Bulgaria’s former finance minister on Magnitsky sanctions: US was ‘misled’

I respect the position of the American state, but I do not respect their motives – they were misled, Vladislav Goranov, formerly a finance minister in a Boiko Borissov GERB government, told local television station bTV on February 13, three days after being named as subject to US Magnitsky Act sanctions.

Announcing the sanctions on February 10, the US Treasury Department said that Goranov had connections to Office of Foreign Assets Control-designated oligarch and former Bulgarian MP Delyan Peevski.

“Goranov used his position as Minister of Finance to facilitate bribery of Bulgarian officials and deprive the Bulgarian government of tax revenues in favour of Bulgarian oligarchs,” the US Treasury Department alleged.

“As Minister of Finance, Goranov participated in a corruption scheme that resulted in tens of millions of euros paid to Bulgarian officials in exchange for favorable legislation for interested parties involved in the gambling industry,” it alleged.

At the weekend, Borissov distanced GERB from Goranov, while at the same time protesting that Goranov would be proved innocent.

Goranov told bTV that he was still a member of GERB, but that he had not been in the party’s governing bodies for two years: “I remain with many friends in GERB. I have not heard assessments that GERB does not know me, of course – there were interpretations” .

“I know my truth and it is not for the benefit of these detractors of ours who have misled our American partners,” Goranov said in the interview, the first time that he had spoken since the February 10 announcement by the Treasury Department.

“I know that this information that is contained in the press release of the American government is inaccurate – starting with the fact that the law (on gambling) was changed in someone’s favour.

“I recognise the influence of Bulgarians in this process, who took advantage of the trust that our partners have in them. I cannot accept the reasons described for the application of such an administrative sanction. It is easily proven that they are factually incorrect,” Goranov said.

He said that he saw the conclusions of the US government as “worrying and disappointing”.

“I really respect the American way of life and over the years I have always worked for our good relations and strategic partnership, but in my opinion they are claiming inaccurate facts,” he said.

“The main criticism is that I have amended the legislation in favour of someone – this is factually incorrect. I refer to the history of amendments to the Gambling Act, which do not for a moment include the participation of anyone from GERB, let alone the Minister of Finance.

“I believe that our partners have been misled. Whether this is a sign to a former prominent person from any party and how the moment was chosen by the American authorities – I cannot comment.”

Goranov said that he knew Peevski from the time of the 2005-2009 tripartite coalition government, when Peevski was deputy minister of disaster management.

Goranov said that when it was time to leave the Borissov government, he met Borissov, who told him that a lot of tension had built up on the topic of gambling and the fact that Goranov was being linked to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

Borissov, however, “gave time” to the then-finance minister “to finish the work he started”.

“Why should I bribe my employees when I can order them? It doesn’t work like that. So far, in all the investigations, I have not heard anyone say that Minister Goranov made him do something,” Goranov said.

He said that he hoped that the Bulgarian law enforcement services would continue to search for the “objective truth”.

“There is an opportunity for my position to be heard as well. I will present it, and the decision will be up to them,” Goranov said.

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