The Bulgarian Ministry of Finance is not keeping the report of former NRA head Krasimir Stefanov on his visit to Germany on the invitation of German special services, where he was provided information on accounts of Bulgarian citizens in Switzerland (the so-called “Swiss Disc”).
During this business trip, Stefanov was accompanied by four senior officials from NRA – three heads of departments and a senior expert. They, too, had to prepare reports, as required by law, but they did not.
This is the current result of Bivol’s inquiries to both institutions under the Access to Public Information Act. We requested from NRA and the Ministry of Finance the business trip documentation and explanations about the purpose of the visit to Germany and the ensuing actions of tax agents in connection with information on bank accounts of Bulgarian citizens in Switzerland.
The explanations reveal that the visit was initiated by the German side “in relation to information in international and Bulgarian media that the Federal Ministry of Germany has 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.”
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The Bulgarian side has asked to be provided the above information on Bulgarian citizens. In the period 2008-2010, (under the “Stanishev” and “Borisov” cabinets), there have been inquiries about the so-called “Liechtenstein disk” and “Swiss disk”, the document reveals.
After Stefanov’s visit to Berlin in March 2010, the discs made headlines in Bulgarian media and officials voiced threats of exposing and taxing those Swiss accounts. However, the enthusiasm of the country’s rulers quickly faded.
Let’s not chase because we don’t know who we can catch…
The Germans had not provided the bulk data, and have asked NRA to submit information about specific individuals and specific cases as EU directives require for exchange of tax information. Such individualized inquiries were never made by the Bulgarian side.
“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 successful actions of German justice, the Bulgarian side has already ensured that this will not happen. The software for data exchange does not function in Bulgaria, even though this is mandatory under Directive 2011/16/EU. NRA was in the “process of developing it” and is expected to introduce it no earlier than 2016.
In an interview for 24 Chassa (24 Hours) daily after that meeting, Krasimir Stefanov confirmed that he and the other NRA staff have seen “how and how many” Bulgarians have Swiss accounts.
“In fact, what we saw during today’s meeting, confirmed the figure of more than 200 million euros in accounts. The report will be given to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, the parliament and the special services,” he further explained.
To date, it is known with certainty that there are no reports in NRA and the Ministry of Finance. This is hard to explain, since the Accounting Act postulates that primary accounting documents, such as the business trip order and the accounting report, together with the report on the work done, must be kept for at least 5 years!
However, NRA gives explanation for the lack of reports from heads of departments to Krasimir Stefanov – since Stefanov, himself, had been present, such reports were not needed. But it is explicitly written in the business trip authorizations that reports must be prepared and copies must be submitted in directorates “Human Resources Management” and “International Cooperation and European Affairs.”
“In Russia, I’m in Russia”
Former Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, has also mandated 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 (if it does not act spontaneously, Bivol will refer the case to it – editor’s note).
Simeon Djankov currently works in Russia and has been an active advocate against sanctions for Putin’s regime. Did Krasimir Stefanov report to him verbally and with whom had Djankov shared dangerous knowledge of accounts of prominent Bulgarians in Switzerland? The risks for the holder of such information were explained by Stefanov himself. After his visit to Germany, he assured that he has not brought a disc with data, because otherwise “special task force servicemen had to travel with me to protect me.”
The risks are obvious, so are the benefits. After his career in the formerly-ruling centrist Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party (GERB), Krasimir Stefanov eloped with newly-hatched controversial politician Nikolay Barekov. Bivol’s sources have shared off-the-record that data from the disk can be used as a powerful tool for financial blackmail and extortion, especially during election campaigns.
From the interview of Krasimir Stefanov with “24 Chassa” 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 for Bulgarians with money in Switzerland?
– We got confirmation that there are bank deposits of Bulgarian citizens for over 200 million euros in Switzerland. I want to underscore that this still does not mean that these funds are illegal.
– These data are from the Swiss disk?
– Let me say that the main purpose of the visit was to iron out the details of the ratification of agreements to avoid double taxation. What was announced in the media – that Krasimir Stefanov came here with the main task to collect a computer disk and then go to Bulgaria and tax the money in it – does not sound serious. If this was the case, special task force servicemen had to travel with me to protect me.
– However, are there Bulgarian names?
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?
– How many Bulgarians are there in the Swiss disc?
I cannot comment; I was asked for confidentiality. But it was good for us that to see how many and who they are.”
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