February 26. 2024. 6:51

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Ex-PM Borissov distances himself from US corruption sanctions

Boyko Borissov, a former prime minister and currently leader of the largest Bulgarian party GERB, has tried to distance himself from his long-time finance minister Vladislav Goranov, whom the US recently sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act.

Goranov was involved in a “corruption scheme” that taxed a gambling boss while he was a minister in Borissov’s second cabinet, according to the US.

In 2020, the leading Bulgarian gambling boss Vasil Bozhkov, currently in hiding in Dubai, said that he paid more than €30 million to Goranov and Borissov to obtain favourable legislation for him.

While the prosecutor’s office has not yet started an investigation into Bozhkov’s statements, due to them being made from Dubai, Borissov and Goranov were arrested by the police in the spring of 2022 under the government of Kiril Petkov but were released the next day by the prosecutor’s office.

The European People’s Party (EPP) leadership vigorously defended Borissov at the time.

After the imposition of the new US sanctions, Borissov said that he did not see a connection between himself and the possible actions of his former minister. He again swore that he did not receive money from Bozhkov.

“If somewhere someone has taken money – to bear responsibility. I and the party have not received a penny”, said the GERB leader. According to him, the Magnitsky sanctions were imposed by the US because his party did not fulfil its promises to support the judicial reform, which mainly affects Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev.

“I deeply believe that Goranov is not guilty. I deeply feel sorry for his children, and I hope he will prove his innocence,” said the GERB leader. He explained that Goranov was released as minister and deputy of GERB a year and a half ago. This happened a few months after Bozhkov’s accusations about the bribes requested.

On Friday evening, the US imposed sanctions on five more Bulgarians under the Global Magnitsky Act. Those facing sanctions include Borissov’s former minister, two former heads of the nuclear power plant in Kozloduy, which still runs on Russian fuel. Also sanctioned are Nikolai Malinov, the leader of the Russophiles movement accused of espionage, and Rumen Ovcharov, a former energy minister from the pro-Russian Bulgarian Socialist Party.

“We welcome the support of our US and UK partners,” said Deputy Prosecutor General Borislav Sarafov, who heads the National Investigative Service. All those sanctioned by the US are known to the state prosecution, and “Rumen Ovcharov is under trial and has been sentenced in two instances,” he added.

The US has sanctioned eight Bulgarians under the Global Magnitsky Act. Last year, sanctions were imposed on Vasil Bozhkov and the DPS deputy Delyan Peevski (Renew, ALDE), who has since become a member of Bulgarian parliament.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)