SHADOW IMPORT IS NOT AFRAID OF BIG WORDS AND TEASES
This achievement is a historic record, notes a press release of Customs Agency, addressed to journalists. The grounds for such enthusiasm is the BGN350,310,358, which the office collected in July from customs and excise duties, VAT, taxes, fines, etc. The amount is up BGN70.7 from the money collected in the same period of last year. From January till the end of July Assen Assenov's employees transferred to the State coffers almost BGN2.1BN - BGN437 more than the custom revenues in the first seven months of 2003.These figures could mean only one thing - Bulgarian customs, guided by the consultants from Crown Agents, are working better and the budget would rely on more funds for social payments and other public issues. The report, however, sounds rather good for being absolutely true. This does not mean that the Ministry of Finance and the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) statistics for budget cash incomes are in question, but there are several objective economic reasons which customs are stubbornly passing over in silence. The first one is the enormous growth of fuel prices on the international markets. While they account for more than 50% of Bulgaria's import structure according to BNB data, and because of their relatively stable demand in our country, this in fact means that the international economic configuration is firmly working for the cause of the Customs Agency. Such thesis is also underpinned by the fact that the registered increase in July revenues by about BGN70MN comes mainly from excise duties and VAT (which are levied on fuels imported in Bulgaria). While the customs' records are not fresh news for the media representatives, another news, published by the agency press centre during the week, definitely surprised them: Three customs inspectors from the Malko Turnovo border check-point refused a bribe of EUR1,000, offered by a Turkish citizen, who carried illegally EUR27,700 and USD1,840. This announcement almost shocked the public as in our country it is really news when a custom employee refuses a bribe, and not when accepts it. Anyway, the three customs officers from Malko Turnovo were presented for awards by the Bourgas Custom Department Executive Dimo Keriazov. Their honesty is more than praiseworthy though some customs authorities gave explanations that belittled the case. The Turkish who offered the bribe was travelling in a tourist bus, which meant that he was a plain amateur. Experienced smugglers usually use their own vehicles. Moreover, one of the most important rules in the customs practice turned out to be never take money from strangers. Another hypothesis is also possible - customs-house officers have drawn a lesson from the news-sheet against bribes taken by public servants, circulated last week at all border check-points by the consultants from Crown Agents. Whether this practice will lead to sound results, public opinion examinations of the corruption level in Bulgaria will show. Which, however, did not prevent one of our national TV programmes of almost drawing tears from its viewers with the announcement of Staniela Bedrinska, head of the customs press centre in Sofia. No anonymous signals for violations were received in the boxes at the customs, put especially for the purpose, said Berdinska.The same media recently broadcasted a documentary film for the high quality work of the Customs Agency. The head of its press office Ekaterina Genova stated that even the hidden cameras installed at the Kapitan Andreevo check-point did not accuse the customs-house officers of any irregular contacts. However, nothing has been told about Chavdar Kunev and Boriana Emilova - directors of the Illianzy and the Sofia Airport customs check-points respectively, who were restored to work. Both were accused of connections with smugglers in a police report from April, 2003, and were temporarily removed from their positions. Naturally, there is nothing wrong in PR. Moreover, the customs use it very skilfully. For the celebration of the Bulgarian customs' 125th anniversary, Assen Assenov's employees ordered a theatrical play to be written. Before that they played football with the team of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, while the Director Assen Assenov was in the list of participants in the tennis tournament in Svilengrad. We only hope that along with the image-making customs officers are left sufficient time for work. Because no big words, jokes and teases can limit smuggling. This is also proved by preliminary data of the Democracy Research Centre. They show that 20% of the fuel imported into Bulgaria is effected illegally. In early August the National Service for Combating Organized Crime broke up a channel for traffic of cigarettes, produced in the Middle East and imported through the Varna Port.