This year the Ministry of Environment and Waters (MEW) will try once again, with a compulsory administrative measure, to drive out of the natural reserve “Ropotamo” the company “Venice-Marina”, which illegally takes people on boat tours on the river Ropotamo, within the boundaries of the State reserve. The contract of the company was terminated in August 2013, but this does not bother the thugs, who arbitrarily deal with State property as in the darkest racket times of the transition period after the fall of the Communist regime.
The contract with “Venice-Marina” was signed by the controversial former Head of the Regional Inspectorate of the Environment and Waters (RIEW) in Burgas, Boycho Georgiev, who became infamous over the “Dunes Gate” scandal with his speedy granting of permits for construction in protected areas. Georgiev’s procedure for selecting “Venice-Marina” was declared unlawful by the Burgas Administrative Court at the beginning of last year. Only a few days ago, the decision was upheld by the Supreme Administrative Court, with Decision 4494 / April 22, 2015, which is final; cannot be appealed and clearly stated that no private company has the right to use in any way the protected area. The rule of law, however, does not apply to any alleged mafia structures in Bulgaria, enjoying the informal and tacit blessing of corrupt officials. The impotence of the Bulgarian State to deal with such offhand arbitrarily actions became symptomatic in the past 25 years
The “Ropotamo” case came to the forefront shortly after “Dunes Gate”, because the same company carried out illegal construction in the State reserve. RIEW and the Primorsko Town Hall stopped the works, and later RIEW Burgas notified “Venice-Marina” with a letter ref. N ° 6177 from August 12, 2013 that it was unilaterally terminating the contract for the boats, concluded on October 24, 2012, and ordered it to vacate in full the property which is exclusive State property.
The company, which is owned by persons close to drug trafficker Christopher-Amantinidis AKA Taki, however, ignored the order of the Ministry. RIEW requested assistance from then-Regional Governor of Burgas, Pavel Marinov, from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, (exposed by Bivol as partner of senior Russian government officials in the defense sector), but he refused to provide such assistance for reinstating order in the State reserve. Thus, Taki’s thugs continued to operate undisturbed during the entire season and collected money completely illegally.
This year “Venice-Marina” have again parked their tour boats in the “Ropotamo” reserve, a correspondent of Bivol noticed. Employees of the reserve notified RIEW where they are preparing another compulsory administrative measure, a MEW spokesman told Bivol. If necessary, assistance will be sought again from the Regional Governor in serving the order.
Illegal boat tours do not bring even one lev in State coffers
It also turned out that RIEW has returned to the penny the concession fee paid by “Venice-Marina” because its contract has been terminated. This was explained by a MEW spokesman after Bivol’s question on how much the State has received from this concession in 2014.
MEW is adamant that the performed tourist service is illegal and it boils down to arbitrariness. And since the company is operating illegally in the “Ropotamo” reserve, there is no legal way for the government to make money from boat tours.
In addition to “Venice-Marina” illegally collecting money throughout the tourist season 2014, tourists have been exposed to risk. In case of accident, insurers cannot cover the damage since the service is illegal.
For two years now Bivol has been alerting about those problems and about the refusal of the former Governor Pavel Marinov to apply the laws in the State property. Not even one single State institution did make a move, thus, with their inaction, the people in power are unofficially supporting abuses of the law for private interest. Would the State emerge now from somewhere or are we going to witness again a brazen lawlessness?
For now it is clear that Taki’s thugs are again on the starting blocks to profiteer from public resources. The ball is back in the court of the MEW and of the current Governor Vulcho Cholakov.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian