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High rollers beware: Bulgaria probes luxury car owners


Sofia (AFP)

If you are driving a Bentley or something similarly swanky in Bulgaria, remember to check your rearview mirror -- the prosecution service may well be on your tail.

Bulgaria's chief prosecutor Monday ordered checks of all 435 luxury Maybach, Bentley, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Ferrari vehicles, cruising the streets of the European Union's poorest country in recent years in striking contrast to most residents' far more modest bangers.

"The aim of the checks is to determine the origin of the money for purchasing these vehicles and if it came as a result from tax fraud or money laundering," chief prosecutor spokeswoman Rumyana Arnaudova told journalists on Monday.

Arnaudova did not say why the prosecution focused specifically on the five makes, only mentioning that "their price is extremely high."

Another 245 people who acquired in 2015 and 2016 real estate worth over 250,000 euros ($310,000) and 120 owners of apartments and houses that cost over 400,000 euros will also come under scrutiny.

The majority of the posh property owners came from the capital Sofia, where the average real estate prices are several times lower -- at under 100,000 euros for a two-bedroom flat.

Prosecutors will have up to three months to come out with results of the checks, Arnaudova said.

"It is totally possible for these people to prove that their money is legal," she said, while adding prosecutors also suspected that the list featured luxury lovers who have been indicted or are currently on trial for various crimes.

Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and currently holds the rotating EU Council Presidency but still remains the bloc's poorest member with average monthly salaries barely exceeding 500 euros.

The country is also subject to monitoring by the European Commission for its judiciary's persistent failure to curb corruption and put notorious organised crime bosses behind bars.

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