Published by Wikileaks & Bivol.bg
 date: 2/12/2010 7:27 refid: 10SOFIA106 origin: Embassy Sofia classification: CONFIDENTIAL destination: 09SOFIA508|09SOFIA548|09SOFIA642|10SOFIA103 header: VZCZCXRO1924 OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR DE RUEHSF #0106/01 0430727 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 120727Z FEB 10 FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6708 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE   C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 000106    SIPDIS    E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2030  TAGS: PGOV, KCRM, KCOR, BU  SUBJECT: BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT MAKES HISTORIC OC BUST    REF: A. SOFIA 103       B. 09 SOFIA 642       C. 09 SOFIA 548       D. 09 SOFIA 508    Classified By: Ambassador Warlick for reasons 1.4 (b)/(d)    1.  (C)  Summary:  The Bulgarian public was stunned by the  February 10 arrest of one of the country's most notorious and  "untouchable" organized crime figures, Aleksi Petrov, and  twelve of his associates.  Newspaper articles hailed the  arrest as the most important in the last 20 years, and  asserted that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior  Tsvetan Tsvetanov has "crossed the Rubicon" by moving against  one of the most influential organized crime groups, something  all previous Interior Ministers never would have dared.  Petrov is estimated to control a business empire with legal  and illegal operations worth hundreds of millions of dollars.   One of Bulgaria's best known oligarchs, Petrov has long been  considered above the law due to his wealth, political  influence and background in the Secret Services.  Tsvetanov  told the Ambassador on February 11 that he was confident the  police already had sufficient evidence to ensure conviction  of at least seven members of the gang, including Petrov.  Prime Minister Borissov also stated publicly that he is  confident the evidence gathered will hold up in court.  End  Summary.    Operation Octopus  -----------------    2.  (C)  During the night of February 9, police launched  "Operation Octopus."  Over 20 strip clubs and three other  businesses owned by Petrov and his associates were searched  and over one hundred people detained for questioning.  Deputy  PM Tsvetanov told the Ambassador that police do not intend to  release at least seven gang members, including Petrov, who  are at the top of the criminal pyramid.  These seven will be  charged with extortion, forceful debt collect, prostitution,  defrauding state-owned industries (including the Kremikovtsi  steel plant), VAT fraud, trade in influence, money laundering  and other crimes.  Tsvetanov mentioned that in addition to  these seven at least four officials inside the Interior  Ministry are under investigation for cooperation with Petrov  and his group.    PETROV'S CRIMINAL EMPIRE  -------------------------    3.  (C)  According to police, Petrov's group has been in  operation for over 10 years and has used intimidation and  blackmail to acquire ownership of legitimate businesses.  Petrov has controlling interest in the largest taxi company  in Sofia (TAXIS EXPRESS) and is an "advisor" to one of the  three largest insurance companies in Bulgaria (LEVSKI SPARTAK  INSURANCE aka LEVINS), receiving a large share of its profit  each year without clear responsibilities.  Petrov also owns a  stake in the tabloid newspaper "Weekend" and is the founder  of a second, "Galleria."    4.  (C)  In addition to his public enterprises, police allege  Petrov controls the largest share in Sofia's escort and  intimate services businesses, which are known fronts for  prostitution and trafficking in women.  Tsvetanov told the  Ambassador that during the raids scores of prostitutes agreed  to testify to police on Petrov's prostitution ring which is  estimated to take in 40,000 dollars a night.    5.  (C)  Petrov is also accused of racketeering and extortion  of legitimate companies, forcing them to pay regular fees or  give up a share of ownership in exchange for protection.  Tsvetanov said Petrov uses his insurance and taxi companies  to launder the massive flow of illegal profits.    POLITICAL FALLOUT BEGINS  ---------------------------    6.  (C)   According to Tsvetanov, Petrov began to gain  political influence in the earlier part of the decade,  particularly due to his close association with the former  Prosecutor General Nikola Filchev.  Petrov was also linked to  numerous other Socialist Party members in the previous  government.  In 2008 a leak revealed to the press that Petrov  had been hired by the State Agency for National Security  (DANS) as an undercover agent.  Despite an outcry from the  public and the international community, Petrov was kept on as    SOFIA 00000106  002 OF 002      the "political advisor" to the former DANS Chairman.  After  taking office in 2009, Prime Minister Borissov forced Petrov  to resign from his position.    7.  (C)  While Petrov's arrest is a major political coup for  Borissov, Tsvetanov and the whole GERB government, hard  evidence that top figures in the previous government were so  closely linked to an organized crime figure has thrown the  opposition Socialist Party into convulsions.  Tsvetanov told  the Ambassador that in searching Petrov's businesses police  found numerous secret files that they believe Petrov stole  from DANS, including one file belonging to the previous  Socialist Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.  Rivals inside the  Socialist Party, such as former Interior Minister Rumen  Petkov, have called for Stanishev to step down as leader of  the party.  Politicians from other parties, including some  frequent critics of Borissov, such as Blue Coalition leader  Ivan Kostov, have praised Borissov and his government's  efforts and joined the media in condemning the previous  government's ineffectiveness and complicity with organized  crime.    BUT WILL THE CHARGES STICK?  -----------------------------    8.  (C)  All of the positive momentum generated by these  arrests will be lost in an instant should Petrov and his  associates not end up in jail.  Many in the media, while  praising the police operation and the political will behind  it, worry that Petrov will be able to bribe or threaten his  way to freedom, or that a single procedural error will allow  him to walk.  PM Borissov, DPM Tsvetanov and Prosecutor  General Velchev have all stated unequivocally that sufficient  evidence exists to prevent any of the seven highest-ranking  criminals from escaping justice.  Tsvetanov said that in just  hours after Petrov's arrest, victims of blackmail and threats  of violence have offered to testify against him.  Tsvetanov  believes additional witnesses will come forward as the police  continue their investigation and as the reality of Petrov's  arrest sinks in among the hundreds of people and businesses  harassed by his organization.    9.  (C)  Comment:  The government's decision to move against  Petrov and his group is a courageous act and emblematic of  the GERB government's stated commitment to fighting organized  crime.  News of Petrov's arrest was on the front page of  nearly every newspaper in the country and has set Sofia  buzzing.  Most Bulgarians seem shocked that the government  has the power and political will to go after a figure of  Petrov's stature.  If Petrov's case ultimately leads to  conviction it will go down as an arrest of historic  proportions.  However, two dangers loom large.  First, an  unsuccessful prosecution, whether due to bribery, extortion  or on a technicality, would be a major blow to the government  and intensely demoralizing to the public.  Second, the  possibility of Petrov's group using or threatening violence  against Tsvetanov and his staff or the Prosecutor General and  his staff is very real.  Tsvetanov told the Ambassador that  all possible measures are being taken to prevent either  scenario.  WARLICK  

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