Finance Ministry Says Minister Goranov Already Expressed His Position about Alleged Communication with Vassil Bojkov and Won't Be Issuing Another One
May 15 (BTA) - In view of the increased media interest, provoked by insinuations circulated by notorious businessman Vassil Bojkov on Friday, the Finance Ministry recalls that Minister Vladislav Goranov has already commented and expressed his position in Parliament last Friday, May 8, regarding Bojkov's statements, reads a press release by the Finance Ministry. It was issued on the occasion of two screenshots of text messages with a contact bearing the Minister's name, posted Friday morning by Bojkov, who is hiding in Dubai.
The messages in question discuss the State Commission on Gambling, which was supposed to control Bojkov's lottery business. His conversation with "Vladi Goranov", however, shows that the businessman was able to complain to the Finance Minister about certain official's actions and seek assistance, the Mediapool e-zine writes Friday.
According to Socialist MP Rumen Gechev, there is no doubt that there was communication between Bojkov and Goranov. If the the State's information that hundreds of millions of leva of budget revenue were lost is true, then there must have been a political protection for Bojkov, Gechev commented the leaked text messages in Parliamment.
Later, the Finance Ministry said that Goranov will not be making any additional comments in response to statements made by someone who owes the Exchequer 700 million leva.
Once considered to be the wealthiest Bulgarian with assets worth between 1.5 and 3 billion leva, businessman Vassil Bojkov was charged in Bulgaria on January 29, 2020 with evasion of more than 700 million leva in gambling licensing fees, money laundering, extortion, bribery, murder, rape, leading an organized crime group since 2014, trading in influence, and unlawful possession of cultural assets. He left the country before the full-scale crackdown against him and turned into a fugitive from justice, refusing to return to Bulgaria from the United Arab Emirates where, following three weeks in prison after being arrested on an Interpol Red Notice on Bulgaria's request, he has been a free man with resident status.
Bojkov gave a telephone interview for bTV on May 8, urging Vladislav Goranov to resign as Finance Minister because he either connived or ignored legislative amendments initiated by GERB thus enabling Bojkov's scratch-card lotteries to pay lower licensing fees than the State-owned Bulgarian Sports Totalizator. Bojkov said that his assets had been wrongfully frozen by the National Revenue Agency (NRA) and accused Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in person of ruining his companies. The interviewee argued that the PM used the prosecution service, the State Agency for National Security and the NRA as "baseball bats" to force him out of business.
Bojkov said in his interview last week that he had frequent personal contacts about his gambling operations with Goranov, who was thus aware of the way his accountants applied the law. The businessman denied having had any contacts with Gambling Commission members.
Reacting to the interview, Goranov told a news briefing at Parliament later that day that ever since he entered the gambling business, Bojkov or his employees violated the Gambling Act by misdeclaring and underpaying fees. The Finance Minister said he does not believe that he can be blamed for Bojkov's employees misapplying the Gambling Act. He said that he did meet with the businessman but refused to grant his request to equalize taxation of offline and online gambling. RI/MY