Duty-free shops face closure

SOFIA (AFP) – Bulgaria unveiled fresh plans on Wednesday to close down duty-free shops and petrol stations along its borders after three previous attempts to do so failed because of corruption among officials. In response to a recent EU report which pinpointed the outlets as «focal points» for corruption and organized crime, Sofia announced it would close down duty-free shops and petrol stations along Bulgaria’s borders with Turkey and Serbia. Those along the border with Romania and Greece were shut when Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007. Duty-free outlets at Bulgaria’s airports and its ports on the Black Sea would remain in operation. Sofia has attempted to shut down the shops three times since 2001 but each attempt failed owing to corruption among high-ranking officials who hindered the closures, according to a recent report by the anti-corruption, Sofia-based think tank the Center for the Study of Democracy. «Duty-free trade in Bulgaria is in the hands of a few powerful figures closely connected to top government institutions and party leaders,» the report said.