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Bulgaria to set up anti-corruption body

Bulgaria's new center-right government is taking aim at widespread graft among top officials. Last year saw the highest number of bribes in 15 years, according to a Sofia-based think tank.

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva confirmed on Friday that Sofia planned to launch an investigative body in a bid to rid the country of corrupt politicians.

According to a recent study by the Sofia-based Center for the Study of Democracy, 2014 was a record year for graft in the southeastern European government, with officials purportedly receiving up to 158,000 bribes per month.

"The problem with corruption exists. We do not have progress in the fight against corruption at high levels," Kuneva said. "We're going to erase it one step at a time."

The panel is to scrutinize the income, property and conflict of interest declarations of roughly 6,000 officials.

In October, Bulgarians voted in a center-right government under

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov

after a no confidence vote forced out ex-Socialist Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski and his government. Borisov has promised to tackle corruption and set in place judicial reforms.

Bulgaria is the poorest of the EU's 28 member states. It has been plagued by instability in recent years, with sluggish economic growth, a loss of investment, persistent deflation and rising unemployment.

Kuneva has said Bulgaria should seek to emulate Romania, where businessmen, officials and top politicians have been investigated and, in some cases, jailed.

kms/rc (AFP, dpa)

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