Bulgaria Interior Min: Gangsters Earn Abroad, Invest Here

Crime | April 4, 2012, Wednesday // 10:13|  views

Bulgaria's Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Bulgarian organized crime activities generate a major part of their turnover, recently estimated at BGN 3.5 B (EUR 1.7 B) annually, abroad, according to the interior minister.

"A big part of the investments in Bulgarian resorts are a function of such incomes," Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told the morning broadcast of bTV channel.

Money stolen through elaborate and sophisticated ATM skimming scams abroad also often come back to Bulgaria after being transferred to particular persons via the global money transfer company Western Union, according to the minister.

Telephone scammers have also upgraded their schemes and often contact the victims from abroad - through Greek and Romanian mobile operators - so that later they can claim their revenues are from business activities outside the country.

Asked about his opinion on the legalization of prostitution, the minister said Bulgaria should not be perceived as a destination for sex tourism, because that could make it an even more profitable business.

The statement came a day after a respected Sofia think-tank report said the top twelve organized crime activities in Bulgaria generate some BGN 3.5 B (EUR 1.7 B) annually.

Thus, the combined turnover of the criminal and gray economy in Bulgaria is some 4.7% of the country's GDP, according to the report by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), entitled "Organized Crime Threat Assessment in Bulgaria 2010-2011".

The paper was presented Tuesday at a public discussion at the Bulgarian Parliament featuring CSD analyst Tihomir Bezlov as well as Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Interior Secretary Kalin Georgiev.

The report has found that "sexual services" market has the largest criminal turnover in Bulgaria amounting to about BGN 1.26 B annually; at the same time, however, it is said to be "shrinking".

The report also focuses on human trafficking, contraband, drug trafficking, VAT fraud, the illegal cigarette market, the illegal fuel market, money laundering, and money forgery, among other criminal activities.

Bulgaria's domestic drug market has an annual turnover of about BGN 350 M, while VAT fraud is estimated at BGN 700 M, according to the report.

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Tags: Center for the Study of Democracy, Tihomir Bezlov, Ognyan Shentov, NGO, think-tank, organized crime, mafia, prostitution, VAT fraud, tax evasion, contraband, smuggling, drug trafficking, human trafficking, police, interior ministry, white collar crimes, Tsvetan Tsvetanov


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