Bulgaria Govt Set to Annul Illegal Land Swaps, Fight 'Lumber Mafia'
Bulgaria’s Cabinet has come up with a mechanism for seeking compensations for the allegedly illegal large-scale land swap deals executed by the previous government.
This has been announced by Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naydenov in Plovdiv during the opening of the “National Forest Week”.
The Minister explained that the government is either going to annul the swap deals that it can declare void legally, or it is going to make the new owners pay the market prices of the plots that they received from the stated.
Thus, if the state is unable to restore its ownership over all swapped plots, it is at least going to collect the proper amount of money, Naydenov argued.
He pointed out that former head of the State Forestry Agency Stefan Yurukov and the former Agriculture Minister Valeri Tsvetanov, who are currently facing legal charges over the swaps, are not the only ones responsible for the scams.
Naydenov reminded that any deals for plots over 100 decares have to be approved by the entire cabinet. That is why, Naydenov believes the former Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev and other members of the former government must also be charged.
According to estimates of the current Borisov government, Bulgaria lost between BGN 2 B and BGN 8 B from land swap deals approved by the previous two governments who gave large plots to private companies in exchange for much cheaper properties.
This situation has spurred action on part of the European Commission which threatened to fine Bulgaria over the land swaps because they presented illegal state aid to private enterprises.
The Borisov government has argued that this was not the case as the land swaps are criminal acts, and vowed to abolish and investigate them.
The Minister also announced that the new draft Forestry Act is going to set up an independent Forestry Inspectorate which will have “specific functions and good equipment”.
The new institution will be given sufficient powers in order to fight the so called “lumbering mafia” which deals will illegal extracting of lumber and other poaching activities.
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