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    Copyright: All those wishing to use or publish the following text are welcome to do so, provided that they indicate the source and inform the AIM office in Paris which is interested to receive comments and reactions on the information it provides. AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    FRI, 16 FEB 2001 00:15:36 GMT

    Crime in Bulgaria Out of Control

    The leaders remained unmoved by planted explosions and commissioned murders, but the beating up of a deputy made them think.

    AIM Sofia, February 1, 2001

    "There is no gang war in Bulgaria", retorted Minister of the Interior, Emanuil Jordanov on January 26, only two days after a demonstrative murder of infamous businessman Emil Dimitrov, aka Makaron, whose firm "Unison" was known as a major producer of pirate compact discs.

    Only a day after Makaron's execution - who had been the former partner of Zeljko Raznatovic, aka Arkan, who exported the compact disc production to Montenegro - the gang war in Bulgaria took new victims. The local narco baron Georgi Georgijev, aka Rahita, who was close to the TIM group, was killed in Varna. A businessman from Sofia, owner of the financial firm "Titan XXI Century" Georgi Gjosev, was killed in Plovdiv. Several days later a bomb blew up two businessmen from Burgasi: Dobrin Kafedzijev, aka Kafeto, and Dime Kolev, aka Cirpan, who were connected with the crime group SIK. The remote controlled explosive device was meant for their boss - Plamen Diskov, aka Kela who - for the time being - got away with both of his legs broken.

    Since last August till now, shooting that has been going on the coast resembles a veritable war. Four explosions destroyed cars and flats of SIK men in Ruse, while on January 16 two policemen were shot in Varna, after which one of them died. Also, on January 22, a bomb blew up two men in front of a night bar in Burgasi.

    In August, a philosopher Pantju Pantev, aka Poli, was attacked in Sofia from a grenade launcher, but was saved by his murderers inexperience with such a weapon. After this attempt on Pantev's life rumours started going around about large-scale drug trafficking and unpaid deliveries.

    However, after the attack from the grenade launcher the former so called thug groups became nervous. Their bosses started stalking each other and increased the number of their security guards. And not without reason. Last year on November 21 a Mercedes of the Vice President of VAI Holding (former VIS-2), Nikolaj Cvetin, aka Blizanac (Twin) was blown up.

    Chief of that same Holding, Georgi Ilijev, has been spared for the time being. Perhaps, that encourages him to do whatever he wants. On October 11, with ten of his armed men he burst into BIAD restaurant, property of the former group "Deskrim" belonging to Slavije Binev and beat him up in front of everybody, frightening the visitors to death. After that he calmly left the restaurant.

    The local gang war has gone beyond national boundaries with the death of an Armenian businessman Artases Ter Ovsepjan and the Russian Aleksandar Romanov, who were blown up in their room in a five-star hotel "Ambasador" last October 15. Just before the New Year, the jeep of Dime Rus exploded. Obviously, the former hooligan bosses are not on good terms and still have unsettled accounts. However, the question is what should happen for the Ministry of the Interior to acknowledge that a gang war is on and that gangsters are freely doing what they want. Maybe they should beat up a delegate of the Parliament? And that is exactly what happened - on the same day when Minister Jordanov explained that there was no gang war in Bulgaria, but that "a number of serious criminal offences have been committed in a short time" Asen Agov, delegate of the ruling Alliance of Democratic Forces (SDS) and President of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Commission, was beaten up in the street while walking his dog.

    Only after this incident the leading politicians reacted. SDS issued a declaration calling this act a provocation for all people's delegates and institutions in Bulgaria. As if the behaviour of bandits to date was no provocation. What about 200 planted explosions during 2000 which were not aimed against politicians? What of the thrown hand-grenades and blown-up jeeps and Mercedeses, demolished car showrooms, robbed bank office in the centre of Sofia or sports lottery booth in Pleven when no parliamentarian has been hurt.

    Besides, according to the Government Report for 2000, which is on the Internet, the picture is quite different in respect of public peace and order in the country. Minister Jordanov boasted of only 4.7 percent crime rise recorded in the past year. This report includes something very interesting: in the first half of last year 33 bribery cases have been solved. This figure literally makes you laugh because it is well known that during one single night shift a police patrol on duty usually takes at least 33 bribes.

    The current safety situation in Bulgaria can be summed up in the following way: they are both shooting and bugging. It was published recently that in the last two years 300 thousand Bulgarians were issued permits to use tapping devices. The fact that only some hundred people have been indicted on the basis of proof gathered in this way brings back the sad memories of the period before 1989. There is an impression that the state can arbitrarily barge into people's homes and their bedrooms.

    In the meantime it became clear that the smallest number of bugging devices is in the hands of crime experts. Then what is the use of the so-called "bugs"? Perhaps to find out something from diplomats in Sofia. However, it is clear that this type of people know very well what to say over the phone and what to keep to themselves. Then what?

    And while the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) was writing its report for 2000, almost 750 men, women, children and elderly people have lost their lives as victims of murders. Some 139 thousand criminal acts were registered in the course of last year, which means that every day there were 380 murders, burglaries, rapes, assaults, frauds, explosions. For the sake of comparison, at the height of the so-called gang war in Bulgaria in 1994, 499 people were killed and just before the changes - 188. The same statistics applies to burglaries and stolen cars.

    However, all these are "trifles" to which neither the bandits nor MUP attach any importance. However, these "trifles" are obviously a part of the gang war which is nevertheless in full swing, irrespective of Minister Jordanov's reassurances. What are the reasons for this war?

    If we recognise that the Bulgarian crime world is an exact reflection of the political parties in Bulgaria, many things could be clarified. Elections are approaching and perhaps that is where the rub is. Each political formation has its own "favourites" among groups which are balancing on the brink of breaking the law.

    Those well versed in shady dealings think that they finance each other. One pay for the political umbrella and their own peace of mind, others simply provide that. That is why the intensified gang war should not be a surprise for anyone. Now, the most important thing for thug groups is their future after the elections. According to those studying this process, they settle old scores in order to find out whom to support and whom exactly to pay. In this confused situation they war with one another in order to win a better position.

    However, there is still enough time till June elections. If the shooting and rattle in the country continues with the same intensity, the situation will truly get out of control. Innocent people may fall victim to this sabre-rattling. Just as when 16-year old student Eleonora Dimitrova was killed at midnight on January 30 in the centre of Sofia.

    No one from the ruling oligarchy or the Bulgarian opposition denies that MUP should catch the bandits, that prosecutor's office and investigation services should gather evidence and charge them and that courts should sentence them. However, should another delegate be beaten up while walking his dog before this happens? If that will help, the Bulgarians won't mind.

    Plamen Kulinski