SOFIA – Bulgaria’s interim prime minister on Monday urged the government to redouble its efforts to fight endemic graft, calling for changes in prosecutors' offices, the judiciary and all law enforcement agencies.
Prime Minister Stefan Yanev spoke at a meeting of the government security council that he convened to discuss new anti-corruption policies following U.S. sanctions on Bulgarian officials and businessmen for their allegedly “extensive” roles in corruption.
Last week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against the former member of parliament and media mogul Delyan Peevski; oligarch Vassil Bozhkov; and former national security official Ilko Zhelyazkov for their alleged roles in public corruption.
It also imposed sanctions on 64 entities allegedly linked to them, saying the move was its single biggest action targeting corruption to date.
The sanctions on the Bulgarians and companies effectively prevents them from accessing the U.S. financial system, freezes their U.S. assets and bars Americans from dealing with them.
Yanev said the Bulgarian government will try to minimize the political and the economic risks for the country from the U.S. sanctions.
“We must protect state-owned companies from financial sanctions being imposed. To this end, we must prevent bank transactions with these investigated persons, so that businesses and state-owned companies are not blocked,” Yanev said.
He admitted, however, that the U.S. sanctions are a serious signal that corruption in Bulgaria has deep roots in the country’s political and economic system and the consequences of that already go beyond the country’s borders.