Sofia, Jan. 24 - (RFE/RL) - Former Bulgarian Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov is denying a new report that alleges he had illegal dealings with the late British publisher Robert Maxwell.
A British newspaper, The Guardian, reported yesterday that Maxwell had helped Bulgaria's Communist leaders launder money through joint ventures set up in the West with Bulgarian capital. The Guardian named Lukanov, former Communist Dictator Todor Zhivkov, and former Politburo member Ognyan Doynov.
The newspaper says that with Maxwell's help, they transfered about $2 billion in foreign currency out of Bulgaria. The Guardian also claims to have obtained classified documents signed by Zhivkov in 1987 approving the formation of the joint ventures.
The Financial Times of London has previously reported that Doynov and other Bulgarian communist leaders sent thousands of millions of dollars in state funds to bank accounts in Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The Financial Times reported that the funds became a source of start-up capital for various Bulgarian mafia groups with close links to Lukanov, Doynov and Zhivkov.
Lukanov told RFE/RL in Sofia today that such articles are simply attempts by newspapers to increase their sales. He also praised Maxwell's pre-1989 investment policies in Bulgaria, saying that they were "good for the country."
Doynov told the BBC that he has no knowledge about trade deals between Bulgaria and Maxwell, and that no money was moved out of Bulgaria while he was a Politburo member. Doynov worked for Maxwell for one year after 1989.
Lukanov, who became Bulgaria's first post-revolutionary Prime Minister, is widely held to be the man who controls the economic power base of the former communists in today's ruling Socialist Party. He seized control of the Communist Party's Central Committee, along with communist era foreign minister Peter Mladenov, in the "palace revolution" of November 1989.
Lukanov was prime minister in March of 1990 when the government announced it had no money to repay about $11 billion borrowed from western governments and banks. About $9 billion was owed to private western banks in the London Club of international creditors while Sofia owed about $2 billion to western governments. More than half of those debts were later written off in debt rescheduling agreements.
Today, Lukanov is a deputy in parliament and a board member of Topenergy, a Bulgarian-Russian joint venture working closely with Gazprom to sell Russian natural gas and oil in the Balkans.
Maxwell's business empire collapsed following his mysterious death at sea off the Canary Islands in November 1991.