for just more than 77 000 leva.
In addition to the ship, the commission also confiscated shares and cash to the value of 223 600 leva.
The commission was set up in terms of a 2012 Act of Parliament. It is the successor to an earlier commission on criminal assets forfeiture. By law, the commission operates independently and is accountable to Bulgaria’s National Assembly.
The 2012 law provides for the commission to apply to court for a confiscation order if there is sufficient evidence of the acquisition of property for which no legal source of money has been established. These asset forfeiture rulings are subject to appeal in court in the normal way.
(Photo: Commission for the Forfeiture of Unlawfully Acquired Property)