3 June 2021
Bulgaria is considered European Union’s (EU) most corrupt member state. It has been repeatedly criticised by the EU for failing to root out corruption and place a single high-ranking senior official behind bars for graft.
The United States on Wednesday (2 June 2021) imposed sanctions on three Bulgarians and 64 companies linked to them over alleged corruption. An oligarch was accused of planning to create a conduit for Russian political leaders to influence the Bulgarian government. Interim Prime Minister Stefan Yanev said that he was informed by U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs by telephone about the move.
The move comes ahead of a July 11 snap parliamentary election in Bulgaria. There were massive anti-corruption protests in Sofia in 2020.
Whenever such an incident happened, Bulgaria often claimed that they would unequivocally fight against corruption in any form. This is only a lip service.
The Treasury Department (TD) said it imposed sanctions on businessman Vassil Bozhkov, 64, accusing him of planning to help Russian leaders to influence the Bulgarian government and bribing government officials. Bozhkov, a gambling tycoon and one of Bulgaria’s richest men, fled the country in 2020 to escape criminal charges, including extortion, tax fraud and influence peddling. He is living in Dubai.
TD also accused Delyan Peevski, a businessman and former member of parliament, of bribery. Sanction was imposed on Ilko Zhelyazkov because he helped Peevski in carrying out bribery schemes. Sanctions also were imposed on 64 companies owned or controlled by Bozhkov and Peevski.
US blacklist means the affected parties will be prevented from using the U.S. financial system; their assets in the US will be frozen; and Americans are barred from doing any business with them.
The U.S. State Department also banned former Bulgarian officials Alexander Manolev, Petar Haralampiev, Krasimir Tomov, as well as Peevski and Zhelyazkov, and their families from entering the United States.