DRAMA IN THE CUSTOMS OFFICES, OR SMUGGLING CONTINUES
Customs offices are again shaken all over. The week passed under the sign of the scandal, regarding the ransom-money, collected at the Danube Bridge border check-point, intended for a high-ranking customs officer, who on his part, would ensure an umbrella over small fry. But a new action is in view, at the headquarters this time. Lyudmil Atanassov - one of the three deputies of Emil Dimitrov, Director of the Customs Agency - is presently abroad and his return to Bulgaria is expected for handing him an order for dismissal, insiders said. The future of his colleague Marian Abrashev is not clear either. But allegations in a Sofia daily that Mr. Dimitrov has forbidden Mr. Abrashev to enter the premises of the Customs Agency are not true, the BANKER weekly learned from the press centre of the Agency. Emil Dimitrov was an a visit to Croatia, so he could not have issued such a ban. The Customs Agency's Ilian Mateev, whose name is mentions in this connection also, has so far kept his post.Meanwhile, 15 customs officers were dismissed in Rousse, and another 26 were moved to administrative jobs. Ventsislav Haladjov (so far head of Customs Inquiries amd Investigations) was appointed acting Cheif of the Regional Customs Directorate in Rousse.As it became known from an announcement of the Finance Ministry, Emil Dimitrov could soo rely on foreign expert assistance. At its meeting on October 25, 2001 the Council of Ministers discussed the reform in customs offices. The news was broken only after the Finance Ministry informed that Minister Milen Velchev had been authorized to close a contract with Crown Agents - an international consulting organisation, specialized in cutoms reforms.The interest towards the revolution in the customs rose as much as to expect the statistical data about the monthly proceeds from customs dues and taxes into the budget almost as anxiously as the numbers of a weekly totalizer with a huge jackpot. In October 2001 Emil Dimitrov's employees posted BGL240,847,417 in proceeds from cutoms duties, taxes, excise duties, and VAT. This is BGL12,646,335 up from the same period of last ywar.Otherwise, the drama in the customs offices is still gaining speed, of which smugglers take advantage. Deputy Minister of Finance Atanas Katsarchev had to admit that at a press conference last week, exclaiming: Smuggling continues!