Is Prosecutor General Going to Request Information on Swiss Accounts of Bulgarians?

On the occasion of the request of Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov to the National Security Agency (DANS) to be provided with data on offshore accounts of Bulgarian citizens, we recall a 2014 event, when the Director of the National Revenue Agency (NRA) Krasimir Stefanov traveled to Germany to obtain data on Swiss accounts of Bulgarians. Although Switzerland is formally not considered an offshore or tax haven, due to the tradition of bank secrecy and its stable currency, it is one of the preferred destinations for concealing income of obscure or criminal origin.

Bivol was the first to write on the subject exactly and as early as five years ago. Since then, no State institution has been interested in the lists and the information contained therein on accounts of Bulgarian citizens abroad.

From the interview of Krasimir Stefanov with “24 Chassa” (24 Hours) daily from March 5, 2010:

“NRA Director Krasimir Stefanov: We saw who they are and how many they are.

At your meeting, did you receive data on Bulgarians with money in Switzerland?

We got confirmation that there are bank deposits of Bulgarian citizens exceeding EUR 200 million in Switzerland. I want to underscore that this still does not mean that these people are criminals.

Are these data from the Swiss disk?

Let me say that the main purpose of the visit was to iron out the details of the ratification of the agreement to avoid double taxation. What was announced in the media – that Krasimir Stefanov went there with the main task to collect a computer disk and then return to Bulgaria and impose taxes on the money in it – it does not sound serious. If this was the case, a special task force team had to travel with me to protect me.

Nevertheless, are there Bulgarian names in?

I already told you several times that, yes, the Swiss CD contains Bulgarian names.

Are there Bulgarian names in the disk from Liechtenstein, which was bought in 2009?

The investigation there is still ongoing, but our analysis shows that the Bulgarian accounts in Liechtenstein are very few.

How many Bulgarians are there in the Swiss disc?

I cannot comment; I was asked for confidentiality. But it was good for us to see who they are and how many.”

Through inquiries to the NRA and the Ministry of Finance under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) Bivol was able to clarify that during this business trip, Stefanov had been accompanied by four senior officials from the NRA – three heads of departments and a senior expert. None of them has prepared a report, as required by law.

“А special task force team had to travel with me to protect me”

In the interview for 24 Chassa Krasimir Stefanov confirmed that he and the other NRA staff have seen “who and how many” Bulgarians have Swiss accounts, but denies having brought back a disk, because, according to his words “a special task force team had to travel with me to protect me”.

“In fact, what we saw during today’s meeting, confirmed the figure of more than EUR 200 million in accounts. The report will be given to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Parliament, and the special services,” he further explained.

The NRA clarifications revealed that the visit had been initiated by the German side “in relation to information in international and Bulgarian media that the Federal Ministry of Germany had bought a disc with information about individuals who have accounts in Swiss banks and the likelihood citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria are among those persons.”

The Bulgarian side had asked to be provided with the above information pertaining to Bulgarian citizens. In the period 2008-2010, (under two different governments), there had been inquiries about the so-called “Liechtenstein disk” and “Swiss disk”, the document reveals.

These are data acquired by German and French taxpayers from former bank employees. They were used to collect taxes on Swiss banks’ savings accounts of citizens of the two countries attempting to conceal assets through a shortened procedure, based on the principle: “You either pay voluntarily and immediately, or we press legal charges against you and confiscate everything.”

Where are the reports?

After Stefanov’s visit to Berlin in March 2010, the discs made headlines in Bulgarian media and officials threatened to expose and tax those Swiss accounts. However, the enthusiasm of the country’s rulers quickly faded.

What happened to the report to the Prime Minister, Parliament, and the special services remains a mystery. To date, it is known with certainty that there are no reports in the NRA and the Ministry of Finance. This is hard to explain since the Accounting Act postulates that primary accounting documents, such as business trip orders and the accounting report, together with the report on the work done, must be kept for at least 5 years!

Nevertheless, the NRA has provided a somewhat explanation for the lack of reports from heads of departments to Krasimir Stefanov – since Stefanov, himself, had been present, such reports had not been needed. However, it is explicitly written in the business trip authorizations that reports must be prepared and copies must be submitted to Directorates “Human Resources Management” and “International Cooperation and European Affairs.”

Former Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, had also directed Krasimir Stefanov to provide a report, but the Ministry of Finance tersely replied that there was no such report in the institution’s archives. The reasons for the lack of mandatory documentation are not specified, but the lack itself is malfeasance, which should be of interest for the prosecution.

Catch me if you can…

The documents received under the APIA further reveal that the Germans had not provided the bulk data, and have asked the NRA and Stefanov to submit information about specific individuals and specific cases as European Union directives require for such exchange of tax information. The Bulgarian side has never made such individualized inquiries.

The case of the mentioned above discs does not concern individuals identified by us, nor can one talk about a specific target for which it is necessary to seek and respectively use this information,” NRA shyly admits.

However, if Germany, nevertheless, decides to submit information after the successful operation of German law enforcement, this should happen through special software for data exchange that is mandatory under Directive 2011/16/EU. In 2014, when we made the inquiry, the NRA replied that the software was under development. Its introduction was expected in 2016, but there is no indication whether this has happened.


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