Published by Wikileaks & Bivol.bg
 date: 9/11/2009 10:56 refid: 09SOFIA508 origin: Embassy Sofia classification: SECRET//NOFORN destination: 05SOFIA1207|05SOFIA1882|08SOFIA192|09SOFIA154 header: VZCZCXRO3251 RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL DE RUEHSF #0508/01 2541056 ZNY SSSSS ZZH R 111056Z SEP 09 FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6312 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC 0269 RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC   S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 SOFIA 000508    NOFORN  SIPDIS    E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2019  TAGS: PGOV, KCRM, KCOR, BU  SUBJECT: BULGARIA'S MOST WANTED: THE SKULL, THE BERET, THE  CHICKEN, AND THE BILLY GOAT    REF: A. REF A: 09 SOFIA 154       B. REF B: 05 SOFIA 1207       C. REF C: 05 SOFIA 1882       D. REF D: 08 SOFIA 192    Classified By: CDA John Ordway for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).    1. (C) Summary:  The number and scale of deeply entrenched  organized crime (OC) groups operating in Bulgaria present a  tremendous challenge to the new government as it strains to  enforce the rule of law.  The Bulgarian mafia bosses, better  known by nicknames such as the Skull, Big Margin, and the  Beret have under previous governments been considered  untouchable.  Bringing these ring leaders to justice would be  a major victory for the new government and demonstrate to a  skeptical European Commission (and Bulgarian public) that the  days of impunity are over.  The following list of organized  crime figures is by no means exhaustive, but represents some  of the most well-known figures whose prosecution and  sentencing would signify a major step forward for the  Bulgarian government and bring us closer to the day when  mobsters like the "Chicken" are no longer free-range.  End  Summary.    BACKGROUND  ----------    2. (C) According to a common Bulgarian saying, "all countries  have a mafia, but in Bulgaria the mafia has a country." Crime  bosses or "Mutri," who often are popularly known by their  colorful nicknames, are frequently seen speeding around Sofia  in their black BMWs or Mercedes SUVs followed by a group of  thickly built bodyguards.  Bulgarian OC is particularly  active in international money laundering, drug and human  trafficking, counterfeiting, and contract killing.  Of the  134 contract killings Embassy Sofia has followed since 1993,  73 percent have not made it past the police investigation  stage; there have only been a handful of arrests, and even  fewer convictions (Ref A).    THE SKULL  ---------    3. (C) Bulgaria's most infamous gangster is Vasil Krumov  Bozhkov, aka "the Skull."  Bozhkov founded his first company  in 1990 before creating his current business empire, NOVE  HOLDING, comprising over 30 companies and numerous subsidies.   Bozhkov, whose wealth is valued at USD 1.5 billion, is one  of the richest men in Bulgaria and almost made the top 50  richest Eastern Europeans list in 2008.  He is now slowly  moving out of the organized crime business and primarily owns  casinos, hotels, and media outlets.  However, he is still  reportedly active in money laundering, privatization fraud,  intimidation, extortion, racketeering, and illegal antique  dealing.  He maintains close relationships with many former  government officials (Ref B).    THE MARGIN BROTHERS  -------------------    4. (C) Despite being arrested in a 2005 for planning three  assassinations and participating in organized crime (Ref C),  Krasimir "Big Margin" Marinov and his younger brother,  Nikolay "Small Margin" Marinov, remain free on bail.  The  brothers lead a well-known organized crime organization known  as Intergroup (formerly SIC), whose illegal activities  include drug trafficking (especially heroin), financial  fraud, car thefts, smuggling, extortion, racketeering, and  prostitution.  The Marinov case, which has been postponed on  at least four separate occasions, has become symbolic of the  inability of the Bulgarian courts to bring about swift  justice.  And thanks to a legal loop hole in Bulgarian law,  requiring the physical presence of all codefendants and  lawyers - who always happen to be too ill to make court dates  -  the brothers were released on bail in December 2007 and  remain at large.    THE GALEV BROTHERS  ------------------    5. (C) Plamen Galev and Angel Hristov, aka "the Galev  Brothers," jumped into the spotlight in 2008 following the  revelation that then-current Interior Minister Rumen Petkov    SOFIA 00000508  002 OF 003      met with them while they were under investigation for  organized crime activities (Ref D).  The pair was later  arrested and charged with torture, prostitution, blackmail,  extortion, and drug running - before being freed and granted  temporary immunity in order to run for Parliamentary seats  during the July 5 national election.  Despite losing the  election and immunity, the Sofia City Prosecutor, Nikolay  Kokinov, quietly announced that they had been released on  bail.  Bulgaria's Supreme Court of appeals also ruled in  mid-July that the Galev case must be tried in Kyustendil  District Court rather then Sofia - thus allowing them to be  tried in an area where they have significantly more support  and have practically ruled for the last decade.    THE BERET  ---------    6. (C) On February 6, the Bulgarian police apprehended the  infamous gangster Zlatomir Ivanov, aka "the Beret," for his  alleged link to three contract killings and two attempted  murders.  Many believe that Ivanov was one of the most  important Bulgarian drug kingpins as well as the mastermind  behind several of the country's emblematic execution-style  underworld killings.  The Beret has been charged with three  murders, including the murder of one of Bulgaria's notorious  drug lords, Nikola Ivanov, aka "the Beaver," who was shot  nine times in the chest and head on October 8, 2006 in an  upscale Sofia nightclub.  He was also charged with the murder  of Radoslav Velokov, aka "the Unfriendly," who was shot in  the head upon leaving the Sixth Police Precinct in Sofia  where he had been interrogated about the attempted murder of  another mafia leader.  Like the Marinov brothers, Ivanov  tried to receive immunity by running for a Parliamentary  seat, but his request was denied since charges were filed  against him before his Parliamentary bid.  According to local  press reports, the star witness in his trial has refused to  testify against Ivanov citing threats to his life.  Although  Ivanov remains in prison, it is not clear whether he will be  convicted.    THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION  ----------------------    7. (S/NF)  Todor Batkov, aka "Borat," a Bulgarian lawyer and  businessman, serves as a proxy and front-man for businesses  and interests of the infamous Russian-Israeli businessman,  Michael Cherney, aka "Mikhail Chorny." The Bulgarian  government labeled Chorny a national security threat, banning  him from entering Bulgaria in 2000.  Chorny maintains  influence over his companies - including Levski football  team, Standart Newspaper, and Bankya Palace Hotel - by  transferring ownership to Batkov.  Batkov has solid political  connections - in 2008 Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov  awarded him the Stara Planina Order, the government's highest  honor, for his activities in promoting Bulgarian culture,  arts, and sports.  Batkov donates heavily to charitable  organizations for seriously ill children, orphans, the  Pirogov Emergency room, and local universities.  He also  contributed one million leva to the "You Are Not Alone"  campaign in 2007 to help free the Bulgarian medics once held  in Libyan prison and gave 11 cars to the Ministry of  Interior.  Batkov is still on the board of the Bulgarian  mobile phone company, MTel, and is managing director of  Batkov, Stoev, Botev, and Associates law firm.  He was a  close associate of the late controversial Bulgarian banker  and former Parvanov advisor, Emil Kuliev, who was gunned down  in Sofia in 2006.    THE CHICKEN AND THE BILLY GOAT  ------------------------------    8. (SBU) Nikolay Metodiev, aka "the Chicken" is considered  one of the major smugglers in Bulgaria and has been  prosecuted several times for the contraband of goods.  His  nickname dates back to 1998 when he was arrested (and later  acquitted) for smuggling 11 tons of illegal chicken meat.  Metodiev was arrested again in 2003 for attempting to coerce  customs officials to allow the importation of illegal Chinese  cargo valued at USD 3.5 million.  Instead of the prosecutor's  recommended 7 year prison sentence, he was fined 700 BGN (USD  525) for "threatening" government officials.  There is a  third case pending against him for smuggling contraband,  scheduled for October 5, in which the court will have to    SOFIA 00000508  003 OF 003      interview 128 witnesses.  On February 18, a powerful bomb  destroyed a popular mafia bar in downtown Sofia owned by the  Chicken, a bar within walking distance from embassy housing.      9. (SBU) Yordan Tonov, aka "the Billy Goat" was arrested in  October 2008 along with 13 others on charges of organized  crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and extortion.  Tonov, a close associate of the recently convicted  Burgas-based drug lord Dimiter Zhelazkov aka "Mitko the  Eyes," allegedly is the leader of a criminal group  controlling drug trafficking and prostitution in Southwestern  Bulgaria. Ten of Tonov's accomplices, including the Eyes,  have pleaded guilty and received reduced sentences of less  than five years, while Tonov has elected to take his chances  in the Bulgarian courts.    10. (C) Comment: The ruling center-right GERB party - touting  its leader Boyko Borissov's tough-guy/former cop credentials  - swept into power this past July on promises to tackle  corruption and fight organized crime.  The GERB government  must now show the political will to take on the challenge.  The August 25 convictions of the Eyes and two Varna  "businessmen" on money-laundering, pimping, and criminal  association charges were a start, but the European Commission  has stressed that prison terms are too short and not enough  "big fish" are caught.  Bulgaria's organized crime problem  cannot be solved overnight, but the successful prosecution  and sentencing of even one of these cases would be a huge  victory for the new government, and would send a very clear  and welcome signal to the Bulgarian public.  End Comment.    ORDWAY 

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