The US and UK have imposed joint sanctions on a number of high-profile Bulgarian politicians in relation to corruption allegations.
The sanctions were imposed by the Global Magnitsky Act, the Office of Foreign Assets Control OFAC of the US Treasury, as well as by the British government.
Among the Bulgarian politicians named in the sanctions include GERB member Vladislav Goranov, who was Finance Minister in 2017-2020; Russophile Movement party leader Nickolay Malinov, charged with espionage in 2019; MP Ivan Kirov, Bulgarian Socialist Party member from 2017-2019; and Alexander Nikolov, the former general director of Kozloduy, Bulgaria’s sole nuclear power plant.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party is the successor to Bulgaria’s one-time ruling Communist Party, and has traditionally been aligned with Russia.
Entities designated by the sanctions include Bulgaria’s pro-Russian far-right Revival party, involved in a series of controversies, including an anti-euro campaign, intimidating journalists, and the Russophile Movement.
The UK has directed its attention to sanctioning individuals previously sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky program from June 2021, including former media giant and current Movement for Rights and Freedoms MP Delyan Peevski; Vassil Bozhkov, the gambling tycoon whose business was nationalized during Goranov’s term as Finance Minister, and the former deputy chief of Bulgaria’s special intelligence service, Ilko Zhelyazkov.
“Those sanctioned have deprived the people of Bulgaria of resources crucial to its economic and social development. Money that should have been used to fix roads, build hospitals and support economic growth has instead ended up in the pockets of corrupt individuals,” said UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.
“The UK is acting in close coordination with the US to support Bulgaria in its efforts to tackle corruption and strengthen the rule of law by sanctioning these corrupt figures,” he said.
Reformist parties and non-government organizations across Bulgaria have accused the country’s prosecution of inactivity in the face of sanctions, and Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev has been cast as a protector of Boyko Borissov.
“In Bulgaria, the oligarchs have an extremely strong grip. They amass power through the politicians and keep it through economic means to keep their image clean,” US ambassador to Bulgaria Hero Mustafa said in January.
“Real reform will happen only when there is a reform in the judicial sector and in the Prosecutor’s office as well,” he said.
Borissov and Goranov were both arrested under the governance of former PM Kiril Petkov, but both men successfully appealed their charges.
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