Published by Wikileaks & Bivol.bg
 date: 2/10/2010 17:05 refid: 10SOFIA103 origin: Embassy Sofia classification: CONFIDENTIAL destination: 09SOFIA508|09SOFIA548|09SOFIA642 header: VZCZCXRO0687 RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR DE RUEHSF #0103/01 0411705 ZNY CCCCC ZZH R 101705Z FEB 10 FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6700 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC   C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 000103    SIPDIS    E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2019  TAGS: PGOV, KCRM, KCOR, BU  SUBJECT: COMBATING ORGANIZED CRIME: ROUND ONE GOES TO THE  NEW GOVERNMENT    REF: A. 09 SOFIA 508       B. 09 SOFIA 548       C. 09 SOFIA 642    Classified By: AMB JAMES WARLICK FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).    1.  (C) Summary: Elected on an anti-corruption and organized  crime platform, the GERB government has made good on its  campaign promises and taken some positive steps.  Important  reforms, bolstered by political will from the top, have  ratcheted up the pressure against previously untouchable  organized crime figures and enabled marquee busts of a few  large well-equipped organized crime groups.  At the same  time, these arrests have highlighted weaknesses in the  judicial system as judges allow members of these groups to  make bail and delay proceedings despite prosecutors'  assurances of airtight evidence against them.  In private  meetings with the Ambassador, the government has confirmed  its commitment to fight organized crime, but this may be a  losing battle if it is unable to convince the judiciary to  make the reforms necessary to allow prosecutors to do their  jobs and keep dangerous criminals in prison.  End Summary.    PROGRESS ON ORGANIZED CRIME AND CORRUPTION  -----------------------------------------    2.  (C) In its short time in office, the government has  completed difficult reforms and personnel changes necessary  to make law enforcement more effective.   It has revamped law  enforcement by removing 26 of the 28  regional police chiefs,  many of whom were corrupt or incompetent, established  embassy-recommended interagency counter organized crime task  forces, and passed new laws to resolve jurisdictional  conflicts between the State Agency for National Security  (DANS) and the Ministry of Interior (MOI).  As a result,  coordination between law enforcement and the prosecutor's  office has dramatically improved.  Chief Prosecutor Boris  Velchev, a Socialist appointee, confided to the Ambassador  during a February 1 meeting that he has the complete support  of the PM and the government to "declare war" on the 200 to  300 most dangerous organized crime figures, including the 20  to 50 bosses who are household names (ref A).    3.  (C) Structural reforms and clear political will have  brought some quick and convincing results, including  impressive operations in December against two notorious  organized crime gangs known as "the Impudents" and "the  Crocodiles."  The government arrested 30 members of the  Impudent gang believed to have carried out 19 high profile  ransom kidnappings over the past several years.  Breaking up  this group was a priority from day one for the new government  due to this group's use of sophisticated technology and  techniques along with the psychological effect the  kidnappings had on the population.  Similarly, the Crocodile  gang, composed mainly of car thieves and highway robbers,  terrorized mostly Turkish citizens driving through Bulgaria  to Germany.    4.  (C) Most recently, the police launched operation  "Octopus" in which they arrested 12 people on February 10  believed to be involved in a powerful organized crime group  that has operated for the last 10 years.  These busts were a  public relations coup for the government in that they  targeted well-known groups that previous governments had been  powerless to stop.  The government has had even more success  arresting former government officials for corruption.  To  date, two former ministers have been indicted and five other  ministers from the previous two governments will likely face  corruption-related charges.  This is on top of at least 10  high-level arrests of mayors, judges, agency heads, and MPs  for corruption since last summer.    JUDICIAL REFORM LAGS BEHIND  ---------------------------    5.  (C) Despite successes on the organized crime and  corruption front, the powerful "big fish" mostly remain at  large due to the serious flaws in the overly formalistic  judicial system (ref B).  No case illustrates this better  than the Marinov brothers and the January 5 assassination of  Boris "Bobby" Tsankov.  Tsankov, a self-styled journalist and  entertainment figure with extensive underworld ties, was  gunned down in typical gangland fashion in downtown Sofia.  This unsolved murder is reminiscent of the approximately 140  other Mafia hits that have taken place in Bulgaria from 1993  to 2010.  It is widely believed that Krassimir "Big Margin"    SOFIA 00000103  002 OF 002      Marinov and his brother Nikolay "Small Margin" Marinov  ordered the hit to prevent Tsankov from providing evidence to  the chief prosecutor's office.  The Marinovs have been  embroiled in serious organized crime and murder cases dating  back to 2005 (ref A), but were free on bail at the time of  the shooting thanks to legal loopholes that allow the  perpetual postponement of serious cases.  After the Tsankov  killing, Little Margin's whereabouts are unknown and Big  Margin was briefly detained for the killing before being  released due to a lack of evidence (he was later arrested  again on drug-related charges).    6.  (C) Even the successful operation against the Impudent  gang has not been brought to a satisfactory conclusion.  Of  the 30 members initially arrested, 21 have been released from  jail, including one of the ringleaders, Anton "the Hamster"  Petrov.  Petrov was released on BGN 20,000 (USD 15,000) bail  after the Appeals Court determined that the MOI and  prosecutors had failed to provide new and convincing evidence  against him.  Since Petrov's release, two witnesses who were  cooperating with the police have reneged on promises to  testify against the kidnapping group. This is a familiar  pattern that has repeated itself in many other important  organized crime cases.    REFORM EFFORTS FACE DIFFICULT HURDLES  -------------------------------------    7.  (C) Chief Prosecutor Velchev and Minister of Justice  Popova told the Ambassador in separate meetings that reform  of the criminal procedure code had run into fierce opposition  from the "old guard" (politicians and judges) allied with  defense lawyers and NGOs using the language of human rights  to sink necessary reform.  Changes to the criminal procedure  code would close legal loopholes and likely speed up  organized crime and corruption cases, which drag on for years  in the current system (ref A).  Reforming the code is widely  viewed as essential to shift the balance from a system overly  favorable to defendants to a more just and effective system.  Among other things, the proposed changes to the criminal  procedure code would allow police to testify in court,  provide a back-up defense lawyer and increase fines if the  defendant's attorney fails to show up at court (a common  tactic for postponements), and simplify evidence collection  procedures.  Without radical reform, Minister Popova told the  Ambassador that Bulgaria's judiciary could not cope with its  entrenched organized crime problem.  Radical reforms such as  significantly changing how judges and prosecutors are  appointed, disciplined, and promoted (ref C) would require  constitutional amendments that need 161 of the 240 votes in  parliament to pass.  GERB is a minority government with 114  MPs, making constitutional reform difficult.    8.  (C) Comment: The GERB government has set ambitious goals  in combating organized crime and has shown it has the  political will to fight established criminal enterprises and  entrenched interests.  Still, this will not be an easy fight,  and it will be difficult to achieve convictions and  reasonable sentencing of "big fish" if the judicial system is  not recalibrated to confront Bulgaria's organized crime  problem.  Radical judicial reform advocated by the Minister  of Justice will not happen overnight given the highly  independent and conservative judicial system and the daunting  constitutional barriers preventing rapid reform.  Despite  these challenges, incremental reform is possible with the  government's strong support.  In the end, the government will  be judged not on high profile arrests, but on its ability to  speed up corruption cases, close legal loop holes, and  successfully lock up previously untouchable organized crime  figures.  End Comment.    WARLICK 

About Author

Leave A Reply