* First two arrests reported after second bank run in a week
* Bulgaria says there is organised attempt to destabilise
* Central bank urges political parties to act responsibly
By Gareth Jones
SOFIA, June 28 Bulgarian authorities said on
Saturday they had detained two men suspected of involvement in
what they have described as an organised attempt to destabilise
the country's financial system by encouraging citizens to
withdraw bank deposits.
The national security agency said authorities had detained
one man in the capital Sofia and a second in the Danube city of
Ruse on suspicion of spreading false information about Bulgarian
They are the first arrests since Bulgaria launched a
criminal investigation on Friday following a run on a second
commercial bank in the space of a week. The interior ministry
said criminals were using the internet and mobile phones to send
messages urging citizens to pull their savings from banks.
Last weekend, the central bank took over Bulgaria's fourth
largest lender, Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank),
after customers rattled by reports of shady deals involving the
bank rushed to withdraw their savings.
In the past two days, Bulgaria's third largest lender,
First Investment Bank, has also seen large-scale cash
withdrawals, prompting the central bank to warn of a systematic
assault on the banking system. It has vowed to use all tools
needed to protect citizens' savings.
The national security agency said in its statement that a
45-year-old man detained in Ruse had published malicious
information about a large Bulgarian bank on his Facebook page
and on a video posted on YouTube.
The agency said he had also called for the scrapping of the
currency board, which pegs the lev currency to the euro and is
seen as the bulwark of Bulgaria's economic stability since its
introduction in the mid-1990s after a financial crisis triggered
hyper-inflation and wiped out many of the country's banks.
"TIME FOR SOLIDARITY"
The man arrested in Sofia had spread false informaation
about Bulgarian banks for personal gain, the agency said. It
provided no further information.
The central bank on Saturday reiterated its call to all
state bodies and political parties to help restore public
confidence in the banking system and to avoid making comments
that could fan citizens' concerns about their savings.
"We appeal to politicians and to citizens to assess in a
sober and reasonable way every word they utter on the issue of
the banks. This is a time for ... solidarity, national consensus
and unity for the good of all Bulgarian citizens," it said.
On Friday, the leaders of Bulgaria's main political parties
agreed to hold a snap parliamentary election on October 5 and
pledged support for the central bank's efforts to calm the
situation. But that has not stopped them trading accusations of
complicity in weakening the financial system over recent days.
Opposition leader Boiko Borisov, whose centre-right party is
tipped to win the election, called on Saturday for the immediate
resignation of the prime minister, finance and interior
ministers over their handling of the crisis - a demand the
ruling Socialists said stoked public uncertainty.
(Additional reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Ralph