US Ambassador: Bulgaria Has Separate Justice for Rich, Common People

Diplomacy | April 5, 2011, Tuesday // 13:33|  views

US Ambassador to Sofia, James Warlick, advises Bulgaria to pay serious attention to the law related to confiscation of property acquired through illegal activities as a tool to counter crime. Photo by BGNES

The judicial system continues to pose a huge challenge for Bulgaria regarding the rule of law, US Ambassador to Sofia, James Warlick, points out.

Warlick spoke Tuesday during the round table titled "National Security – Strategic Dimensions of Crime," saying there are two judicial systems in the country – one for the rich and the powerful, placing them above the law, and one for the common people.

The Ambassador pointed the need of an effective police force, prosecution and a capable and honest judicial system.

Warlick further offered advice for Bulgaria to pay serious attention to the law related to confiscation of property acquired through illegal activities, saying the US, Germany and Switzerland have very strong legislation about the freezing of assets of criminals, which can be released if the system fails to offer proof for the committed crimes.

Deputy Interior Minister, Dimitar Georgiev, who was also present at the round table, announced that BGN 130 M have been laundered so far in the energy sector, assuring his institution is working actively to take these "businessmen" to court.

Georgiev further said organized crime is motivated to launder money through green and water energy projects because governments typically support investments in them. According to Georgiev, organized crime is now looking for ways to legalize its money through investments in all sectors of the real economy.

The Deputy Interior Minister voiced his opinion Bulgaria's freedom of movement and labor as an EU Member State contribute to the expansion of the possibilities of criminals and increase pressure from international criminal networks dealing with money laundering and trafficking of people.

Terrorism, with its augmented influence and number of followers, was defined by Georgiev as the longest-term threat for national security despite the fact there aren't any current and direct dangers for Bulgaria.

Deputy Defense Minister, Avgustina Tsvetkova, also joined the discussion, saying her institution was the most corrupt one until the summer of 2009 when the cabinet of the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party took office, adding corruption practices in the defense sector corrode citizens' trust in institutions.

Tsvetkova explained the Ministry has started real reforms with visible results while transparency has turned into the main tool in countering corruption in the defense sector. The Deputy Minister further informed that the Ministry already has in place an Ethical Behavior Code for employees.

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Tags: confiscation of assets, Round Table, US Ambassador, James Warlick, corruption, judicial system, organized crime, national security, Avgustina Tsvetkova, Dimitar Georgiev, Interior Minister, Defense Minister, Deputy, GERB, energy, sector


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