Bulgaria’s current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov led his GERB party to a sweeping elections victory in the summer of 2009 running on an anti-corruption, anti-organized crime ticket. With his background in the Interior Ministry services and the security business, and his superhero image, he has raised huge expectations he would clear up much of the mess that Bulgaria has been over the past years.
Which is why six months after the election win it is okay to ask how much of those expectations have materialized. The gangland killing of controversial radio and TV host Bobi Tsankov in broad daylight in downtown Sofia on January 5, 2010, is a further incentive for such questions.
Bulgarians did not see much action (at least evident) on part of the Borisov government in fighting organized crime until December 2009 when the police carried out a couple of spectacular special operations.
First, there has been the busting of 30 members of the high-profile kidnappers’ gang, which had terrorized richer Bulgarians over the past two years, in a special operation codenamed “The Impudent”. This was preceded by high-speed Hollywood-style car chases in Sofia leading to the destruction of a car theft ring which is believed to have led the police to the kidnappers.
Then, there has been the foiling of a highway robbery attempt which led to cracking down on the “Crocodiles” gang – another group of enterprising Bulgarians who had made the Trakiya Highway a nightmare road for German citizens of Turkish origin wishing to travel to and from Turkey by car. Most of the “Crocodiles” haven’t been captured yet but at least they are no longer roaming free in fake police cars along Bulgaria’s few operational highways.
The arrests of the kidnap and highway robbery gangsters are clear successes for the Borisov government as they have been a terror for the country for years. Now they have finally been stopped and the Interior Ministry led by Borisov’s closest aide Tsvetanov has been trying to use these arrests to send a message to their like-minded colleagues.
There have also been some successes on more minor cases – such as arresting a former top civil servant and a former judge who organized the murder of a Burgas businessman, the destruction of a crime ring of an entire police department that had turned the poor northwestern town of Byala Slatina into a feud of its own, and the arresting of a gang of bank robbers.
Important as these police hits might be, however, there are a couple of considerations that cast shadows on them. For one thing, those are generally the typical street gangsters with exciting nicknames, even if they have reached some level of sophistication. Sure, they have to be put behind bars.
But what about cooking the really big fish – the “white collar” gangsters, and the corrupt – former or current – politicians? It is this lethal combination of these two kinds of talented individuals who lean on the lower levels of mafia that are Bulgaria’s very big problem. This is where the two pillars of corruption and organized crime merge into an edifice that the Borisov – or any other – government for that matter is supposed to tackle.
Now, both the political and the criminal establishment in Bulgaria aren’t that big, and they probably known one another very well. The Borisov Cabinet still has plenty of time – assuming it will serve a full term – to bust at least some of the more emblematic mafia bosses and the related corrupt politicians. It is uncertain to say how likely such developments are but perhaps many of the answers will come from the police and government actions to solve the case about the murder of Bobi Tsankov.
One indicative fact to note about the difficulties with that, though, is the way Borisov went for organizing operations against the “impudent” kidnappers and the crocodiles. In the words of Borisov himself, several top cops and prosecutors had been gathering at night for special informal meetings in his personal home in the Sofia suburb of Bankya in order to craft counter-mafia strategies in full secrecy. This approach had found its lower level application through the forming of very small teams of investigators and prosecutors to tackle serious cases – a clear recognition of the fact that Bulgaria’s security structures are leaking all over and that it takes the secret meetings in the Prime Minister’s personal home to be able to plan and execute a secret operation. Fixing these leaks is a million dollar task.
Then, don’t forget that arresting some outright criminal and actually getting them sound sentences are two very different things in Bulgaria. So even if you assume you have a well-intentioned and capable executive, legislative flaws and “independent” magistrates could always be around to mess things up. It almost turns out that the great strength of democracy – the division of powers – is a flaw in Bulgaria’s case as the three branches can hardly come together in order to put a hardened criminal in jail for, say, 10-15 years. And while the prosecutors and the judges might be independent of the executive, they could sometimes turn out to be very dependent on other factors – from local mafia bosses to low salaries and their own pure greed.
2010 started for Bulgaria with the professionally organized murder of Bobi Tsankov – a host of various lower-profile radio and TV programs with a criminal record. Sofia had not seen such a blatant gangland murder since the killing of mafia stories writer Geogi Stoev in April 2008. Many have been quick to declare that the two murders were totally identical as they were aimed at silencing allegedly former members of the Bulgarian mafia who had started to write about it.
Appealing as such a simplistic cause-and-effect connection might be, it has not been proven at all how much truth is actually contained in the novels/memoirs published by both Stoev and Tsankov (very shortly before he was killed). It is unlikely that the two authors were killed because of their stories simply because no one ever saw the police reading them and then using them as evidence or even as clues to arrest and charge mafia heads.
Thus, if the claims made by Tsankov in his writings are true – that he was very close with top criminal bosses who are no longer alive – such as Konstantin Dimitrov, aka Kosyo Samokovetsa – and that he was the man who handed legendary drug lord of Sofia Metodi Metodiev, aka Meto Ilienski, his fake passport so that he can vanish in 2003 – then the 30-year-old Tsankov had made a very impressive “career” in the underworld, and had plenty of enemies with plenty of reasons to want him dead.
Immediately after Tsankov’s murder, the Bulgarian police have targeted Krasimir Marinov and Nikolay Marinov, the so called Marguin Brothers (aka Big Marguin and Little Marguin) as responsible for ordering Tsankov’s murder). The two men are known as key leaders of the SIC corporation – one of the two powerful mafia structures in Bulgaria stereotypically manned by former wrestlers turned gangsters in the 1990s. Most of the top bosses of these structures including the “founding fathers” of SIC’s competitor VIS, Vasil Iliev and Georgi Iliev, have long been gone so it will be a really big deal if survivors such as the Marguin Brothers are found guilty (if they really are), and given a proper sentence.
On the whole, it is safe to say that in its first six months, the Borisov government has registered certain successes and has demonstrated some will to crack down on organized crime, or at least, in its more visible aspects – including by trying to prevent information leaks through the evidently porous Interior Ministry.
Even if the new cabinet fails to prosecute mafia bosses for countless old crimes dating back to the 1990s – something that seems rather impossible – but it manages to prosecute the perpetrators of current crimes – that will still be a huge achievement for Bulgaria which still doesn’t seem to have reached the point where the illegal “accumulation of capital” throughout the tumultuous and chaotic post-communist transition has stopped, and rules have finally been established and are being obeyed.
Reaching this elusive point should be the top priority for the Borisov government – or any other Bulgarian government for that matter.

Read the article on Novinite.com

What’s Crackin’ (down on) in Bulgaria? Organized Crime??

Bulgaria’s current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov led his GERB party to a sweeping elections victory in the summer of 2009 running on an anti-corruption, anti-organized crime ticket. With his background in the Interior Ministry services and the security business, and his superhero image, he has raised huge expectations he would clear up much of the mess that Bulgaria has been over the past years.
Which is why six months after the election win it is okay to ask how much of those expectations have materialized. The gangland killing of controversial radio and TV host Bobi Tsankov in broad daylight in downtown Sofia on January 5, 2010, is a further incentive for such questions.
Bulgarians did not see much action (at least evident) on part of the Borisov government in fighting organized crime until December 2009 when the police carried out a couple of spectacular special operations.
First, there has been the busting of 30 members of the high-profile kidnappers’ gang, which had terrorized richer Bulgarians over the past two years, in a special operation codenamed “The Impudent”. This was preceded by high-speed Hollywood-style car chases in Sofia leading to the destruction of a car theft ring which is believed to have led the police to the kidnappers.
Then, there has been the foiling of a highway robbery attempt which led to cracking down on the “Crocodiles” gang – another group of enterprising Bulgarians who had made the Trakiya Highway a nightmare road for German citizens of Turkish origin wishing to travel to and from Turkey by car. Most of the “Crocodiles” haven’t been captured yet but at least they are no longer roaming free in fake police cars along Bulgaria’s few operational highways.
The arrests of the kidnap and highway robbery gangsters are clear successes for the Borisov government as they have been a terror for the country for years. Now they have finally been stopped and the Interior Ministry led by Borisov’s closest aide Tsvetanov has been trying to use these arrests to send a message to their like-minded colleagues.
There have also been some successes on more minor cases – such as arresting a former top civil servant and a former judge who organized the murder of a Burgas businessman, the destruction of a crime ring of an entire police department that had turned the poor northwestern town of Byala Slatina into a feud of its own, and the arresting of a gang of bank robbers.
Important as these police hits might be, however, there are a couple of considerations that cast shadows on them. For one thing, those are generally the typical street gangsters with exciting nicknames, even if they have reached some level of sophistication. Sure, they have to be put behind bars.
But what about cooking the really big fish – the “white collar” gangsters, and the corrupt – former or current – politicians? It is this lethal combination of these two kinds of talented individuals who lean on the lower levels of mafia that are Bulgaria’s very big problem. This is where the two pillars of corruption and organized crime merge into an edifice that the Borisov – or any other – government for that matter is supposed to tackle.
Now, both the political and the criminal establishment in Bulgaria aren’t that big, and they probably known one another very well. The Borisov Cabinet still has plenty of time – assuming it will serve a full term – to bust at least some of the more emblematic mafia bosses and the related corrupt politicians. It is uncertain to say how likely such developments are but perhaps many of the answers will come from the police and government actions to solve the case about the murder of Bobi Tsankov.
One indicative fact to note about the difficulties with that, though, is the way Borisov went for organizing operations against the “impudent” kidnappers and the crocodiles. In the words of Borisov himself, several top cops and prosecutors had been gathering at night for special informal meetings in his personal home in the Sofia suburb of Bankya in order to craft counter-mafia strategies in full secrecy. This approach had found its lower level application through the forming of very small teams of investigators and prosecutors to tackle serious cases – a clear recognition of the fact that Bulgaria’s security structures are leaking all over and that it takes the secret meetings in the Prime Minister’s personal home to be able to plan and execute a secret operation. Fixing these leaks is a million dollar task.
Then, don’t forget that arresting some outright criminal and actually getting them sound sentences are two very different things in Bulgaria. So even if you assume you have a well-intentioned and capable executive, legislative flaws and “independent” magistrates could always be around to mess things up. It almost turns out that the great strength of democracy – the division of powers – is a flaw in Bulgaria’s case as the three branches can hardly come together in order to put a hardened criminal in jail for, say, 10-15 years. And while the prosecutors and the judges might be independent of the executive, they could sometimes turn out to be very dependent on other factors – from local mafia bosses to low salaries and their own pure greed.
2010 started for Bulgaria with the professionally organized murder of Bobi Tsankov – a host of various lower-profile radio and TV programs with a criminal record. Sofia had not seen such a blatant gangland murder since the killing of mafia stories writer Geogi Stoev in April 2008. Many have been quick to declare that the two murders were totally identical as they were aimed at silencing allegedly former members of the Bulgarian mafia who had started to write about it.
Appealing as such a simplistic cause-and-effect connection might be, it has not been proven at all how much truth is actually contained in the novels/memoirs published by both Stoev and Tsankov (very shortly before he was killed). It is unlikely that the two authors were killed because of their stories simply because no one ever saw the police reading them and then using them as evidence or even as clues to arrest and charge mafia heads.
Thus, if the claims made by Tsankov in his writings are true – that he was very close with top criminal bosses who are no longer alive – such as Konstantin Dimitrov, aka Kosyo Samokovetsa – and that he was the man who handed legendary drug lord of Sofia Metodi Metodiev, aka Meto Ilienski, his fake passport so that he can vanish in 2003 – then the 30-year-old Tsankov had made a very impressive “career” in the underworld, and had plenty of enemies with plenty of reasons to want him dead.
Immediately after Tsankov’s murder, the Bulgarian police have targeted Krasimir Marinov and Nikolay Marinov, the so called Marguin Brothers (aka Big Marguin and Little Marguin) as responsible for ordering Tsankov’s murder). The two men are known as key leaders of the SIC corporation – one of the two powerful mafia structures in Bulgaria stereotypically manned by former wrestlers turned gangsters in the 1990s. Most of the top bosses of these structures including the “founding fathers” of SIC’s competitor VIS, Vasil Iliev and Georgi Iliev, have long been gone so it will be a really big deal if survivors such as the Marguin Brothers are found guilty (if they really are), and given a proper sentence.
On the whole, it is safe to say that in its first six months, the Borisov government has registered certain successes and has demonstrated some will to crack down on organized crime, or at least, in its more visible aspects – including by trying to prevent information leaks through the evidently porous Interior Ministry.
Even if the new cabinet fails to prosecute mafia bosses for countless old crimes dating back to the 1990s – something that seems rather impossible – but it manages to prosecute the perpetrators of current crimes – that will still be a huge achievement for Bulgaria which still doesn’t seem to have reached the point where the illegal “accumulation of capital” throughout the tumultuous and chaotic post-communist transition has stopped, and rules have finally been established and are being obeyed.
Reaching this elusive point should be the top priority for the Borisov government – or any other Bulgarian government for that matter.

Read the article on Novinite.com

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