Bulgaria’s Finance Minister Assen Vassilev said on June 14 he has asked his German peer Christian Lindner whether customs experts from Germany can help the government to clean up the corruption at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint on the border with Turkey.
Prime Minister Kiril Petkov recently revealed the complete lack of phytosanitary control of food imported via Kapitan Andreevo. A private company, Evrolab 2011, was in charge of the control for years and Petkov decided to inspect on the site to see how the controls are being carried out following rumours of corruption.
Kapitan Andreevo and Kapıkule on the Turkish side make up the busiest road border crossing in Europe, and the entry point for the largest share of Turkish goods entering the EU.
Petkov said that the cameras that are supposed to record the inspections were off and told reporters that no phytosanitary controls were being carried out. Subsequently, the authorities decided that the lab control will no longer be carried out by the private company but by the state.
In the following days, Deputy Agriculture Minister Ivan Hristanov said he was threatened. The minister and his family are currently under police protection.
Meanwhile, the head of the Bulgarian food protection agency, Hristo Daskalov, said he was offered a substantial bribe in order to let Evrolab 2011 continue taking care of the phytosanitary control.
Hristanov said there was no single video recording of phytosanitary control carried out at Kapitan Andreevo for the past ten years. At the time, he suggested that this gives room for suspicions of large-scale corruption.
Vassilev added to that, saying that trucks importing food from Turkey were being unloaded without customs officers being present.
There are suspicions that the removal of Evrolab 2011 was one of the reasons behind the decision of Slavi Trifonov, the leader of There Are Such People (ITN), to pull out of the ruling coalition. Trifonov was accused of being connected to the people behind the private company.
On June 13, Jordan Mandzhukov of Petkov and Vassilev’s Change Continues claimed on Facebook that heroin had been trafficked through the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint and suggested that the decision of the government to end the contract with Evrolab 2011 stopped that traffic towards Europe.
Meanwhile, the Anticorruption Fund NGO said on June 14 it has sent a signal to the EU’s chief prosecutor Laura Kovesi about the situation at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint. More specifically, the NGO has signalled the information about the proposed bribe.
The NGO says that the situation at the checkpoint could have harmed the EU’s financial interest. The Bulgarian prosecution has already launched a probe into the case.