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US sanctions top Bulgarians for corruption. The European Union zilch. – Politico

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United States on Wednesday Comprehensive anti-corruption ban imposed Against high-profile Bulgarian power brokers and more than 60 entities, while the EU fails to withstand the spiraling rule of law crisis of the Balkan country.

The US’s unusually sweeping move is an embarrassment for the EU as it often highlights the bloc’s inability to police its own backyard on a welter of corruption scandals EU funds that end up in the hands of Bulgaria’s mafia and powerful oligarchs. The move is America’s biggest ever in one day under the country’s Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which targets perpetrators of corruption and human rights abuses around the world.

Office of Foreign Assets Control director Andrea M. “The United States stands with all Bulgarians who strive to root out corruption by promoting accountability for corrupt officials who undermine Bulgaria’s economic functions and democratic institutions,” Gaki said.

In contrast, the EU has clearly chosen not to stand with the Bulgarians fighting corruption.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have turned a blind eye in recent years to the collapse of the law in the EU’s poorest state. The former Prime Minister, Boy Borisov, who dominated the country’s politics for a decade, was his Close allies on the EU political platform in the centre-right European People’s Party And he was never challenged over his country’s judicial failures. Although former firefighter and karate champion lost power in an uncertain election in April, his GERB party still ahead in the election Before another election on 11 July.

While corruption has long been recognized as a problem in Bulgaria, the scale of corruption scandals over the past year has exposed how an elite mafia has taken control through institutions such as the judiciary, the security services and the media. have effectively occupied the state.

To be the most high-profile tycoon Approved A controversial media mogul and former member of parliament is Deline Piewski.

The US Treasury Department wrote in its sanctions ruling that Pievsky “regularly engaged in corruption, use of influence pedaling and bribery to protect himself from public scrutiny and to exercise control over key institutions and sectors in Bulgarian society.” “

Piewski, who is affiliated with the Movement for Rights and Freedom, a member of the liberal Renewal Europe group, has emerged as one of the symbols of the country’s corruption crisis. The US said it “acted to negatively influence the Bulgarian political process” in the 2019 elections.

The department also sanctioned fugitive casino baron Vasil “Skull” Bozhkov, one of Bulgaria’s wealthiest citizens, and Ilko Zelyazhkov, who currently serves in the National Bureau for Control of Special Intelligence-Gathering Equipment—as well as 64 entities linked to men, cutting off their access to the American financial system.

In parallel, the US State Department announced Restrictions on entry on a comprehensive list of Bulgarian public figures and their families, including a former deputy minister.

“The big question is, who did they corrupt?” Elena Yoncheva, a member of the European Parliament, who is a prominent critic of Borisov and a member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

tip of the iceberg

Explaining its decision, the Treasury said that Bozkov – who is currently a fugitive in Dubai but still registered a political party that won about 3 percent of the vote in April’s election – had “bribes government officials on several occasions.” given,” including “a”. current political leader.”

It also said that the businessman “plans to provide funds to a former Bulgarian official and a Bulgarian politician earlier this year” to help him “create a channel for Russian political leaders to influence Bulgarian government officials”. get help.”

The Treasury Department also accused Zelyazhkov of acting as a frontman for Peevsky in corrupt dealings.

According to the US government, “Pievsky used Zelyazhkov to conjure Bulgarian residence documents for foreign persons, as well as to bribe government officials in exchange for their information and loyalty.”

Histo Ivanov, head of the anti-corruption Yes Bulgaria party, welcomed the sanctions.

“Pievsky and Bozhkov are participants in a grand corruption scheme that needs to be undone, while Borisov needs to leave the political scene,” he told reporters in Sofia.

Maya Manolova, a former ombudsman and one of the leaders of Rise Up! Out with the Crooks!, an opposition party inspired by a wave of anti-corruption protests last year, said the sanctions highlighted a dire need for reforms.

“Bulgarians would like to see their institutions finally step up their fight against corruption,” she told online news platform Dnevnik.bg. “The Bulgarian state is the only one that has not felt the need for decisive anti-corruption measures.”

In Statement Late on Wednesday, the Bulgarian foreign ministry did not address any specific matter, but said the country was committed to the fight against corruption and was ready for talks with Washington. Bozhkov’s party declined to comment at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, Peevsky rejected the American move and vowed to challenge it.

In an open letter sent to the Bulgarian media, he described the sanctions as “absolutely unacceptable, biased and violative of letter and spirit” of the Magnitsky Act.

“I have done nothing to violate internationally recognized human rights, I am not a state official, and I have not participated in acts of corruption,” he said.

Washington’s argument for imposing sanctions “doesn’t contain a single true fact,” he said.

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