November 7, 2013 / 12:40 PM / 6 years ago

Bulgaria investigates politician for money-laundering

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian prosecutors launched an investigation on Thursday over possible tax fraud and money laundering by a senior politician who ended his political career abruptly last week when he quit party and state posts.

The investigation is a new headache for the Socialist-led government, which has faced almost daily street protests over charges of corruption since it took office in May.

The politician, Hristo Biserov, resigned last Sunday as deputy leader of the ethnic Turkish MRF party, a junior coalition partner in the government, as well as the deputy speaker of parliament. He cited personal reasons.

Biserov did not attend the parliament sitting on Thursday when deputies voted on his resignation and he was not available for comment.

Prosecutors said they were investigating him following a report from the state security agency, which showed numerous transfers in euros and U.S. dollars from one European country to another from bank accounts by Biserov and another man.

Money was also put into deposits, withdrawn and transferred to offshore companies registered in the Seychelles, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“Sofia City Prosecutors have opened a pre-trial investigation against Hristo Biserov for tax fraud and money laundering,” it said.

MRF leader Luytvi Mestan said he was not aware of the security agency’s checks into Biserov and but that the investigation could explain his resignation.

The Socialist-led cabinet has faced street demonstrations since it came to power in May and political analysts say it is unlikely to carry out its full four-year term.

Students have stepped up their protests against what they call the Socialists’ ties with murky business groups by occupying universities. A poll by independent Alpha Research showed 60 percent of Bulgarians support their actions.

A failure to impose strict rule of law and combat graft has deterred much needed investment in the European Union’s poorest country and has kept it out of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone.

Consecutive governments have not put any senior official behind bars over graft charges since the collapse of communist rule in 1989.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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