Bulgaria's Customs, Police Wage Fierce War over Contraband

Domestic | January 31, 2011, Monday // 18:49|  views

(L-R) Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetanov, Customs Agency head Tanov, and Finance Minister Djankov during a grinning demonstration of good relations at the start of Tapegate in January. Photo by Dnevnik

Bulgaria's Interior Ministry and Customs Agency, a subordinate of the Finance Ministry, have clashed in the media over cigarette smuggling. 

After a truck with 10 million cigarettes was detained on the Kulata crossing on the Bulgarian-Greece border Monday morning, both the Customs Agency and the Interior Minister claimed the operation as a success of their own in special statements of their press centers.

According to the Customs Agency, the contraband cigarettes were detained by customs officers, while the Interior claimed they were busted by the Border Police.

Speaking at a news conference in the afternoon with respect to the busting of an illegal production facility for cigarettes overnight, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov did clarify that the detention of the truck on the Bulgarian-Greek border was a joint operation of the customs and the border police.

The detained truck had about 970 master cases of smuggled cigarettes, and was traveling from Greece to Romania.

The rush to show off with Monday's operation at Kulata appears to be confirming the rumors about a fierce rivalry between the Interior Ministry on the one hand and the Customs Agency and the Finance Ministry on the other.

The conflict was most notably exposed in one of the Tapegate recordings – leaked tapes of telephone conversations of Bulgarian Customs Agency head Vanyo Tanov, whose authenticity remains disputed but which shook the Bulgarian government of PM Borisov in January 2011.

In several of the leaked conversations (which are believed to have taken place in March-May 2010), Tanov complains that the Interior Ministry is staging skillful PR to steal the successes of his institution, which is many times smaller and has much fewer resources than the police.

The tapes of Tanov's conversations with Finance Minister Simeon Djankov and Deputy Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov expose a deep rift and antagonism between Bulgaria's two deputy prime ministers Djankov and Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and their respective institutions.

Shortly after the leaking of the tapes to the public, in mid January, Djankov, Tanov, and Tsvetanov appeared together on the Greek border sharing healthy laughs and demonstrating unnaturally good relations.

Monday's PR "dispute" of the Kulata special operation appears to demonstrate that the conflict between Bulgaria's police and customs – and apparently between their top officials – continues to rage.

It comes against the backdrop of an announcement by the Finance Ministry that it has started a procedure to secure full-fledged police capabilities for the Customs Agency, which at present can only carry out inspections.

The cigarette contraband and the measures to counter are in the center of the simmering conflict between the two institutions.

We need your support so Novinite.com can keep delivering news and information about Bulgaria! Thank you!

Tags: Customs Agency, Simeon Djankov, finance minister, Finance Ministry, Interior Minister, Border Police, interior ministry, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Tapegate, Vanyo Tanov, cigarette contraband, contraband, smuggling


» Related Articles: