Panama Papers Will Expose 'Big Names' in Bulgaria - EconMinFinance | April 5, 2016, Tuesday // 15:12| views
Bulgarian Economy Minister Bozhidar Lukarski. Photo by BGNES
Bulgarian Economy Minister Bodzhidar Lukarski on Tuesday predicted that "big names" in the country's public life will be unveiled in the Panama Papers case.
Lukarski spoke less than two days after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the results of an investigation based on the leak of 11.5 million documents disclosing offshore activities of politicians, entrepreneurs, and celebrities around the globe.
As announced earlier, he confirmed there had been no information about names of Bulgarian politicians among those involved in offshore dealings that were clients of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Lukarski told Bulgarian public radio broadcaster BNT it was "certain" that "big names" would emerge. He did not elaborate.
At least 50 companies, 16 company owners and 78 shareholders from across Bulgaria have been linked to registrations in offshore jurisdictions around the world, according to Sofia-based news daily newspaper 24 Chasa – the ICIJ's only reporting partner from Bulgaria.
Another 100 people were directors, agents, lawyers or liquidators; some of them were foreign nationals residing in Bulgaria or having Bulgarian passports.
Lukarski noted that offshoring was apparently turning into a "dirty word" on a global scale, even though it was only tax evasion that constituted an illegal activity.
He also commented on current affairs related to tobacco holding Bulgartabac.
Earlier trade unions of workers in the tobacco industry called for his resignation, arguing his inaction had contributed to the closure of one of the Bulgartabac's plants.
The plant suspended work on April 01, leaving several hundred people jobless, as a result of the holding's move to halt exports to the Middle East citing the result of what it calls a "smear campaign" aimed at implying it had been smuggling cigarettes into Turkey.
Lukarski downplayed any suggestions that the holding had any ground to complain about having lost markets over publications in the media.
He added that, according to the privatization contract (Bulgartabac was formerly a state-owned company), the owner had the right to halt activities in some of the production facilities for up to 12 months.
Asked who the owner of Bulgartabac is, however, he replied:
"The owner of Bulgartabac is well-known, but it is not known who the owner of the owner is."
He admitted the real owner was based in an offshore zone, but the owner's identity was unknown because "for some reason" it was not mentioned in the privatization contract.
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