A PROFESSIONAL CUSTOMS OFFICER SUCCEEDS EMIL DIMITROV
Assen Assenov, who so far headed the Customs Regimes and Procedures Department at the Customs Agency, will be the agency's acting Director, Finance Minister Milen Velchev announced. The castling was necessitated after Emil Dimitrov resigned from his position as Director of the Customs Agency. Mr. Dimitrov did not wait to be fired and volutarily withdrew from his post. On Wednesday (February 20), turning up 40, Emil Dimitrov gathered his subordinates and after a brief treat officially announced his decision to resign. Allow me to address you personally, not in the capacity of a director anymore, his letter to all customs' employees begins. Remaining true to my strong conviction that Bulgaria should be above everything I decided to withdraw. My personal stance differs from the Government's policy regarding the opportunities for protection of the Bulgarian customs administration under the conditions, connected with the implementation of the contract between the Finance Ministry and the British private consulting company Crown Agents, Mr. Dimitrov explained.Rumours that Assen Assenov will be Mr. Dimitrov's successor have been circulating since the beginning of February when the scandal regarding the publication of provisions from the contract with Crown Agents broke out. Bringing to the light some excerpts from this document marked a peak in the rising tension between the Finance Minister Milen Velchev and Emil Dimitrov. Both of them demonstrated their different standpoints on the foreign presence in Bulgarian customs. Very soon, however, Mr. Dimitrov could make his mark in a new line. The Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry Boiko Borisov announced he would invite the former customs' chief to head the National Service for Combating Organized Crime. According to pundits, Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha has personally offered Mr. Dimitrov a position in the Council of Ministers.The quick development of events regarding Mr. Dimitrov's resignation forced the Finance Ministry to act instantaneously. Assen Assenov was preferred among five candidates for the vacated position at an urgent mid-night meeting on February 20 after Mr. Velchev returned from his visit to Brussels. On Thursday (February 21) Mr. Dimitrov's successor was officially presented to the mass media. As acting Director Mr. Assenov will head the customs administration for at least three months until a titular is selected through a competition. According to the Finance Minister, however, Mr. Assenov is a very probable winner in this competition because he is an established professional.Assen Assenov, 41, obtained a master's degree in International Relations from the Moscow Institute and entered the system of customs immediately after receiving his diploma. He was initially employed as inspector at the Kulata border checkpoint. His name was mentioned as an eventual head of the customs administration in 2000 during the government of former premier Ivan Kostov. In the last moment, however, Zahari Zahariev (a former deputy from the ruling UDF-coalition) was appointed to the position for political reasons. According to pundits, Atanas Dobrev, heading the Finance Minister's office, is the 'warm connection' between Assen Assenov and Milen Velchev. Mr. Dobrev and Mr. Assenov studied together in Moscow.The ruling circles will count on Mr. Assenov's knowledge in the sphere of diplomacy in order to settle the conflicts, that have been shaking the customs administration for half a year now. Their hopes are also set on him for finding a common language with the team of British consultants who will be advising him. Immediate changes followed in the customs headquarters. Emil Dimitrov's former deputy Mariyan Abrashev (who was fired by Mr. Dimitrov due to bribes at the Danube bridge in Rousse) was reappointed to the customs head office. BANKER's sources claim that he will be one of Mr. Assenov's deputies. According to inofficial information, Iliyan Mateev (who was the Customs Agency's secretary when Emil Dimitrov headed it, but was also dismissed in connection with the bribes in Rousse) is also soon expected to be reappointed. Elka Vladova might come back to the scene, too. In 1997 she headed for a short time the then Chief Customs Department. Ms. Vladova was downgraded to the position of a deputy director by ex-premier Ivan Kostov and was later on fires by him. However, she litigated her dismissal in court. According to well-informed sources, Ms. Vladova was reappointed and the magistrates ruling will be soon publicly announced.The BANKER weekly learned that Bogdana Djoneva, who was responisble for the Customs Agency's financial matters and was said to be Emil Dimitrov's right-hand person, has handed in her resignation.