The Blog

Banks, Mayors, Girlfriends and North Korean Money

6:43 PM, Jun 11, 2007 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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As President Bush follows his G-8 visit to Berlin with a stop in Bulgaria, Congressional Quarterly covers a bizarre 'kerfuffle' over a North Korean money laundering operation involving a Bulgarian bank:

During a private meeting in Washington last February, Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert M. Kimmitt warned Bulgaria's Finance Minister that the Economic and Investment Bank (EI), chaired by the girlfriend of powerful Sofia mayor and presidential aspirant Boiko Borissov, was a target of a North Korean money-laundering effort.

The bank denies it has any connections with North Korea and denounced Kimmitt for spreading unfounded "rumors," which it charges originated with political rivals of Borissov, whose right-wing nationalist party is surging in the polls...

EI Bank board Chairwoman Tsvetelina Borislavova, who acknowledged in an interview with CQ that she was "living with" Borissov, said she had been informed of Kimmitt's warning "personally, by the finance minister," Plamen Oresharski, upon his return from Washington last February.

But she said the tip was based on "false information" concocted by political enemies of her boyfriend Borissov, who before he became mayor last year was a top official in Bulgaria's powerful Interior Ministry.

Borislavova said the bank had thoroughly investigated the allegation and found that "there has never been any account opened by a North Korean company or a joint venture company" in the bank...

So the live-in girlfriend of the likely future president sits on the board of a bank that may or may not be laundering money for the North Koreans depending on who you ask--your choices being the live-in girlfriend or the deputy secretary of the Treasury. CQ stresses that Borrisov has become a close ally of President Bush, and that Bulgaria is home to three U.S. bases. Further, Bulgaria is pressing to become part of the anti-ballistic missile shield that will see U.S. installations set in nearby Poland and the Czech Republic.

But when Borrisov travels to Washington this week, he's unlikely to discuss the details of such cooperation with American military officials. According to CQ, the highest ranking official on Borrisov's dance card is Washington mayor Adrian Fenty. No word on whether the live-in girlfriend is joining Borrisov on the trip.