The Bulgarian government is being investigated for how it has implemented EU sanctions against Russia, the Prosecutor’s Office said on Friday as Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev was on a visit to Moldova and Ukraine.
In February, EURACTIV reported that Bulgaria had not imposed sanctions against Russian citizens or companies on the EU sanctions list. The EU started imposing sanctions on Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
So far, the EU has sanctioned nearly 1,400 Russian citizens and over 170 companies, as well as all related individuals and legal entities. Last year, EU countries froze more than €300 billion from Russian banks and €20 billion of assets belonging to Russian oligarchs. All these measures were imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022.
Even Hungary, which often defends positions in favour of Russia, froze Russian assets worth more than €900 million. In Bulgaria, nearly 300,000 Russians own over 500,000 properties, according to the latest data from the authorities in 2019.
In Bulgaria, the National Revenue Agency is in charge of imposing sanctions, though it has not issued a single act imposing sanctions for the past eight years.
Investigative site Bird.bg already revealed the names of some Russians who own property in Bulgaria, notably on the Black Sea, through their relatives and feature on the EU sanctions list. These include Sergey Chemezov, Maxim Topilin, Vladimir Pligin and Alexey Chepa, Bird.bg reported in April last year.
“It is not surprising that Bulgaria does not seem to be applying EU sanctions against individuals and companies from the Russian Federation. It is obvious that the Bulgarian authorities do not dare, do not want and do not have the procedures and the capacity to apply the sanctions”, Ruslan Stefanov from the Bulgarian think tank Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) commented to EURACTIV in February.
At the start of this week, GERB MP Delyan Dobrev said that millions of Russian oligarchs are being laundered through a bank in Bulgaria, without naming the bank. A day later, the Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had commissioned the State Agency for National Security to investigate the case.
“The Prosecutor’s Office requests information from the Council of Ministers and all ministries and departments participating in the Coordination Group (for Russian sanctions) on specific measures taken, actions and acts issued in connection with the sanctions imposed,” Prosecutor’s Office announced on Friday.
The European Commission wants EU countries to report their actions to implement sanctions against Russia, Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovski said during his visit to Sofia at the end of February.
“The goal is to have a better idea of these assets, and if they are confiscated, they can be used to rebuild Ukraine,” he said at the time. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
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