Bulgaria’s caretaker government axes Customs head, seeks firing of Interior Ministry chief

On the first day in office of the Dimitar Glavchev caretaker government, the interim finance minister replaced the head of the Customs Agency and the caretaker cabinet asked the president to dismiss the chief secretary of the Interior Ministry.

Caretaker Finance Minister Lyudmila Petkova said on April 9 that she had appointed Georgi Dimov, since June 2023 deputy head of the National Revenue Agency, to replace Petya Bankova as head of the Customs Agency.

Bankova, appointed to head the agency in February 2024 by then-finance minister Assen Vassilev, is facing organised crime charges which critics say are politically-motivated. Bankova denies wrongdoing.

Petkova told a news conference: “The main task of the new director of the Customs Agency, with his proven expert and managerial qualities, is to transfer the good experience and practices from the National Revenue Agency to customs, with the aim of increasing revenue collection, as well as to ensure the smooth transition of the integration of the two revenue agencies into a single revenue agency, and last but not least, to bring calmness to the system”.

In a separate statement, the Bulgarian government information service said that the caretaker cabinet had adopted a decision proposing to the president to issue a decree to terminate the powers of Interior Ministry chief secretary Zhivko Kotsev and to dismiss him from office.

Kotsev submitted his resignation on April 4, but withdrew it only a day later, saying that he had been subjected to strong moral and psychological pressure to step down.

Those alleged to have pressured Kotsev include acting Prosecutor-General Borislav Sarafov, Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov – who, controversially, has kept that portfolio in the caretaker government – as well as other officials.

Just before leaving office, now-former prime minister Nikolai Denkov referred the matter of the alleged pressure on Kotsev to a special prosecutor. According to Kotsev, he was told that unless he submitted his resignation, serious crime charges would be lodged against him.

Photographs have emerged on social media showing Kotsev in the company of Bankova’s fellow accused.

On April 9, President Roumen Radev said that Kotsev was unfit to hold the office of Interior Ministry chief secretary.

Referring to allegations of extensive connections between Kotsev and smugglers, Radev said that these made a “mockery of the state”.

(Photo of the public entrance to the Cabinet office building: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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