EC opens infringement cases against Bulgaria on money laundering, fighting fraud

The European Commission said on June 1 that it opened two infringement proceedings against Bulgaria and was advancing the infringement proceedings in two other cases as part of its latest infringements package.

The first of two new cases concerned Bulgaria’s “incorrect transposition” of the latest EU rules against money laundering, Directive (EU) 2018/843. The Commission said that in several areas Bulgaria’s national law did not conform to the directive’s provisions.

Bulgaria fell short in the obligation to to register, license, or regulate services providers; the lack of a mechanism to solve discrepancies of information offered by the national beneficial ownership register; or the proper application of the concepts of “establishment” or “residence” as regards who are the subjects under the obligation to provide information on beneficial ownership, the EC said.

In the second case, Bulgaria had not correctly transposed EU rules on combatting fraud to EU financial interests, outlined in Directive (EU) 2017/1371.

The EC said that it identified “several conformity issues […] regarding the definition of some criminal offences and the related criminal penalties, as well as the liability of legal persons for crimes committed for their benefit.”

The letters of formal notice give Bulgaria two months to respond, or the Commission could escalate the case by sending a reasoned opinion, the second stage in the infringement proceedings.

The Commission said that it was taking that very step regarding the ongoing proceedings against Bulgaria for failing to remove barriers to access to justice in relation to air quality plans under the Air Quality Directive (Directive 2008/50/EC), which requires member states to adopt air quality plans and set appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible.

Bulgaria has not ensured that environmental organisations or natural and legal persons are allowed to bring an action before the national courts, which would allow them to challenge the lack of air quality plans or their insufficiency to address air pollution.

In a second existing infringement case, regarding compliance with EU rules on marine equipment, outlined in Directive 2014/90/EU, the Commission escalated proceedings after Bulgaria failed to make progress despite receiving a letter of formal notice in October 2019.

Bulgaria has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission in its reasoned opinions, otherwise the Commission said it may decide to bring the cases before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

(European Commission headquarters Berlaymont building. Photo: JLogan)

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