If you’ve got connections, you can make money. That’s always been true – “It’s not what you know, but who you know…” That is the rule of thumb here, in Bulgaria. The sad truth, though, is that the application of that principle has led to a spat of unlawful, or quasi-lawful, real estate deals. “Pillaging” is the only word that rightfully describes what is going on here. Take these two examples:
In order to make a governing coalition, the majority party has allied with the so-called “Turkish” party, netting the latter control of the Forestry Department, among others. It seems that, if you have a Turkish name, you can rape an pillage the forests here. This is how it works… You buy forest in the interior, far away from anything useful. You consolidate the lots and “trade” them with the government for a contiguous forest somewhere else in the country. This is normal. The law states that you should get comparable forest – 40 year old for 40 year old, etc. The problem is that these people with connections are trading up, getting forests in high-value areas, such as near resorts or on the coast. The mayor of Razlog, a town in the Pirins, woke up a couple months ago to find that the entire back side of his town was traded to an investor – prime real estate.
Here’s another… The Bulgarian military is divesting itself of some properties. One such lot is a base in Blagoevgrad (think state capital). The base is on the highway, with a walled boundary. It’s a perfect industrial location. But it’s the main base in SW Bulgaria. Someone with connections bought it for six million euros. Well, more like 10+ million, but the bribe doesn’t show up in the papers…