Bulgaria Detains 2 Russians on National Security Grounds

Crime | September 23, 2010, Thursday // 16:43|  views

The Special Centre for Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners in Busmantsi is widely known as the Bulgarian Guantanamo. Photo by BGNES

Two Russian citizens, who have allegedly participated in the Uralmash crime group, have been detained in Bulgaria's Special Center for Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners in Busmantsi for six months.

A investigation by the Bulgarian daily Dnevnik has showed that Konstantin Tsiganov and Andrei Panpurin were considered a "serious threat to the national security" and have received an order for expulsion and a ban on entering the country's territory for 10 years.

The orders were issued on March 18, 2010 by the head of the State National Security Agency (DANS), Tsvetlin Yovchev. The two alleged criminals, however, are appealing them in court.

DANS has officially confirmed that the leader of the Uralmash crime group, Tsiganov, had a Bulgarian citizenship. He received it in 2001 as a person from Bulgarian origin.

At that time, representative of the National Investigative Service (NSS) at the Council for Citizenship was General Ivan Drashkov, who has stated that when applying for Bulgarian citizenship, Tsiganov had undergone a check.

Despite his scandalous criminal past, reported in several scientific reports on organized crime and in a report by the US Department of Justice, the Bulgarian check on Tsinganov showed a clean past.

"You cannot check when the person tells you he has a grandmother from Bulgarian origin, living in Moldova," said Drashkov.

However, the statement turned out to be false and Tsinganov's Bulgarian citizenship was stripped off in March 2010, following an order of the Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. It was based on the Bulgarian Citizenship Act, which provides that the citizenship of people who have lied about their Bulgarian origins can be revoked.

The order, however, comes shortly before the expiration of the 10-year period, after which a citizenship cannot be taken away. In this way, Tsinganov, who is not a Bulgarian citizen anymore, could be quietly expelled.

Although the Russian has been officially wanted by Interpol-Moscow, his deportation from Bulgaria did not happen with an expulsion order from the international police institution, but was rather initiated by the Bulgarian authorities.

"The reason for this is that Russia did not take the necessary administrative measures to request the wanted person from Bulgaria," Drashkov has explained.

He added that an expulsion order from the head of DANS is a more discrete procedure than the loud detention and expulsion of the person wanted by Interpol.

This method, however, faces the technical obstacle of providing the expelled people with documents from the accepting country.

According to the Bulgarian law, the accommodation in Busmantsi cannot exceed 6 months. It could be extended by another 6 months only after a court ruling. The practice, however, is for foreigners to stay there for years due to the lack of required documents.

In 2004, media publications stated that Tsinganov was living in Bulgaria.

"I can say that we have perfect relations with the Russia colleagues. If they were looking for this person, we would know and search for him as well," said Bulgaria's PM Boyko Borisov, who was Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry at the time.

Kostantin Tsinganov had been officially wanted by the Russian federal authorities in June 2005.

"We even searched for him for a while but he was not at the address, given in the documents, and since we did not have an official inquiry, the case got stuck," an official from DANS has told Dnevnik.

At the same time, according to the Bulgarian media, Tsinganov and Panpurin did not hide from the Bulgarian police. Moreover, the two have even developed diverse business activities. They reportedly owned companies for real estate and construction, and a pig farm.

The fact that the Russians are currently accommodated in Busmantsi does not prevent them from running their businesses. On June 10, 2010, Panpurin signed a proposal for changes in the managing board of "Nikolovo Pig Farm" on behalf of Laudis International Ltd.

At the end of August, the security guards at the unfinished settlement Costa del Croco, near the Bulgarian Black Sea town and seaside resort Tsarevo, stated that during the summer, "the Russians" went there to look after the construction and promised to resume the construction works in the fall.

However, it has not been officially confirmed whether "the Russians" were Tsiganov and Panpurin or their representatives.

The reasons why DANS has decided to suddenly detain the Russians and expel them as a threat for the state security has not been announced.

According to unofficial information, the two were arrested as part of a crime scheme in one of the police operations in Bulgaria.

Under the law, a Bulgarian citizen, as Tsiganov was at the time, could not be expelled from the country. This means that the detention of the two and the expulsion order happened before March 18, 2010. The police operation which occurred closest to this date was "Octopus" from February 2010; in it, former secret agent Alexei Petrov was arrested.

Until that moment, the police did not register any criminal activity on Bulgarian territory by Tsiganov and Panpurin.

In 2000, another co-founder of Urulmash, Alexander Kruk, was found hanged in Panpurin's country house in Sofia. According to the Russian media, it was suspicious that Kruk, who was a candidate for MP in the city council of Yekaterinburg, had thrown away his election campaign and suddenly left for Sofia. The Bulgarian investigation has decided that it was a suicide case.

The business connections of the two Russians do not link them with key "businessmen" from the transition period. Since the beginning of the crisis, their business suffered difficulties and many of their assets were impounded.

Two years prior to their arrest, the Uralmash leaders started a massive construction near Tsarevo. The resort Costa del Croco is envisioned to accommodate 2500 people. The investment is announced to worth EUR 110 M. At present, the construction is seized by the municipality.

Dnevnik reports that Russia is not in a hurry to take back Tsiganov and Panpurin, who is not wanted in Russia. The reasons for the delay have not been made clear.

It is also not clear how the partnership between the two men on Bulgarian territory has become a threat to the national security.

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Tags: Uralmash, Busmantsi, DANS, Alexei Petrov, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Boyko Borisov, Konstantin Tsiganov, Tsiganov, Andrei Panpurin, Panpurin, Bulgarian citizenship


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