FIRST VICTIMS IN THE BATTLE FOR THE FORESTS HAVE FALLEN
The most successful way to solve a problem in Bulgaria seems to be undertaken by the Interior Ministry's Chief Secretary General Boyko Borissov. After declaring a war to the mafia dealing in ferrous and non-ferrous metals, stolen cars, soccer hooliganism, and road robberies, the nation's favourite took up the forests. As a result of the joint efforts of forest guards, police, gendarmery, and tax authorities, a number of crimes were uncovered and organized felonious groups, profiteering from illegal logging, wood-processing and export of timber were driven to the wall. Twenty two preliminary prosecutions were initiated in the last five months alone, the Interior Minister georgi petkanov boasted.The wooden mafia is most active in the region around Pazardjik, velingrad and Rakitovo, Dospat, Blagoevgrad, razlog, Tirgovishte and Shoumen, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry claims. Since July 2002 (when the agreement for joint activities was signed) 67 workshops processing illegally produced output have been shut down (a total of 4,185 have been inspected), the Deputy Agricuture Minister Meglena Plugchieva adds. The largest number of felonious enterprises (25 in number) have been closed down in the villages of Kraishta and Zlataritsa (Blagoevgrad region). Another 15 were found in the village of Baroutin (Smolyan region) near the Dospat dam lake, and 16 were operating in the region of Rakitovo and Velingrad. In addition, 419 foresters were penalized, and 33 - fires.As a result of the strengthened measures, proceeds into the National Forestry Administration increased steeply and are expected to reach BGN95MN by the year-end (planned at BGN77MN), up from BGN64MN in 2001.The joint activitis of the police, gendarmery, and forest guards will continues. By the end of December the forest guard will be equipped with 300 cross-country motorcycles, 200 automobiles, 1,500 mobile telephones, armour waistcoats, and motor boats. Employees of the National Forestry Administration will control at the border check points the export of timber, which often is not the same in quality and quantity as that, decalred in the customs documents.Putting criminal activities in this sector under control shall be an accent in the Forestry Act, to be passed in the beginning of next eyar. It will regulate the establishment of a National Forestry Company. The Agriculture Ministry hopes that the new structure will eliminate the shadow players on the timber market, improve the management of the forestry fund and the control over timbering. The state-owned trade company will monopolize the entire market. Timbering and trade in timber shall be entrusted by tenders to individual firms. However, it is too early to say how far the National Forestry Company will manage to match its controlling and economic functions.