Bulgaria's Customs Agency Director Targeted in Anti-Corruption Operation

Politics | April 3, 2024, Wednesday // 14:32
Bulgaria: Bulgaria's Customs Agency Director Targeted in Anti-Corruption Operation

Earlier today, the director of Bulgaria's Customs Agency, Petya Bankova, has found herself at the center of an anti-corruption operation. Police, gendarmerie, and State Agency "National Security" (SANS) officials launched a coordinated operation, conducting searches at Bankova's office and residence, as well as her deputy Ludmil Marinov's premises.

The operation reportedly targets a smuggling network allegedly linked to Nikolay Nikolov-Paskal, a key figure in cigarette smuggling. Media reports suggest that the network operated with impunity for nearly three decades, raising concerns about the extent of corruption within the customs agency.

In a defiant statement to journalists as she left the Customs Agency building, Bankova proclaimed herself as the first victim of the newly established Anti-Corruption Commission. Despite the allegations against her, she vowed not to give up, denying any connection to the smuggling network under investigation.

"I will not allow smuggling to continue. If this is the state's problem, let them declare it. I don't know Pascal, I don't know who he is," Bankova asserted, highlighting her determination to combat corruption within the agency.

In addition, Bankova's lawyer, Adelina Natina, revealed that authorities seized notes from Bankova's office detailing plans to dismantle contraband channels. Natina also suggested that Bankova's strained relationship with Plamen Tonchev, the former director of SANS, might have contributed to the investigation.

"A few years ago, Plamen Tonchev decided that he would send me to Blagoevgrad for punishment. This is their main scheme - when someone interferes, they send them away. Then I said that I will not carry out their orders and left SANS," Bankova explained, hinting at possible motives behind the operation.

The developments come against the backdrop of legislative changes aimed at enhancing anti-corruption efforts in Bulgaria. However, the formation of the new Anti-Corruption Commission, envisioned as a key instrument in combating crime, has faced delays in appointing its members.

It is worth knowing that Petya Bankova is the sister of the former head of the "Internal Security" department at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Stefcho Bankov, who was dismissed on disciplinary grounds, but returned to the department based on a court decision, being appointed to the minister of internal affairs' support unit.

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Tags: Bulgaria, customs, anti-corruption, smuggling

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