Bulgaria's Supreme Court has ruled that the now-defunct State Gambling Commission’s attempt to issue operator Eurofootball with a €168m tax bill is null and void.
The ruling, which was published on November 8, cannot be appealed.
It overturns an Administrative Court of Sofia ruling in 2020 which was in favour of Eurofootball, set up by the country's controversial former richest man, Vasil Bozhkov, owing BGN261m (€117m) in fees and an additional BGN67.7m in interest.
However, the most recent ruling stated the act of issuing Eurofootball with the bill was declared "null" due to "violations of the procedure by which the public state claim was established".
The State Gambling Commission was deemed to be “legally inadmissible” for being “empowered with competence to issue the act and to rule on the contestation of the act under the administrative procedure”.
“Due to the established procedural violations, the supreme magistrates accept that the chairman of the State Gambling Commission did not have the material competence to issue the contested act,” the court concluded in its ruling.
Since August 2020, the National Revenue Agency has regulated the country's gambling industry, taking over from the now-closed State Gambling Commission.
Calls to have the regulator shut down reached their heights after two of its most senior officials were arrested for allegedly corrupt links to Bohzkov in 2019.
A law introduced around the same time to take public control of the monopoly sector, effectively destroying Bohzkov’s primary business, and the launch of criminal proceedings against Bohzkov left the man known as "The Skull" on the run in the UAE.
From exile, Bohzkov launched a series of explosive corruption allegations against the former Bulgarian President, Boyko Borissov, claiming Borissov and a former minister of finance Vladislav Goranov extorted him for 60m lev (€30m) to forestall the lottery bill.
Since then, Bulgaria has unsuccessfully tried to have Bohzkov extradited.
In June 2021, the U.S. Treasury launched sanctions against Bozhkov and numerous related companies, including gambling operators currently active across Europe.
Elsewhere in Bulgaria, in the space of just one month, the National Revenue Authority (NRA) has announced the suspension of 130 gambling websites controlled by 49 betting platforms without a local licence.
“The majority of these gambling operators have permission to develop their activities in countries outside the European Union, but not in Bulgaria,” according to the NRA.
Websites banned by the NRA must cease their operations in the country within three days, or face court orders being issued to internet service providers to terminate access to the pages and their subdomains.