SOFIA, March 17 (Reuters) - Bulgarian tobacco company Bulgartabac said it would halt sales to the Middle East as of April 1, following media allegations its products made up a large part of the cigarettes illegally smuggled into neighbouring Turkey.
Bulgartabac denied any wrongdoing, adding its exports had been carried out in full compliance with customs and trade legislation, which had been confirmed by customs and tax audits.
“Given the sensitive situation in the Middle East, Bulgartabac is stopping exports to the region in order to prevent the involvement of the company in artificially created reputation problems that could completely ruin it,” Bulgartabac said in a statement.
Bulgartabac said the move would result in 400 job losses, about eight percent of the group’s employees.
The allegations against Bulgartabac were reported last month by the Capital daily newspaper as well as the Dnevnik website.
Last year, Bulgartabac’s exports fell 23 percent to 19.3 billion cigarettes on an annual basis. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Mark Potter)