ASSENOV AGAINST ANASTASSOV - IN THE CENTRE OF THE BATTLE FOR THE CUSTOMS
The contest for a director of the Customs Agency began to resemble a football championship - with two favourites known in advance, suspicions of behind-the-scene games, and a complicated system to nominate the winner. The candidates for the enticing position from the first round of the competition, rated by the Finance Ministry, will enter into an open battle in the next two weeks, and the champion will be nominated. That scheme was approved after the commission, entrusted to chose the winner (chaired by the Deputy Finance Minister Gati Al Djeburi), interviewed four of the pretenders who were admitted to the second round. However, the commission postponed the announcement of its decision and it will be known in about a month and a half.The acting Director of the Customs Agency Assen Assenov, the veteran customs officer Lyudmil Anastassov, the well-known former head (during BSP's government) Hristo Koulishev, and the Head of the Iliyantzi station Chavdar Kanev, were admitted to the casting in front of the commission, headed by Mr. Al Djeburi. The most serious competition in the final four is expected to be that between Assen Assenov and Lyudmil Anastassov.Despite the forecasts that the result from the contest is known in advance and that Mr. Assenov would be the winner, both candidates seem to have almost equal chances. It is even claimed that the commission postponed its decision due to differences in the preferences of its members and those of the Finance Minister Milen Velchev. According to inoffical information, the jury preferred Lyudmil Anastassov, while Mr. Velchev's sympathies were with Assen Assenov. The decision is expected to be finally made at the highest political level after coordinating it with Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and the British consultants from Crown Agents.The Customs Act authorizes the Finance Minister to nominate himself the Director of the Customs Agency after receiving the PM's approval. Mr. Assenov is an acknowledged professional in the field of customs procedures and regimes, who had for a long time headed the Customs Agency's eponymous department. His Master's degree in International Economic Relations has given him good knowledge in the sphere of European customs legislatioon. But his opponents regard as almost disgraceful the fact that his diploma is from the Moscow Institute of International Economic Relations, which he garduated in the 80s, when that was a privilege only for politically reliable cadres of the communist regime.Mr. Assenov was appointed acting Director of the Customs Agency in february 2002 . He promised to calm doen tensions in the system and increase the collectibility of customs duties. About a month ago the press centre of the Customs Agency circulated data, according which the proceeds for March exceeded slightly BGN13MN. The results for April have not been made public yet.Meanwhile, Mr. Assenov's major competitor Lyudmil Anastassov began a large-scale PR-campaign to support his candidacy.The former head of the Sofia Customs (December 1990 - June 1991) who was deputy director of the Customs Agency's EU Integration department for a short period while the Customs Agency was headed by Emil Dimitrov, gave a number of interviews during the week amd even organized a public discussion on the programme, poropsed by him. It is rumoured that the candidacy of the well-known Rotary Club member and head of the Bulgarian branch office of the German consulting company Gerlah European Customs Services (from 1991 till 1999) is supported by the gambling boss Vassil Bozhkov, to whom the National Movement Simeon II is said to have unfulfilled pre-election promises. In May 1999 the company's office was closed down and Gerlah-BG OOD - a subsidiary of the German company - appeared instead. Mr. Atanassov was its manager till September 2002, when he was appointed deputy of Emil Dimitrov. Mr. Anastassov himself does not conceal his participation in Mr. Bozhkov's company, but he says that it never functioned. Mr. Anastassov is also supported by companies of forwarders and deliverers.In case he is appointed Director of teh Customs Agency, Mr. Anastassov promises zero tolerance to curruption and towards people against whom theer a legal proceedings and prosecutor's investigations.