Per data provided by the Ministry of Justice, 125 Russian nationals took advantage of the privilege for a period of 10 years. The list features a Russian national, who has been sentenced in the USA on charges of fraud, an ex-ambassador, and a high-level manager of “Lukoil” – Bulgaria.
The data, received from the Ministry of Justice, pursuant to the Law on the Access to Public Informtion, for the period 1 January 2006 – 15 September 2017, are indicative: a total of 332 individuals from 44 countries have been granted citizenship pursuant to Art. 16 of the Law on the Bulgarian Citizenship (LBC). The nationals of the Russian Federation have the biggest share in that number – 125, followed by Armenia – 41, Serbia – 25, USA – 24, and Israel – 10. The individuals from other countries, who have been granted Bulgarian citizenship pursuant to Art. 16 of the LBC, are represented by one-digit number (from the relevant country).
The distribution of the “special merits” by the candidates’ nationality raises serious questions about the reasons for the distinct priority of the citizens of the Russian Federation. The “Anti-Corruption Fund” (ACF) foundation insists on the transparency of the “special merits” criteria, which motivate the prevalence of the Russian citizens, taking advantage of that opportunity offered by the LBC, over the nationals of state allies from the EU and NATO. Furthermore, the investigation of ACF’s team of jurists has found that a Russian oligarch (born in 1961, a Bulgarian national pursuant to Decree no. 56 dated 23 May 2008), who has been condemned in the USA for fraud, falls among the Russian nationals who were granted Bulgarian citizenship for “special merits” during the above mentioned period. Currently that same person has business interests in the field of telecommunications, and the ores and minerals extraction: in Russia – coal, in Uganda – oil. He uses offshore companies in his activity (“Telconet Capital Limited Partnership”, registered on the Cayman Islands), which turns him into a risk factor from the viewpoint of the prevention of money laundering and tax evasion.
Another interesting case is the one with a former ambassador of the Russian Federation to Bulgaria, who has been awarded with a “For Merits” medal by the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, with a medal of the Federal Security Service, as well as with medals of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation (born in 1942 in Russia, a Bulgarian national pursuant to Decree no. 9 dated 23 January 2009). What is the motivation, from the viewpoint of the protection of the sovereignty and the national interest, behind the granting of Bulgarian citizenship exactly to a person with such a biography, ACF’s legal team asks.
It is worth noting one more case – the one with a high-lervel manager of “Lukoil” – Bulgaria (born in 1967 in Russia, a Bulgarian national pursuant to Decree no. 29 dated 23 March 2007). The fund asserts that we should ask the fully grounded question whose interests are protected in this case – those of the Bulgarian state and the European Union as a common space of freedom, security, and justice, or those of a representative of the Russian oligarchic elite. That same person has been a director general of “Lukoil Croatia” Ltd. since 2008, i.e. he left the country after he was granted Bulgarian (European) citizenship.
Based on a detailed analysis of the omissions in proving the “special merits” in the presentation of a candidature for citizenship pursuant to Art. 16 of LBC and the traces of bias in the decisions taken in this regard, ACF suggests the following measures to the responsible institutions Mr. Rumen Radev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mrs. Tsetska Tsacheva, a minister of justice, Mr. Dimitar Georgiev, a Chairman of the State Agency for National Security /SANS/, in its stand А-2/25 January 2018:
1. The procedure pursuant to Art. 16 of LBC has to be revised and improved by establishing unbiased standards and criteria for assessing the individuals’ special merits and the country’s interest in their naturalization. The expedience-based decision does not mean full subjectivity of the assessment and arbitrariness.
2. The SANS procedures for the preliminary vetting of the individuals have to be improved, so that the national security and the security of the unions our country participates in (EU and NATO) is not compromised.
3. Special attention and an adequate risk assessment need to be applied in vetting individuals posing a risk or a threat to the national security, such as nationals of countries with an authoritarian/non-democratic governance, according to international data from monitoring conducted by EU and NATO partners (for example, the “Freedom House” reports: https://freedomhouse.org/reports).
The lack of specific steps along these lines will put the opportunity for acquiring a citizenship stipulated in Art. 16 of LBC at serious risk of lasting vitiation, nefarious interest, and a chance for corruption practices.