ONE THOUSAND AND A HUNDRED BUSINESSMEN DEPRIVED OF PASSPORTS
One thousand and a hundred owners and managers of private and state-owned companies have been forbidden to leave Bulgaria because of debts to the Treasury, a representative of the State Receivables Agency (SRA) announced at a seminar, held on May 15 and 16. The agency is currently inspecting the debtors' property and cash so that it could sell them and deduct the overdue money.Part of the liabilities to be collected by the SRA have been accumulated by companies carrying out economic activities. Another part is owed by firms that have been deliberately established to drain VAT or commit customs frauds. These companies have no property that could be sold out and usually the authorities are unable to find out their owners. In cases like these, the agency collects information about the firms and sends it to the prosecutors. However, only one more severe sentence has been passed so far, SRA insiders complain. It concerned Ina Nikiforova from Vidin who was sentenced by the Sofia District Court to eight-year imprisonment and a BGN17,000 fine last December for having drained VAT amounting to BGN167,000. She is now appealing against the sentence in front of the Vidin Regional Court.According to SRA officials, the process of revealing, investigating, and sentencing tax frauds will be made faster as soon as the National Fiscal Investigation Agency is set up. A bill regulating its establishment has already been moved to the National Assembly.Thirty per cent of the State's receivables, owed by the bankrupt Balkan Airlines - one of the biggest debtors to the Treasury - will be collected within a month, the SRA informed. Balkan's debts amount to BGN57MN, of which BGN9.5MN has been collected within the past four months and a half. Balkan is expected to pay off another BGN5.7MN soon. On April 14, 2004, its trustees in bankruptcy Stanislav Lyutov and Radoslav Tonev submitted for approval by the Sofia City Court the account for distribution of the collected funds which include that BGN5.7MN due to the SRA. It now depends on the magistrates when this money will enter the State budget.According to the SRA Director Stanislav Mihailov, the public executors are about to sell the 51% stake held by Balkan Airlines in Amadeus Global Distribution OOD, estimated at BGN1.293MN, and its 3% stake in the Bulstrad insurance company, worth BGN151,000.In 2003, the agency managed to collect more than BGN150MN in receivables , Mr. Mihailov added. That's 146% up from the amount gathered in 2002, when the SRA got back overdues of BGN102MN-plus. Since the beginning of 2004, SRA's Sofia branch has collected debts amounting to BGN15MN - 219% higher than the amount gathered for the same period of 2003.