The US State Department banned five Bulgarians from entering the United States due to their involvement in "significant corruption", it said.
The persons sanctioned are Bulgaria's former deputy economy minister Alexander Manolev, Petar Haralampiev - former director of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, Krasimir Tomov - the former chief secretary of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, former MP Delyan Peevski, as well as Ilko Zhelyazkov - an official in the National Bureau for Control on Special Intelligence-Gathering Devices, the State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.
In their official capacities, Manolev, Haralampiev, and Tomov were involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and the Bulgarian public’s faith in their government’s democratic institutions and public processes, including by using their political influence and official power for personal benefit, according to the statement.
The State Department also said that Peevski used Zhelyazkov as an intermediary and accomplice in influence peddling and payment of bribes "to protect himself from public scrutiny and to exert influence over key institutions and sectors in Bulgarian society."
In addition to the five Bulgarians the State Department also publicly designated each of their immediate families ineligible for entry into the United States.
"Today’s actions reaffirm our commitment to supporting rule of law and strengthening democratic institutions in Bulgaria. The United States stands with all Bulgarians whose work drives reforms forward, and the Department will continue to use its authorities to promote accountability for corrupt actors in the region and globally," the State Department said.
The public designation of the five Bulgarians by the State Department coincided with sanctions imposed by the US Treasury Department on Peevski, Zhelyazkov and Bulgarian businessman Vassil Bojkov, along with their networks encompassing 64 entities for their "extensive roles in corruption in Bulgaria".
"As a result of the sanctions all property and interests in property of the three individuals that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)," the Treasury Department said in a separate statement on Wednesday. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.
Unless authorised by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.