Hundreds of built and rebuilt churches, huge donations and gold-painted icons: such are the methods used by Bulgarian businessmen to improve their image in a country where wealth is often associated with fraud or the Mafia, writes the France Presse agency, quoted by Bulgarian news agency Focus.

AFP filed a radiography of how Bulgarian business people try to gain legitimacy, although not always in a successful manner in a country where two of the biggest church donors ended up killed.

While not speaking of Romania, the AFP report may be seen as partially suitable for what Romanian businessmen are doing. One of the most popular and controversial politicians in Romania, populist Gigi Becali, the owner of the Steaua Bucharest football club, has gained huge popularity through actions such as providing or promising huge donations for churches or disadvantaged people.

South of the Danube river, the AFP reports that the Saint Mina Monastery near Bulgarian capital Sofia has become a sample of business people’s open-handedness. There, new, huge, golden icons have come to dominate the original, much older ones.

And in the courtyard, renovated cells bear big, marbled plaques reminding church-goers who are the benefactors: members of the most select business circles in the country.

The AFP quotes political analyst Evgeny Daynov, who says “the public generally has a poor view of big business, associating it with either the mafia or the shadow economy… So businessmen seek legitimacy by showing devotion to the church, without actually being believers."

But such donations are not always a saving grace. Ilia Pavlov, head of the Multrigroup holding and a major church donors, was assassinated three year ago. His fate was shared by Emil Kyulev, a top Bulgarian banker, shot deat two years ago, according to the AFP.