Bulgaria's Most Influential People
This week, the Bulgarian edition of Forbes Magazine unveiled its first most influential persons list, with the top 10 featuring four officials from the ruling party GERB and six oligarchs.
The list, which raised quite a few eyebrows, has been generated in the course of one year and has started with 250 nominations.
In the US, the ranking has a 20-year history. Forbes Bulgaria says it has used the same criteria as the ones applied worldwide: the number of people over whom the nominee has power, the amount and kind of resources at his or her disposal, and the degree of active change he or she generates in the country.
According to its editor-in-chief, the selection had not been made through a vote, but through debates, in-depth research, and hundreds of conversations with trusted experts from various sectors.
The politicians in the ranking are: Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov (1st), Deputy PM and Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov (4th), President, Rosen Plevneliev (5th), and Deputy PM and Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, (8th).
Obviously, in any country politicians would make such ranking for their power to bring changes. History is usually the judge if these changes had been positive or negative. Borisov's lead is also predictable – as people joke - God was Bulgarian and a Prime Minister.
The rest are a curious mix of bankers, other oligarchs and media moguls, some with shady past and ties – the latter is known, but Bulgarians can only read it in leaked diplomatic cables and foreign reports.
Tsvetan Vasilev, Head of Corporate Commercial Bank (2nd) is believed to stand behind the media group of shady mogul Irena Krasteva and a number of key privatization deals, while his bank holds nearly half of the money of strategic State-owned companies.
Ivo Kamenov from Chimimport (3rd) is Ivo from the mysterious Varna-based group TIM, called by former US Ambassador in Sofia, James Pardew "the new leader in Bulgarian organized crime," and the "most modern form of organized crime" by investigative German journalist, Jurgen Roth.
Ognyan Donev, CEO of Sopharma (6th), along with Lyubomir Pavlov, is the publisher of the Trud and 24 Chasa dailies; he is mixed in a large-scale media war with Krasteva, and in accusations of a cartel situation on the country's medication market.
Another former US Ambassador, Jonh Beyrle, wrote that Lukoil was "involved in oil-siphoning scandals and illegal deals," and labeled its CEO, Valentin Zlatev (7th), "an influential kingmaker and behind-the-scenes power broker."
Krasimir Gergov, CEO of Kres, Piero 97, is considered one of the wealthiest Bulgarians, the most influential person in the advertising and media sector. He is also co-owner of the largest private TV channel bTV.
The only lady among the top 10, Tsvetelina Borislavova, Head of Bulgarian-American Credit Bank, is Borisov's ex-girlfriend. Again, from US diplomatic cables we learned that Borisov's "common-law wife, Tsvetelina Borislavova, manages a large Bulgarian bank that has been accused of laundering money for organized criminal groups, as well as for Borisov's own illegal transactions."
Forbes Bulgaria has certainly used objective criteria; there is no reason to doubt that. This ranking simply mirrors the situation in the country. It shows who rules it and who controls it. It is yet another evidence of the unending amalgamate between politics, big money, mafia and the media which serve them.
The old joke that every State has a mafia, while in Bulgaria the mafia has a State, is no longer funny. It has turned into a sad rule in a place still far, far away from the rule of law.