OCCRP Weekly News Roundup

New Report Suggests Visegrad Countries Faltering

Political influence over independent institutions is a systemic corruption risk in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia,” according to a report released Thursday by Transparency International.

The report, titled “Corruption Risks in the Visegrad Countries,” documents how the four countries adequately implemented legal frameworks and democratic institutions during the EU accession process. But, in many cases, “these institutions have been weakened or entirely abandoned by dominant political actors after the accession.”

The report concludes with a list of policy recommendations. To name a few:

  • Reduce the political influence over independent institutions such as the public sector.
  • Create a new, effective, transparent party and campaign financing regulation.
  • Give more authority to the Supreme Audit Institutions to conduct deeper investigations in party financing and ability to sanction parties violating the law.

The complete report can be found here.


In Bulgaria, Like Father Like Son, and More

Last Friday, Danail Ganchev, son of Bulgarian oligarch and alleged crime boss Grisha Grachev, was released on BGN 100,000 bail by Bulgaria’s Specialized Criminal Court. Danail was charged in May with tax evasion and participating in an organized crime group allegedly led by his father. His father, Grisha, was released on bail of BGN 500,000 earlier this year.

Four days later, in Romania, authorities busted an organized crime scheme dealing with a multi-country tax fraud scheme related to construction materials and food items. The bust, originally reported by Romania Libera, is linked to a number of Bulgarian businessmen, including Grisha Ganchev. Police raided 256 locations in Bucharest and other cities. The scheme cost Euro 40 million from 2010 – 2012, according to the probe.

Also, in one of the most high-profile cases of organized crime in Bulgaria, alleged crime boss Zlatomir Ivanov, aka “The Beret,” was sentenced to 17 years in Prison. Ivanov, along with 20 other individuals, was charged with participating in an organized crime group, illegal drug trading and plotting the murder of Rumen Stefanov (he was found not guilty of the latter charge).

Finally, in a sign that Bulgarian Authorities are effectively cracking down on corruption, the National Revenue Agency (NRA) reported that the number of tax crime convictions in Bulgaria has tripled in the last two years. 1,979 people in Bulgaria were sentenced for tax crimes in 2011, nearly three times that of 2009 and 56 percent more than 2010.

While it is not clear from reports whether the volume of tax fraud is increasing together with convictions, according to the NRA, the primary reason for the positive results was increased activity by the tax administration, which submitted tip-offs about such offenses.


Troubling Attacks

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the journalist Stefica Galic was beaten on July 18 in the southern town of Ljubuski. Galic, the editor-in-chief of the website tacno.net, was taken to a health center where she was treated for her injuries.

Stefica and her husband Nedjedko are known for their humanitarian work during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina when they helped many Bosniak citizens leave Ljubuski. Earlier in the week a documentary film covering their activities premiered in Ljubuski, which was met with many protests.

According to BalkanInsight, local media reported that the attacker was among the protesters.

In Tajikistan, a group of alleged cigarette smugglers stabbed to death Abdullo Nazarac, a Tajik opposition figure and General of the State Committee of National Security in Badakhshan Province. Nazaroc was returning from a business trip when unknown assailants pulled him from his car and stabbed him repeatedly, reported Gulf Today via Agence France-Presse. Three armed subordinates were traveling with the general at the time.

The whereabouts of the subordinates was not immediately clear.