The interim administration announced late Friday that Bulgaria will create its own “blacklist” of companies and people linked to three Bulgarians and 64 firms sanctioned by the US for alleged wrongdoing, banning official dealings with them.
Former politician and media mogul Delyan Peevski, government official Ilko Zhelyazkov, and fugitive gambling tycoon Vassil Bozhkov had their assets frozen and their access to the US banking system taken off this week.
State administrations and companies with state or municipal ownership will have to cut links with those on that list, the government said in a statement.
“State structures and state companies need to stop any transactions with the people and their associates on the U.S. sanction list, because otherwise they could potentially end up in that list themselves,” Finance Minister Assen Vassilev said.
Peevski, whom many in Bulgaria see as a powerful behind-the-scenes power broker with strong influence on judiciary and political elites, has denied wrongdoing. Zhelyazkov, currently on paid leave, has not commented on the U.S. sanctions.
Bozhkov, who is facing more than 18 counts in his home country, including fax fraud and influence peddling, has claimed that the penalties neglect his own status as an extortion victim.
Many Bulgarians, who campaigned for months last year against chronic corruption, applauded the US sanctions in the hopes that it might inspire action against high-level wrongdoing in their own country.
Bulgaria is the European Union’s poorest member and Transparency International has named it the bloc’s most corrupt. Despite a stated desire to eliminate corruption, it has yet to imprison a single high-ranking official on corruption charges.