Bulgaria’s Government was accused of high-level involvement with organised crime gangs yesterday, in a hard-hitting report that highlighted the failure of the ruling coalition to stamp out corruption or convict anyone for 150 gangland killings.
Government secrets were leaked to mafia figures involved in drug trafficking and a senior minister met alleged underworld bosses regularly, according to the investigation by MPs into corruption in the Interior Ministry. The profits of the drug trade were channelled to terrorist groups in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.
“Bulgarian crime groups engaged in trafficking . . . drugs sometimes work together with Arab citizens linked to terrorist organisations,” the MPs said.
“We can make the conclusion that part of the money accumulated from drug trafficking is used to finance the work of terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Christian militias.”
The report came after Georgi Stoev, who wrote about the Bulgarian mafia, and Borislav Georgiev, the chief of a nuclear energy company, were murdered this week. It also follows a call from the European Commission for urgent action against corruption and organised crime, with â‚¬6.85 billion (Â£5.5 billion) of EU aid hanging in the balance.
EU officials are frustrated that the pressure they can put on Bulgaria to carry out reforms to its police and judiciary is limited now that it has been allowed into the 27-nation body. They are also worried that sanctions will lead to the collapse of the Government of Sergei Stanishev, the reformist Prime Minister.
The MPs’ report spoke of “worrying practices in the functioning of the Interior Ministry that have led to a lower ability to uncover crime, due to the leaking of classified information to criminals under investigation”.
During a visit to Sofia, JosÃ© Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, berated the Bulgarian judiciary, though he was happy to accept the Stara Planina, First Class, the country’s highest honour.
The three-party coalition Government discussed the crisis yesterday and agreed to adopt reforms proposed by Rumen Petkov, the Interior Minister. But some analysts believe that the clean-up of the judicial and police system can only begin after the removal of Mr Petkov, a powerful figure in the Prime Minister’s own Socialist Party. As the coalition met, an important gangland trial was delayed again.