US sanctions six Bulgarians

This is the largest Global Magnitsky action taken on a single day in the history of the programme

The US Department of State (DOS) and the US Department of the Treasury (USDT) said on Wednesday that they are sanctioning a total of six Bulgarians, including controversial businessmen Delyan Peevski and Vassil Bozhkov, over their involvement in significant corruption See here and here.

The DOS announced the public designation of Peevski, as well as of former Deputy Economy Minister Alexander Manolev, former State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad (SABA) Director Petar Haralampiev, former SABA Chief Secretary Krasimir Tomov, and Ilko Zhelyazkov, an official in the National Bureau for Control on Special Intelligence-Gathering Devices and former Deputy Chief of the Bulgarian State Agency for Technical Operations, because, in their official capacities, they “were involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and the Bulgarian public's faith in their government's democratic institutions and public processes, including by using their political influence and official power for personal benefit. In his capacity as a member of parliament, Peevski used Zhelyazkov (…) as an intermediary and accomplice to peddle influence and pay bribes to protect himself from public scrutiny and to exert influence over key institutions and sectors in Bulgarian society,” DOS Spokesperson Ned Price said, quoted in a press statement.

The DOS action, taken under the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, renders the five publicly designated persons and each of their immediate family members ineligible for entry into the US.

“Today's actions reaffirm our commitment to supporting rule of law and strengthening democratic institutions in Bulgaria. The United States stands with all Bulgarians whose work drives reforms forward, and the Department will continue to use its authorities to promote accountability for corrupt actors in the region and globally,” Price said.

In what it described as “the single largest action targeting corruption to date”, the USDT's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for its part sanctioned Peevski, Zhelyazkov and Bulgarian oligarch Vassil Bozhkov, along with 64 entities owned and controlled by Bozhkov and Peevski, “for their extensive roles in corruption in Bulgaria”. These individuals and entities were designated pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

“This designation exposes the three for abusing public institutions for profit and cuts off these individuals' and their companies' access to the US financial system. To further protect the international financial system from abuse by corrupt actors, Treasury encourages all governments to implement appropriate and effective anti-money laundering measures to address corruption vulnerabilities,” the USDT press release reads. “These actions send a strong signal that the United States stands with all Bulgarians who strive to root out corruption.”

“The United States stands with all Bulgarians who strive to root out corruption by promoting accountability for corrupt officials who undermine the economic functions and democratic institutions of Bulgaria,” said OFAC Director Andrea M. Gacki.

Later in the day, the Bulgarian Government Information Service reported that caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev had talked on the phone with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, who briefed him on the sanctions against the Bulgarians and their 64 entities in the context of the efforts to fight corruption in Bulgaria efficiently.

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