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News from Bulgaria / May 23, 96

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Embassy of Bulgaria <>



23 May, 1996




    Dairen, May 22 (BTA spec. Corr. Atanas Matev) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, who ended his official visit to Peking yesterday, arrived in the Chinese port of Dairen on the Yellow Sea today. Videnov wished to acquaint himself with the experience of this city boasting the most successful free trade zone in China.

    A meeting with Mr Wen Shereng, Governor of the Province of Liaonin in which Dairen is situated, outlined possibilities for establishing closer contacts between Bulgarian enterprises and enterprises of this province. The governor showed particular interest in cooperation in truck building and above all in using Bulgarian experience in wine-producing in his province. "Bulgaria is famous for its wines across the world and I hope that at our next meeting we will drink Chinese wine made using Bulgarian experience," he said.


    Sofia, May 22 (Evgenyia Droumeva of BTA) - Parliament today passed an anti-money laundering law. This cabinet-sponsored law introduces measures for prevention and crackdown on laundering crime proceeds. The law defines as money laundering the acquisition or possession of money and property with the awareness of their criminal origin; the transfer of such property in a bid to cover up its origin; assistance for a person involved in the original crime or in an attempt to cover up the true origin, source and movement of ill-gotten property.

    The controls which the law provides for the prevention and detection of the laundering of ill-gotten gains include the identification of persons effecting financial transactions, as well as storage and disclosure of information pertaining to money laundering. These measures are compulsory for banks, insurance and investment companies, bodies conducting privatization transactions, persons who organize tenders for awarding government contracts and those running gambling games. These persons and institutions are placed under the obligation to identify customers with whom they have permanent business relations, as well as customers in transactions worth over 1.5 million leva (some 12,000 US dollars), or whenever they have suspicions of money laundering.

    The law envisages the setting up of a specialized Interior Ministry service to store, analyze and process the information supplied by banks. During the debates on the bill, the opposition insisted that the service operate with the Finance and not the Interior Ministry claiming that money laundering in Bulgaria has more to do with financial frauds than with drug trafficking or other crimes.

    Banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions are expected to report to the Interior Ministry service for all cases of suspected money laundering and submit the relevant information they hold. The service has power to suspend doubtful transactions for 24 hours. The banks, insurance companies and other institutions holding such information are not allowed to disclose it to their customers and third persons.

    The Minister of Finance and a specialized body will monitor the implementation of the law by financial and lending institutions.

    Violating the clauses of the law without committing a crime will be penalized with 50,000 to 5 million leva fines.

    Parliament is expected to consider sometime soon relevant amendments to the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure to criminalize actions that hinder the location, detection and seizure of proceeds known to have originated from crime.


    The dailies give front-page prominence to yesterday's adoption in principle of the bill on protection of the deposits and accounts with commercial banks subject to bankruptcy proceedings initiated by the central bank. Under the bill companies' deposits will be guaranteed 50 percent.

    "Opposition Wants All Deposits Be Fully Protected," reads a headline in "Demokratsiya", the daily of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). The state pledged to protect personal deposits now, but promised no guarantees for the future, "24 Chassa" says. "For a long time a number of banks have been practically bankrupt. Today people's mistrust in them is being transformed into a mistrust in the Government and the state institutions," BSP MP Stefan Stoilov says in an interview for the "Troud" paper. Stoilov is a member of the parliamentary economic and budgetary and finance committees.

    So far the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) has not petitioned the court to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against any bank. According to speculations, the first five banks subject to closure are Mineralbank, First Private Bank, AgroBusinessBank, Crystalbank and Private Agricultural and Investment Bank. The dailies quote BNB Governing Board as saying yesterday that Mineralbank and First Private Bank placed under special supervision late last week will not service customers by the end of this week. The central bank urgently funneled 4,000 million leva to the two banks to unbloc payments, "Standart News" writes. The cash-strapped banks blocked some 5,000 million leva's worth remittances and paralyzed payments nationwide. Following the financial injection, Mineralbank settled the pending payments and First Private Bank reduced the number of suspended remittances to 10,000, the paper adds.


    Yesterday the Finance Ministry was closed due to a bomb hoax. The threat was made at the time of the talks between World Bank Resident Representative in Bulgaria Alberto Musalem and Bulgarian financiers. The World Bank mission is on a visit here as of Monday. Depending on the results of the negotiations it has to decide on the floating to Bulgaria of the Financial and Enterprise Sector Adjustment Loan (FESAL) and the Structural Adjustment Loan (SAL) and on the signing of the stand-by agreement with the International Monetary Fund.


    Sofia, May 22 (Vanya Ivanova of BTA) - Representatives of the 22 member states of the International Congress of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs today discussed the setting up of multinational corporations and joint ventures in industry, trade, services and finance. Bulgaria hosted the 11th meeting of the Congress, an organization of countries of the former COMECON.

    The meeting adopted a scheme for regulating the economic relations between the member states without the participation of governments, said Arkadi Volski, President Coordinator of the Congress and President of the Russian Union of Industrialists. He said the aim was not to isolate politicians from the work of industrialists and entrepreneurs but to avoid the difficulties in trade and business contacts during the financial ups and downs of member states. "Politicians come and go, but industry is always here," said Volski.

    He told journalists he is proud of the performance of the Bulgarian- Russian Investment Bank set up in 1994, which the World Bank has named as the third most stable bank in Bulgaria.


    Sofia, May 22 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - The number of foreign executives unhappy with the business and investment climate in this country has increased over the recent years. This was announced at a news conference held by the Bulgarian International Business Association (BIBA). From 5% in 1991, the discontent percentage has soared to 24%, according to the findings of a poll conducted by Gallup International at BIBA's request. The poll surveyed the business conditions in Bulgaria on the basis of the opinion of the CEOs of five leading foreign companies operating in this country.

    The investment climate started aggravating in 1992, according to BIBA. It believes the legislative and executive in Bulgaria overlook the role of foreign investors and do not pursue a consistent policy for attracting them to this country. BIBA believe one of the major stumbling blocks is the ban preventing foreigners from possessing land, and hope that replacing it with licensing regulations is sure to bring fresh foreign investment. The problems in the real economy and the banking system are summed up in a White Paper for Foreign Investment in Bulgaria. It analyzes the investment process in several fields: production, telecoms, banking and insurance, taxation. The White Paper is the product of BIBA's concern for the reforms in this country and mirrors its dissatisfaction with the volume of foreign investment, said BIBA Executive Director Ilian Vassilev. Apart from identifying the major problems facing foreign investors here, it recommends ways for addressing them. Vassilev also said the White Paper in an attempt to prevent confrontation with Bulgaria's executive and legislative. BIBA has about 100 members, coming from the major foreign investors in Bulgaria.


    "What is going on in the country at the moment is something worse than an ordinary crisis. It is so severe that the country is facing a collapse. We may reach the limit where the processes will go beyond control," President Zhelyu Zhelev says on the crisis in the banking system, interviewed for "24 Chassa".

    Asked whether he had expected such collapse of the economy, the President says: "You know my attitude to the government of the BSP in principle and to Videnov's Cabinet in particular. Like many others I also cherished certain hopes and illusions that since they are younger, unprejudiced people, they will be more pragmatic and open-minded. Unfortunately it turned out that this is not the case. We all fell pray to an illusion."

    The President also dwells on the presidential elections due this autumn. Mr Zhelev, whose candidature is backed by the Popular Union, agreed to run in preliminary elections for appointing a single presidential candidate of the opposition, together with the candidate of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) Peter Stoyanov. "At the general presidential elections in the autumn I want to be a candidate, supported by a united opposition. I accepted the primary elections because they turned out to be the only real opportunity for the opposition to come up with a single candidate," the President says. In his view at this stage the unity of the opposition is something of great importance not only for the opposition itself, but also for Bulgaria."


    18,000 pirated CDs have been confiscated within ten days, "Continent" says on its front page. The daily quotes Chief of the National Investigative Service Boycho Rashkov as saying that in Sofia alone at least 10 investigative procedures have been initiated against seven manufacturers and traders of pirated audio and video cassettes, CDs and radio and television products.


    Sofia, May 22 (Vanya Ivanova of BTA) - Bulgaria and Morocco today signed agreements on cooperation between the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Moroccan Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, on reciprocal investment protection and promotion and on the avoidance of double taxation. This took place after the joint commission for economic, industrial, trade and technological cooperation completed its sixth session. The commission met in Sofia after a nine-year break.

    The documents form a new legal basis for economic cooperation between the two countries; now it is the turn of private entrepreneurs from Bulgaria and Morocco to put them into practice, according to the Moroccan co-chairman of the commission, Mohammed Hama, Minister Attached to the Prime Minister's Office in Charge of Economic Development. Bulgarian businessmen and entrepreneurs will visit Morocco to seek opportunities for increasing bilateral trade, according to the Bulgarian co-chairman Doncho Konakchiev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development and Construction.

    According to the trade accord, the two countries grant each other a most favoured nation status, in line with GATT requirements, Karpachev said.

    Now 25 joint Bulgarian-Moroccan ventures are operative in Morocco. The kingdom has provided a number of incentives to joint ventures, e.g. profit tax reliefs. The main areas conducive to joint ventures are the manufacture of metal tools and farming equipment, prospecting and agriculture. As a country with a developed agriculture, Morocco is interested in Bulgarian experience in canning and refrigeration and in buying Bulgarian planting stock.


    "King's Visit Under Question Over Security," writes "Demokratsiya" in a headline. On May 25 former Bulgarian king Simeon II will arrive in Bulgaria after living in exile for 50 years. The daily quotes Major General Dimiter Vladimirov, Director of the National Bodyguard Service (NBS), as saying that he expects to receive an order by the Council of Ministers to guard Simeon II.

    "Troud" quotes Galya Dicheva, head of the king's press office in Sofia, who says that the king may cancel his visit, if NBS does not ensure his security. According to the king, this will be "a clear sign that he is unwanted in his fatherland", Dicheva states. "General Vladimirov told me that President Zhelyu Zhelev did not order him to provide the security of His Majesty," Dicheva says before a "Standart News" reporter.

    Simeon II and his wife will be protected by the Balkan Security private company which guarded the king's sister, Maria-Louise, during her second visit to Bulgaria, "Standart News" writes. The papers write that after Simeon lands at Sofia Airport he will meet with Sofia mayor Stefan Sofiyanski.


    Sofia, May 22 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - Three days before the arrival of exiled Bulgarian king Simeon II, it has not been announced what exactly his programme will be, or whether government security will be provided to him. The last Bulgarian monarch, now based in Madrid, arrives with his wife Margarita, 50 years after his family fled this country.

    He is scheduled to arrive May 25, either on an Alitalia flight or on a private plane, the coordinator of the visit, Assen Oshakov, said today. On the day of his arrival, he will meet with intellectuals who invited him to Bulgaria last November. On Sunday, May 26, Simeon II will attend a dinner with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev at the Boyana residence. A dinner with National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov and meetings with Bulgarian Patriarch Maksim and the parliamentary faction of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), announced in advance, have not yet been confirmed from Madrid. The exiled monarch will visit Plovdiv, Bourgas and Varna. Invitations have been received from another 15 cities but his actual stops will be announced later on.

    Nearly 200 foreign journalists and several TV stations have requested accreditations to cover the event. Buses carrying pepole eager to meet Simeon II are expected to arrive from all over the country. Sofia has not had such a mass welcome for years. "The difference is that attendance was obligatory in the past. Now we'll go voluntarily," says monarchist Tsena Stankova from Krichim (southern Bulgaria) who remembers Simeon as a child. "Krichim was a royal residence, and when His Majesty [Simeon II's father Boris III] arrived with the Queen and the children on horseback we used to run after them and salute," she says. Now Stankova would like to personally greet Simeon II and Margarita and give her a gift- a hand-embroidered national-style dress.

    The press has published reports the ex-king may become the target of an assassination attempt. For this reason, security is a top priority. According to polls, however, the prevailing feeling is curiosity, as most Bulgarians only know him from press reports in the last few years.

    One-hundred and one gun salutes announced the birth of Crown Prince Simeon on June 16, 1937. An air squadron flew over the palace showering flowers over Sofia's central square. Students' grades were raised by 1 point (on a five-point scale); an amnesty was declared. Simeoncho, as the elderly still lovingly call him, was named after Bulgarian medieval King Simeon I who reigned over a Golden Age in Bulgarian culture and political might.

    Simeon II's own golden years lasted only till 1943, the year of the mysterious death of his father, Boris III. There is no evidence, but some say Boris III was poisoned by Hitler after opposing the latter's demands for Bulgarian involvement in the war. Boris III died three days after a visit to Germany at Hitler's invitation. The throne was taken by six-year-old Simeon, and actual government passed into the hands of his uncle Cyril. Three years later Bulgaria was declared a republic and the family was sent into exile.

    The young Simeon stayed away from politics. But once he turned 18 he stated clear claims to the Bulgarian throne. On the 25th anniversary of the communist takeover European papers published an address to the Bulgarian nation signed "Simeon II Rex". Although he denied all accomplishments of the communist rule, Simeon II called for "true national reconciliation and unity". "I have always said that I am fighting and working to see Bulgaria democratic, free, independent and flourishing," he said in an interview for a private Bulgarian radio two years ago. In 1967 the foreign press reported that Bulgaria reinstated the Bulgarian citizenship of its exiled monarch. Actually Simeon II has never had his Bulgarian nationality revoked and in 1991 he got a regular international passport.

    One should be realistic and pragmatic, Simeon II would always say in an interview. His subscription to these qualities are mirrored in his effort to always keep away from the partisan struggles in Bulgaria, in his views on the Bulgarian foreign policy and the need for this country to keep up its ties with Russia, and even in his attitude to the form of government in Bulgaria. "If my compatriots decide to live in a republic, being a Bulgarian citizen I will accept this," he said in 1992. He also said that speaking of abdication is preposterous, as "it will be the first case of an exiled monarch abdicating". Two years ago Simeon II said he can abdicate in favour of his eldest and only unmarried son Kardam, a US- based agronomist. Simeon II saw three of his five children getting married within two years. The only unmarried ones are Kardam and the family's favourite and only daughter Kalina. For several years in a row physicist Cyril of Preslav and his wife Rosario have been atop the list of European celebrities and were declared Spain's most elegant couple. The other son, Koubrat, is an outstanding gastroenterologist and the youngest son, Konstantin-Assen has a degree in management. Kalina, the youngest, is a student at the University of Madrid. Simeon II has two granddaughters. In his trip to Bulgaria Simeon II will be accompanied only by his wife.

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