CAMPAIGN AGAINST MONEY LAUNDERING TO BE LAUNCHED IN CASINOS IN MARCH
Have you ever entered a casino? No? Well, if you feel like trying your luck sometime don't be surprised if when you're buying the chips you'll be taken a snap-shot, which will be saved in the memory of the casino's computer. Your personal data is entered in a special magnetic card (such as those used by the international hotel chains for opening the doors), which you'll be asked to show when entering the gambling-house. These procedures are not whims of the casino owners. They are part of the requirements, stipulated by the Act on Measures against Money Laundering. Anyone who has decided to try his luck on the green cloth is included in the list of the Bureau for Financial Investigation and goes through a routine inquiry aimed to find out if he is not gambling in order to legalize money, acquired through criminal activities. In other words - once you enter the network of casinos you are marked forever. So far we have no information about attempted money laundering in Bulgarian casinos. But there have been cases when we have suspected attempts to legalize capitals through investing them in the gambling business, the Director of the Bureau for Financial Investigation Vassil Kirov said when presenting its report for the year 2002.He specified that large-scale inspections of the gambling-houses along the Black Sea coast will be carried out in March-June 2003, in order to check if they observe the requirements of the Act on Measures against Money Laundering. However, there could be no guarantees that after the planned campaign which would certainly result in a change of layers in the gambling business along the seaside, explosions and ordered murders won't increase in number.According to the report of the Bureau for Financial Investigation, in 2002 it carried out 459 inspections of persons obliged by law to inform about deals for which there are suspicions that they were aimed at legalizing money acquired through criminal activities. Such are the taxation administration services, the privatisation agencies, all financial companies, leasing companies, notaries, firms in the gambling business, dealers in arms and petrol, sports organisations, and companies that own wholesale warehouses. In four of the inspections (for the year 2002) violations of the Act on Measures against Money Laundering were established and the Finance Minister issued punitive decrees for fines and property sanctions. The names of the violators are of course kept secret.Throughout last year 220 reports about suspcious operations, worth a total of EUR292.82MN, were filed at the Bureau for Financial Investigation. From them 171 deals, worth USD274.71MN, were sent to the prosecutors' office. On the grounds of these inspections the Finance Minister Milen Velchev suspended seven deals, worth a total of EUR1MN. On 138 reports the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor's Office has ordered preliminary inquiries. So much with the statistics. The Director of the Bureau for Financial Investigation Vassil Kirov refrains from announcing more details on the individual cases. According to him, the deals in 2002 in which there are suspicions about money laundering are much less in number than in 2001, but the amounts are bigger. He also notes there is an upward tendency of attempts to legalize money through deals in corporate securities and this trend will be getting stronger with the development of the local capital market.An attempted fraud in securities was blocked in the autumn of 2002 thanks to the Bureau for Financial Investigation. Bulgarian citizens had registered a firm in one of the numerous off-shore zones in the Carribean basin, which issued shares worth more than EUR721.65MN. The stocks were in Arab language and the Bulgarian artful dodgers tried to use them in Bulgarian banks as guarantees for credits. But bank officials weren't born yesterday. Such fraudulent attempts in Bulgaria date back to 1992, when the non-existing financial house made a shift, offering fake deposit certificates from French banks in pledge for a credit. In 1999 NEFTINVESTBANK's managers informed the National Service for Combatting Organized Crime about an attempted fraud with forged deposit certificates, allegedly issued by an Italian regional savings bank. The businessmen who tries to lodge them as security were detained by the cops in NEFTINVESTBANK's office. But all above-mentioned cases are frauds of the first water and not money laundering. For the time being the head of the Bureau for Financial Investigation Vassil Kirov is not willing to comment on the mechanisms connected with securities which money launderers are trying to apply.