THU, 22 JUN 2000 01:21:49 GMT
AIM Sofia, 16 June, 2000
Bulgarian prime minister Ivan Kostov released the main negotiator with the European Union Aleksandar Boskov. It is believed that the split with one of the best known politicians of the League of Democratic Forces (SDS) is a new in the series of steps taken against corruption at the top authorities in Bulgaria. Boskov’s future will be decided by the state prosecutor who will review his activities as minister of industries in the cabinet formed by SDS in the period between 1997 and 2000, before he was nominated to the “European” post.
Ivan Kostov officially asked Boskov to submit his resignation just a few days after the main negotiator had reported that the first four chapters of negotiations on joining the EU had been completed. The apparently good and quick progress of negotiations with the EU obviously has not been sufficient to improve the bad image of Boskov caused by the scandal with which his name is linked for three years already.
Aleksandar Boskov is one of the blue leaders who have very quickly acquired the “fame” of ministers who used their offices to get rich. He quickly acquired the nickname “Mister 10%” because of his custom to ask for commission for every business deal which required his signature. In the last few months before he was transferred to the office for negotiations with the EU, Bulgarians already spoke about him as “Mister 20%”. Suspicions about embezzlement have never been proved. Regardless of that, however, Boskov was not elected in the government when it was reconstructed in December 1999, nor was he later elected in the executive agencies of SDS.
And now, half a year later, Boskov’s successor Petar Zotev accused the former minister of abuse of office. An investigation was launched against Boskov which is expected to determine his role in issuing illegal compensation bonds which are, pursuant the law on compensation, given to owners of property that had been expropriated by the state. These bonds are issued to owners or their inheritors of enterprises which were confiscated “for the benefit of the people’s administration” after September 1944. It is now possible to take part in privatisation of state enterprises with these bonds.
The minister Boskov’s deputy, Edit Getova, also took part in illegal operations, who has been suspected of corruption for quite some time now. Investigation has shown that that these two had issued compensation bonds which exceed the real value of former Strug-Vagan Engibarov company by 250 times! Getova made a report according to which Anzel Engibarova-Smit who inherited the company should get compensation of 78 million German marks instead of 310 thousand. Regardless of the violation of the established procedure of issuing bonds in such cases, Aleksandar Boskov put his signature on this document.
At that time, the ministry of industries reached a couple of decisions which offered greater possibilities to use compensation bonds in trading, so their price went up. Engibarova-Smit sold a part of the bonds to the company of two Dzankov brothers who then participated with them in privatisation of mill combine in Sofia. They bought it at the auction sale and paid in these bonds so that the state practically got nothing from the sale of the combine. It is interesting to note that Dzankov’s company won in competition with a Greek company. A week ago this same Greek company (LULIS) bought the mill combine after all, and the two brothers made a significant profit.
How did Getova and Boskov benefit from illegal issuing of compensation bonds – this is something the prosecutor office will be looking at because he was charged with the case. What is alarming is that this does not seem to be an isolated case, but one of many in which members of the leadership of SDS used their posts to sign unfavourable contracts or make illegal decisions.
Kostov’s decision is highly indicative, though. The question whether the leadership of the state is corrupt was opened six months ago by president of the country Petar Stojanov, and political opponents of SDS. Suspicion about illegal operations of members of the cabinet cast a shadow on the image of the cabinet whose rating drastically dropped among the voters who are losing confidence in it. Whenever attempts were made to find answers to questions Kostov defended his employees. He discharged just two of them, known as “M.M.” – the head of the government press centre Mihail Mihajlov and former deputy minister of industries Marin Marinov – because they were also suspected of corruption. The decision to discharge them was temporary – until investigation was completed. As concerning the case of Boskov, Kostov manifested greater resoluteness to get rid of blue leaders who are violating the law.
It is not clear what counter-action Boskov, who is one of the most influential personages in SDS, will take. It was considered for a long time that Kostov would not be able to part with him for several reasons, even for the fact that he was the only one in the cabinet who spoke English fluently. Boskov was in charge of keeping contact with IMF. He was also a man of the Jewish lobby which the prime minister would not wish to lose. And last but not the least – Boskov carried out the biggest part of privatisation of state enterprises. He holds economic controls which in case of possible haggling among some of the leaders in SDS and outside it could play a significant role.
However, if he fails to improve his image, the ruling party is in danger of losing in the elections next year. International financial institutions are also exerting pressure on the government to resolve the problem of corruption. If he fails to do that Kostov might lose their support too. He has already declared war to another minister from before December changes of the cabinet - Evgenij Bakardzijev. It is uncertain whether Kostov will be able to handle so many powerful opponents. At least at first sight it seems that he could count on the support of president Petar Stojanov who enjoys great confidence in the society and who was the first to raise the question of purging blue ranks.
In SDS everything smells of war already, if the current conflicts are not just an attempt of throwing dust into the eyes of the voters for the sake of a political deal.