Bulgaria’s former finance minister and a close associate to the country’s former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Vladislav Goranov, is currently experiencing governmental and regulatory backlash. Recently, he became one of the individuals added by the US to the sanctions list under the provisions of the global Magnitsky Law. Mr. Goranov is now facing allegations of significant corruption tied to the gambling industry, along with a few other ex-government officials.
Allegedly, Goranov used his position as a high-ranking government official by using dishonest, unfair and illegal ways to make money. Late last week, both the US and the UK asserted that Bulgaria’s former finance minister accepted millions of dollars as a bribe in return for his assistance to facilitate approvals by the country’s State Gambling Commission.
As mentioned above, the updated list under the Magnitsky Law includes a number of other ex-government officials of Bulgaria – former deputy and former energy minister Rumen Ovcharov, as well as the former bosses of the “Kozloduy” Nuclear Power Plant Alexander Nikolov and Ivan Genov. Nikolai Malinov is also joining them, after being accused of espionage in favor of the Russian Federation.
Vladislav Goranov Sanctioned for Alleged Manipulation of Gambling Laws to Favor Certain Figures
The main reason for the sanctions faced by former Bulgarian finance minister Vladislav Goranov under the Magnitsky law is the alleged manipulation of legislation in favor of some gambling business circles and causing tax damages of nearly BGN 600 million.
According to the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Mr. Goranov used his position as finance minister to facilitate the bribery of Bulgarian government officials and, as a result, deprived the country’s Treasury of tax revenue for the benefit of Bulgarian oligarchs.
As finance minister, Goranov was allegedly involved in a corruption scheme that brought some Bulgarian officials tens of millions of euros in return for supporting pieces of legislation that favored certain circles in the gambling business. The measures are, obviously, associated with the scandalous gambling legislation changes in favor of Vasil “The Skull” Bozhkov, a Bulgarian multimillionaire and a former gambling mogul. Bozhkov was one of the first names to appear on the Magnitsky list, along with Delyan Peevski and Ilko Zhelyazkov, at the time when the UK introduced its own sanctions against some controversial businessmen and government officials. The charges faced by the three in 2021, however, were not supported by the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office.
The US OFAC has defined Goranov as a person who has been involved – directly or indirectly – in corruption, including misappropriation of Government assets, corruption related to Government procurement or the extraction of natural resources, expropriation of private assets for personal gain, or bribes. The sanctions list under the Magnitsky law also includes the former minister’s company, Trilema Consulting, for being directly or indirectly owned or controlled by Mr. Goranov. The measures have been imposed under the provisions of Executive Order 13818.
The Magnitsky Act was created in 2012 as a response to Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky’s death in 2009 in a Russian prison, which had been reportedly arranged by Government officials. At the time it was created, the Act sought to punish individuals who had reportedly participated in Government corruption, as well as alleged human rights offenders.
Goranov Claims US Treasury Department Was “Misled” into Citing “False Facts”
Mr. Goranov commented on his inclusion on the sanctions list under the Magnitsky law for a Bulgarian media hub, saying that false facts are being claimed by the US Treasury. According to him, the main accusation against him was factually incorrect and he believed that the competent US authorities had been misled.
Bulgaria’s former finance minister also noted that the issue of the gambling fiasco is a particularly painful subject for him. He claimed that he was the one who had identified the problems in the country’s Gambling Commission and realized that the system was not functioning properly because it had been simply “overgrown”. Goranov also noted he was the one to get the gambling industry in Bulgaria to the point it started being regulated by the National Revenue Agency (NRA).
According to Mr. Goranov, the Gambling Commission had not read the law properly and had been misled by gambling organizers.
He believes that his inclusion in the list under the Magnitsky Act is reputation damage not only for him but also for GERB, the political party founded and led by the former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. For the time being, Vladislav Goranov remains a member of GERB but had not been in the governing bodies of the party for a couple of years.