Bulgarian 'Customs' Special Ops Carried in Full Secrecy
The special police operation codenamed "Customs" had been carried out in strict secrecy, Bulgarian Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, admitted Friday morning.
Speaking in an interview for the private TV channel bTV, the Minister explained that very few people have known about it prior to its execution, and they included Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, and his Deputy, Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, but Customs Head, Vanio Tanov, had been kept in the dark.
"I informed Borisov in detail, and told Djankov that an operation is pending at one of the cross-border checkpoints, telling him to not share this with anyone," Tsvetanov explained.
When asked if he was nervous about information leaks, the Minister thanked Djankov for fulfilling his promise to keep the secret and commented that Tanov was right to thank the police for the operation.
Tsvetanov voiced his belief that racket at the country's borders involves not only common Customs officers, but their supervisors as well, adding the bribes amounting to BGN 1 500 per person after one shift allowed the Customs employees to "live the good life."
On Wednesday evening, the day shift of 32 customs officers at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint at the Bulgarian-Turkish border was detained within the special operation. A senior Customs officer and a Customs expert were found to have a total of BGN 14 000 in different currencies.
The two officials said that the money had been found in the restrooms at the border crossing point.
Apart from this sum, ten customs officers were found to have smaller sums of EUR 150-180 and 21 stacks of cigarettes without excise labels.
In the Friday interview, Tsvetanov reported that there are videotapes where one can see how the Customs officers are distributing the bribes they had been taking from individuals and businesses traveling through the border, and appealed to Bulgarian and foreign citizens to report such incidents to the police.
"Taking bribes has turned into a mentality in our Customs," the Minister concluded.
He further confirmed that 8 of the busted Customs officers remain under arrest and will be fired after five of them have been charged with participating in an organized crime group specialized in racketeering and three are facing bribery charges.
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