The sanctions announced on February 10 by the United States on five current or former Bulgarian government officials for alleged corruption prompted a range of reactions, though almost 24 hours after the announcement, some of those named remained silent.
Those sanctioned are former finance minister Vladislav Goranov, former energy minister Rumen Ovcharov, former Kozloduy nuclear power station head Alexander Hristov Nikolov, former Kozloduy nuclear power station head and former MP Ivan Genov and Russophile leader Nikolai Malinov.
Ovcharov, a senior Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) member who was energy minister in the short-lived Videnov government in the 1990s and economy and energy minister from 2005 to 2007 in the Stanishev government, told reporters: “The United States can say what it wants. I’m not bothered”.
“I have nothing to say. If I have anything to say I will call you and I will tell you. Now if you will, let me go,” said Ovcharov, who was attending the February 11 congress of the BSP.
Malinov said that his inclusion in the list was “political persecution”.
“I feel proud and will treat my friends to this occasion. Otherwise, it is basically ‘complete fabrication’ and complete nonsense,” said Malinov.
He said that he had never had access to public finances to engage in corruption. “The entire Bulgarian people laughed at the espionage case against me. Now the entire Bulgarian people will laugh at me being on the Magnitsky list,” he said.
Nikolov told Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) that he had learnt about the sanctions from the media and would comment once he knew the reasons.
Genov described the allegations against him as anonymous “fake and a proven lie”. He said that he was disgusted.
BNR said that it had not been able to contract Goranov.
GERB leader Boiko Borissov distanced the party from Goranov, who was finance minister in a Borissov government from May 2017 to July 2020. Borissov added that he deeply believed that Goranov was not guilty and hoped that would be proved.
Borissov said that GERB and he had received “not a stotinka or a lev” from Vassil Bozhkov, the alleged organised crime figure who has been sanctioned by the US in June 2021 and the United Kingdom in February 2023.
The Kiril Petkov-Assen Vassilev We Continue the Change (WCC) party said: “The only question that continues to be unanswered is why the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office does not investigate the long-time treasurer of GERB, Vladislav Goranov, against whom there are a number of reports of corruption crimes”
The corruption connection between Bozhkov, Goranov and Borisov was the main reason for their arrests last year, WCC said.
“Why did the Prosecutor-General (Ivan) Geshev not see anything of what the American Treasury Department established during these months?” the party said.
Democratic Bulgaria co-leader Hristo Ivanov repeated the coalition’s call for Geshev to resign as Prosecutor-General, saying that the new Magnitsky list was an assessment of his actions.
“The very fact that the United States and the United Kingdom continue to use this type of sanctioning tools against Bulgaria is a verdict on the work of the prosecutor’s office and the services in the country,” Ivanov said.
He said that GERB and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, before continuing to call themselves Euro-Atlantic parties, should clear the heavy corruption stains from their leadership.
President Roumen Radev said that he has high regard for Bulgaria’s strategic partners the US and the UK in the fight against corruption. The sanctions contributed to this fight, Radev said.
He called on Bulgarian institutions and politicians to undertake a real and unwavering commitment to fighting corruption and affirming the rule of law.
“Our society expects the next National Assembly to commit to the anti-corruption legislation proposed by the caretaker government,” Radev said.
A statement by the government information service said that the caretaker government was committed to the rule of law and the fight against corruption in Bulgaria and appreciates the readiness for support in this regard from the partner countries the US and the UK.
“New information released under the global Magnitsky Act and the UK’s global anti-corruption sanctions regime is primarily within the remit of the judiciary,” the caretaker government said.
“Both the previous caretaker government and the current one are seriously engaged in the topic of judicial reform and the fight against corruption in Bulgaria, and the work in this regard will continue, according to the powers available to the executive branch,” it said.
It said that it would re-submit to the National Assembly the bills related to the reform of the judicial system, which were not adopted by the 48th National Assembly.
Deputy Prosecutor-General and National Investigation Service head Borislav Sarafov told Bulgarian National Television on February 11 that almost the entire Magnitsky list was known to the Prosecutor’s Office and some already were facing pre-trial proceeding.
Sarafov cited charges against Ovcharov and Malinov, and said that two others on the list were subject to pre-trial proceedings and may face charges.
(Photo, from left: Malinov, Goranov and Ovcharov)
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