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Bulgaria: ‘Imagine Al Capone as the mayor of Chicago’

Dear FCPA Blog,

Thanks for the recent post about the arrests in Bulgaria of seven customs officials for taking bribes at a border crossing with Turkey. Fighting graft is a never-ending struggle, and everyone who stays on the alert deserves admiration.

Bribery and corruption, especially state corruption — the organized preying on the state at the highest level — can hold back whole nations and keep them in poverty, injustice, and backwardness.

Your story on the Bulgarian customs officials is a case in point, and it is just the tip of the iceberg.

There was a time when whatever the customs officers collected illegally was not even bribes — the money went directly into political parties’ coffers. As one Bulgarian police official famously quipped, “other states have the Mafia, in Bulgaria the Mafia has a state.”

A former prime minister was taped (while he was the prime minister) ordering a customs boss to close the investigation against a brewery (the owner was suspected of smuggling and tax fraud). The prime minister had to resign later for other reasons, but since a few days ago he is Bulgaria’s prime-minister again. Imagine Al Capone as the mayor of Chicago. 

If the FCPA were to be applied to all foreign investors in Bulgaria, at least half of them would end up with sentences. The same is true for most of Bulgaria’s governments, if the national laws were enforced as they should be. 

 It is an uphill battle, but if the U.S. is no longer like Chicago in the 1930s, there is hope for Bulgaria too.

Sincerely yours,

[Name withheld by request]

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