I ran an experiment, and, sure enough, it came up paydirt with corruption.
While in Croatia, I sent a registered letter to a friend in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was quite securely sealed; between two postcards was some spare cash that I could not exchange. (Apparently, the exchange places have no interest in handling Bulgaria leva.)
The postcards were taped together, and, absent an xray scanner (which customs surely has), one could not know that there was any cash in the mailing. The envelope was a high quality, well-made envelope from a French hotel with a destructible flap (i.e., one-time open). So, these Bulgarian customs people took the time to very carefully open the end of the envelope where it had been glued down in the manufacturing process. They took out the cards, took most of the cash, then put the cards back together, inserted them back into the envelope and resealed the envelope. To do this would have taken substantial time and effort. Do you know how much effort it takes to steam open an envelope with adhesive without messing it up? I found it amusing that they left a couple of dollars worth of cash as though anyone would conclude that it had not seen tampering. Honestly, why not take it all? I don’t believe that there was any sort of morality here.
But I give these Bulgarian crooks, er…government officials….credit. Because it was a registered letter, they had to carefully disassemble it and then reassemble it, lest the Croatian post office system make a claim against them. In short, they had to cover their tracks. If I had sent an unregistered letter, it would have simply disappeared.
I’ve heard much of Bulgarian organized crime and corruption, but here was petty corruption as close to being in the open as I have ever seen. I’m posting this message because tourists need to know that Bulgaria has corruption and that other countries in the Balkans have just as much to offer and are not as corrupt. Honestly, if you can’t trust customs and the post office to handle a registered letter correctly, who can you trust? The amount of organized crime beneath the surface must be staggering. While the citizens may have grown accustomed to this sort of corruption (I met other Bulgarians who NEVER use the postal mail), tourists do not have deal with it and go elsewhere. But maybe the place is just run by mobsters and even good government officials cannot put a stop to it.