site.btaUPDATED State Agency for National Security Head Reports to Smuggling Scams Investigation Committee

State Agency for National Security Head Reports to Smuggling Scams Investigation Committee
State Agency for National Security Head Reports to Smuggling Scams Investigation Committee
Plamen Tonchev addressing the parliamentary ad hoc committee, April 16 (BTA Photo)

Plamen Tonchev, head of the State Agency for National Security (SANS), reported Turesday to the ad hoc parliamentary committee for the investigation of corrupt practices in the National Customs Agency and the possible role of outgoing Finance Minister Assen Vassilev in those practices. Tonchev explained that in 2024, Nikola "Pascal" Nikolov developed a new channel for illegally produced cigarettes in Turkiye. Several dozen truckloads of cigarettes have allegedly passed through the channel in question into Western Europe. 

Tonchev said that in the middle of 2022 information was received by SANS that an organized smuggling criminal group with leaders Marin Dimitrov and his son Stefan Dimitrov was operating on the territory of the country.

The SANS started investigating the smuggling channel, not participation of persons holding high government positions in the country. After SANS came across such information, they submitted a report to the Anti-Corruption Commission, who are the competent institution in such cases, the SANS head explained.

Tonchev said that the main role of Marin and Stefan Dimitrovi in the new channel was to establish contacts with persons holding high public positions in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the scheme. He pointed out that Stefan Dimitrov has built a relationship of trust with the former director of the Customs Agency, Petya Marinova Bankova-Teneva, her deputy Lyudmil Andreev Marinov and the secretary general Zhivko Kotsev.

After a truckload of contraband cigarettes was confiscated in Romania, Stefan Dimitrov prepared gifts and benefits to be handed over to the persons in question in order to secure a new smuggling channel on the territory of the country, explained Tonchev. There is a known instance of a meeting to provide gifts in the parking lot next to the National Assembly building, he added.

A referral report was prepared for the Anti-Corruption Commission, as a result of which investigative actions were carried out under conditions of urgency, Tonchev explained. He also said that a truck with 1,502 master boxes of excise-free cigarettes was detained in a village near Parazrdhik, Southern Bulgaria. Tonchev also reported that a truck was detained in Romania with 742 cartons of cigarettes hidden in cartons for frozen pasta.

The main functions of Marin and Stefan Dimitrovi were related to the establishment of contacts between Bulgarian and foreign citizens for the purpose of carrying out smuggling, by creating corridors through various border checkpoints, Tonchev noted. Their contacts ranged from low police levels to senior officials of customs services or border departments, related to the process of carrying out checks when goods and cargo pass through the specified points.

Tonchev also added that Marin and Stefan Dimitrovi have significant influence in the Interior Ministry where they initially maintained close ties, both with senior staff from the political leadership of the ministry and with the professional leadership.

Tonchev pointed out that there was only one communication established between outgoing Finance Minister Assen Vassilev and Stefan Dimitrov, which was for the appointment of Nedan Hadzhiev as director of the Regional Directorate the Interior Ministry in Haskovo.

Outgoing Finance Minitser Assen Vassilev, who attended the meeting of the ad hoc committee, commented to journalists that he does not know Stefan Dimitrov, and he only knows Petya Bankova

Vassilev noted that as deputy director of the Customs Agency, Bankova worked "extremely well with foreign partners" and credited her professionalism, as she was responsible for record confiscated  amounts of drugs, cigarettes and money at border checkpoints. 

Vassilev pointed out that SANS started their investigation during the time of the caretaker cabinet and described the two-year operation as scandalous. He argued that the logical question is who then patronized this channel.

/VE/

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By 18:31 on 26.05.2024 Today`s news

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