Bulgarian Red Cross Chief: Transparency Is Our Key Rule

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | February 20, 2006, Monday // 00:00
Bulgarian Red Cross Chief: Transparency Is Our Key Rule Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (Sofia News Agency)

Hristo Grigorov was born on October 14, 1944 in the town of Gorna Gjumaia, western Bulgaria. He studied pharmacy and later graduated in international economic relations in Sofia. Before taking on the chairmanship of the Bulgarian Red Cross in 2001, Grigorov was vice-president of the organisation for three mandates. A week after an appeals court acquitted him of all charges in embezzlement of funds from donations, Grigorov talked to Sofia News Agency's Editor-in-Chief Milena Hristova on the implications of this case for both the Bulgarian Red Cross and the image of Bulgaria as a whole.

Q: Leaving Sofia Appeals Court, that acquitted you on all charges, you said the trial against you was a scam. Whose victim do you believe you were?

A: I am not a victim. I have done nothing wrong and this was confirmed by the Appeals Court. In regard to who has designed this plot, it will be known when the real truth comes to light. That is all our wish now - the truth must be revealed and presented to the public, to all the society and international communities by the Bulgarian authorities.

Q: Do you think that the system for import of donations has gaps enabling misappropriations? Is there a guarantee that a company would not register a foundation to channel through it donations for the Bulgarian Red Cross and then sell the goods without papers?

A: Under the rules of the Bulgarian Red Cross, the system of receipt and distribution of humanitarian aid, which is transparent and subject to public control, does not allow for any misuse. Our rules concerning the receipt and distribution of humanitarian aid are published on the web site of the Bulgarian Red Cross (www.redcross.bg ), in both Bulgarian and English. This is an important part of the process of transparency.

The case with the convoys for the Chief Mufti Office, however, unveiled another reality and showed that probably the system has gaps, particularly when the delivered donation, by the will of the donor, is to be granted to another institutional beneficiary.

The Bulgarian Red Cross analyses every piece of donation before agreeing to receive it and this analysis is subject to strict criteria. In this specific case nobody has had doubts as to possible faults committed by the Mecca of the Bulgarian Muslim community - the Chief Mufti Office. We have been cooperating with them under an agreement for providing aid to areas with ethnically mixed population.

In the period of 2003-2005 the Bulgarian Red Cross has received more than 1000 humanitarian convoys. Only three of them are being probed now. The Appeals Court has also confirmed that neither the chairman, nor the institution of the Bulgarian Red Cross is guilty of what the charges said.

Q: Is there a conflict of interests between the Bulgarian Red Cross and your private business?

A: My private business is something on the sidelines and completely irrelevant to my public work at the Bulgarian Red Cross. I have never had any violations or even a single remark by the tax authorities. The same is with my work at the Bulgarian Red Cross.

I am not involved into the distribution of convoys delivered as donations to the Bulgarian Red Cross. This activity is in the hands of committees set up and operating under rules approved by the National Council of the organisation. Hence it is impossible to detect any conflict of interests between my personal affairs and the affairs of the organisation I am attributed to.

Currently an independent financial audit is under way at the Bulgarian Red Cross and the results of it will be publicly announced. We have asked our headquarters in Geneva - the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - to assist us in finding a foreign independent audit organisation. And we are committed to complete such audit.

We also insist for setting up a parliamentary committee to review this case and reveal the truth.

Q: What kind of relations do you have with Krassimir Petrov and Nikolay Pankov? How would you comment the statements that the donations for the Chief Mufti Office delivered through the Bulgarian Red Cross were part of the scam network established by officials from the Mufti?

A: I know these people in their capacity of official representatives of the Chief Mufti Office entitled to receive the donations from the Bulgarian Red Cross. My relations with them were purely official, within the contacts between the institution and the donation recipient as stated by the donor. If those charges are confirmed, it will mean there is a strong deficit of values in the Chief Mufti Office.

Q: What are your impressions from the way colleagues and donors have reacted to this case?

A: Everybody in the organisation, including me, was shocked by these unexpected and grave charges. The accusations will be rejected, as neither I, nor whoever else in the Bulgarian Red Cross has committed the activities we were accused of. Moreover, our partnership with many donors is continuing, intact despite this situation.

Q: Do you think that the checks and your arrest will cast a shadow on the image of the Bulgarian Red Cross in Bulgaria and abroad?

A: They certainly will, unless the truth is spoken out loudly and clearly to all the people in Bulgaria and to the world. If even a tint of doubt survives that such grave, intentional moral crime is possible to occur in the biggest humanitarian organisation in Bulgaria, which has 127 years of history and pertains to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, this will destroy the reputation of the Bulgarian Red Cross and mar the image of Bulgaria.

Therefore we sincerely believe that the respective authorities will wrap up the investigation and will publicly reveal the results of it. Meanwhile, we will continue to cooperate with them, as we have always done.

The Bulgarian Red Cross was addressed by rather strong words, but we will strive to find a way out of this situation. We would certainly do so because generations of patriotic Bulgarians have worked for this organisation and its extremely humanitarian cause and even now members and volunteers of the Bulgarian Red Cross keep on working.

We will stick to our work and inform the public on every step of ours, as we have always done.

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