The opposition Yes! Bulgaria party filed a request to the parliament on November 30 to establish a committee to investigate the alleged participation of tobacco producer Bulgartabac in cigarette smuggling, as revealed by the Turkish police earlier this month.
According to a report from Turkeys’ service for the fight against organised crime, cigarettes produced and distributed by Bulgartabac represent a substantial part of the illegal tobacco market in the country. Although this information has been made available to the Bulgarian authorities, they have not taken any steps to investigate it.
In an attempt to raise awareness of the issue, Yes! Bulgaria activists have put up a poster in front of Bulgartabac’s headquarters in Sofia, reading “CONTRABANDTABAC [a wordplay combining the Bulgarian word for smuggling and the company’s name] corruption without frontiers”.
Also on November 30, the party published an open letter to the Bulgarian authorities, calling on them to investigate the information provided by Turkey. It noted that the smuggling of Bulgarian cigarettes has been indicated by Turkey in several previous reports, but this year the country’s authorities for the first time included Bulgartabac’s name as the source of smuggling and informed Interpol about this.
In the letter, the party asks the parliament to answer several questions, including whether cigarette smuggling is harming the financial interests of Bulgaria and the European Union, as well as whether Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov had received materials by his Turkish colleagues backing up their claims.
The party also asked whether the smuggling involves Iran and Syria, and territories previously controlled by Islamic State (IS) and the Kurdish Workers Party. The parliament was been urged to reveal whether Tsatsarov has ordered an investigation into the information provided by Turkey that top politicians are involved in the smuggling.
Bulgartabac Holding was privatised in September 2011, when the state sold an 80% equity stake for €100.1mn. On May 5, the company had a market capitalisation of BGN331.5mn (€169.5mn), according to data from the Bulgarian Stock Exchange. The same month, British American Tobacco (BAT) acquired leading brands and distribution assets of Bulgartabac Holding for more than €100mn.