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Bulgaria: Anti-Crime Conference Ends With Little Press Coverage

Sofia, 16 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- International experts wrapped up presentations over the weekend at a three-day conference in Sofia aimed at fighting corruption and organized crime.

But our correspondent in Sofia says that local media in Bulgaria have virtually ignored the closed-door event. Journalists have not been allowed to attend any of the debates, which have drawn representatives from 16 countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Our correspondent says one of the few public statements by the former Communists who govern Bulgaria came yesterday from Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov. The minister said a person "would have to be a fool to say that organized crime doesn't exist in Bulgaria."

Earlier in the week, Bulgarian chief prosecutor Ivan Tatarchev said he had documents proving the existence of a Communist Party money laundering network that reportedly was used by Bulgaria's secretive nomenklatura groups to obtain startup captial for their business empires.

This week's so-called "Octopus" conference in Sofia was organized by the Council of Europe in an attempt to present new legal solutions for the growing lawlessness in post-Communist countries. The Council's "Octopus" project will continue for another year until its closing session in October 1997.