Bulgaria's New Energy Watchdog Head Admits to Illegal Cigarette Trade
Yuliana Ivanova, the new Chair of Bulgaria's State Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (DKEVR), has admitted publicly to being the owner of an online store selling cigarettes illegally.
Online tobacco advertising and sales have been banned in Bulgaria through the Tobacco and Tobacco Products Act since July 2012.
Ivanova, who was appointed DKEVR Chair on Wednesday, after the resignation of her predecessor Angel Semerdzhiev amidst electricity pricing scandal, owns the company Image Code Group, which owns the online store babbetshop.com, according to reports of Trud daily. One week ago, Ivanova transferred the management of the company.
"This is my mistake, I will bear the respective sanctions for that," Ivanova stated regarding the revelation about her illegal cigarette trade.
"Yes, this was the mistake of my lawyers who were dealing with that since apparently they failed to find this legally framework for selling cigarettes online, and this was corrected last night," she elaborated as cited by BGNES.
"I apologize to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, and I would like to thank the journalist who discovered that because I didn't know it was illegal. Since yesterday, I am already aware, and that's why I said I am ready to bear the punishment," Ivanova added, making it clear she was ready to resign her brand-new job over the scandal if she had to.
She revealed that she has been dealing with online cigarette sales for the past two years, after quitting a career in the energy sector.
"I thought that was an interesting and undeveloped niche in Bulgaria – it's not about food sales, this is an online supermarket that I thought could make life easier for women who are busy all day," Ivanova explained.
She defended her credentials for heading Bulgaria's energy watchdog by claiming that she has been following closely the developments in the energy sector in the past two years.
"I can't assuage people's concerns yet because I am still getting acquainted with the case but I do support them since my bill was high, too," Ivanova stated regarding the recent public protest rallies against Bulgaria's electricity distribution companies over unrealistically high electricity bills.
The product list of the online store contains 30 brands of cigarettes which can be ordered, including products of majors like Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and JTI.
Asked to comment on the matter by Trud daily, the three companies confirmed that the online trade in tobacco products was illegal, as did Bulgaria's Customs Agency.
The customs authority, however, noted that it lacked the capacity to monitor such violations.
The Customs Agency informed that it had already detected two such online stores managed by companies based in Ruse and Razgrad, ordering at least three cartons of cigarettes in each case and catching the offenders as the order was delivered.
Trud daily has reported the online store to the Customs Agency and the Cyber Crime unit at the Chief Directorate "Combating Organized Crime."
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