Mob Rules Bulgaria, Premier Pledges Reforms - Report

Politics | October 17, 2008, Friday // 00:00

Two leading newspapers and electronic editions - The New York Times and International Herald Tribune have published Wednesday highly critical and harsh articles focusing on corruption and organized crime in Bulgaria.

The New York Times article is titled "Mob Muscles Its Way Into Politics in Bulgaria," while the one in International Herald Tribune can be found under "Bulgarian corruption troubling the European Union." The articles have been researched and prepared for over a month.

"Politics is played to the death in Bulgaria, where the lives of politicians can be as cheap as spent bullets and murky business groups wage a murderous struggle for their cut of everything from real estate deals to millions in European aid."

This is how the authors Doreen Carvajal and Stephen Castle begin the extensive articles in both publications. The article in International Herald Tribune, a newspaper published in Paris in English and owned by the "New York Times" group, is longer and published with slight modifications due mostly to the latest developments around the investigation of the Galev brothers.

In addition, the International Herald Tribune publication presents an audio and slide show with pictures titled "Bulgaria's mobster tombs." According to several Bulgarian blogs, the article is currently the one that has been the most forwarded via email by the International Herald Tribune readers.

The correspondents remind that Bulgaria is considered the most corrupt state among the 27 countries members of the European Union. They give a thorough account of mafia activity and killings, vote buying and political cover-ups in Bulgaria.

The article also talks about the US assistance to Bulgaria into joining NATO and American efforts to encourage trade, democracy and education in the country. The US just announced that it would invest more than USD 90 M in the next two to three years in facilities and equipment for joint military exercises in Bulgaria.

The publication focuses on the abuse of European funds in Bulgaria and on the critical report of the EU's anti-fraud office - OLAF, which was leaked to the media in July and uncovered widespread violations in the spending of the funds and political cover-ups for shady businesses .

The reporters offer an extensive account of the so-called Stoykov-Nikolov group, listed in the OLAF report and Mario Nikolov's (one of the partners) discreet alliances to Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev and the steering of more than BGN 200,000 form Nikolov's businesses to Stanishev's Socialist Party.

Both editions published Thursday Stanishev's response to the highly critical articles mentioning his name and the name of his party. The article in International Herald Tribune says: "Bulgarian prime minister pledges reforms," while the New York Times' one is titled: "Bulgarian Prime Minister Vows to Reject Tainted Donations."

Stanishev, who was in Brussels for a two-day meeting of European leaders, has said in an interview Thursday, that Bulgaria had demonstrated its resolve, citing raids this on the mansion and company offices of the Galev brothers suspected of financial, tax and insurance crimes.

In the interview Stanishev pledges to donate any campaign contributions tainted by irregularities to charity and insists that his Socialist Party had acted within the law.

The full text of the original publications can be found at: - NY Times - Mob Muscles Its Way Into Politics in Bulgaria - IHT - Bulgarian corruption troubling the European Union - NY Times - Bulgarian Prime Minister Vows to Reject Tainted Donations - IHT - Bulgarian prime minister pledges reforms

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