Skeletons in the Closet of Bulgaria's Transition Period and Who Refuses to Come Out

Editorial |Author: Maria Guineva | November 5, 2010, Friday // 13:14|  views

Former undercover employee of the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security, (DANS), Aleksei Petrov aka The Tractor, dubbed the country's top underground figure, was arrested in February during a special police operation codenamed "Octopus" and charged with almost every known crime – leak of classified information, blackmail, racket, prostitution, illegal drug trading, draining of Sofia's steel mill, trading in influence, money laundering and tax evasion, among others.

Nine months later, the only two standing indictments are blackmail and racket, but Petrov's release from jail under house arrest in mid-October, quickly turned into the next dismal chapter in Bulgaria's saga of political intrigue.

It became clear that Petrov, now also nicknamed Octopus, is determined to enter politics through murky ties with the leader of Bulgaria's infamous "conservative" Order, Law and Justice (RZS) party Yane Yanev. Yanev, who visited the ex agent at his home, swiftly announced The Tractor was expected to join the party ASAP. On the other hand, Petrov publicly flirted with the idea of starting his very own political movement.

It also became obvious that Petrov is feeding information to Yanev about Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, leading to sensational revelations about the latter - profiteering from political posts to amass wealth and real estate property; secret associations with the ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms; connections with the underworld; masterminding the "Octopus" over strong personal motives to eliminate Petrov as a witness in a case of a missing EUR 1 M; using companies close to the former agent to launder illegal financing of his now ruling GERB party.

In response, Tsvetanov bashed Yanev for becoming a political advocate of the underworld and grasped the opportunity to divert attention by launching an attack on Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, with accusations the Head of State had illegitimate ties to Petrov. Parvanov dismissed them, striking back with claims Petrov is actually related to GERB. The President has often hinted that Bulgarian Prime Minister and GERB leader, Boyko Borisov, used to be friends with the former DANS agent and "had a dark past involving relationships with certain organizations, including with Petrov." (It is a known fact that years ago, Borisov had joint business with The Tractor.)

Ex Prime Minister and right-wing leader, Ivan Kostov, backed Tsvetanov in his claims.

Former Parliamentary secretary of the socialist "Videnov" cabinet, businessman Plamen Nikolov, also accused Parvanov of using his influence to protect and secure profits for Petrov.

Nikolov maintains a friend, Iliya Bozhinov, was pressured to assign the rights of his "Taxi C Express" business to Petrov under the secret orders of Parvanov, who in exchange had been promised that the Octopus would turn the cab company into a surveillance team serving the interests of the Bulgarian Socialist Party when the now-President was its leader.

Iliya Bozhinov, founder and Chair of Bulgaria's alternative left-wing party "Bulgarian Left Wing," an outspoken critic of the Socialist party and its leaders, died suddenly in August 2010, while vacationing in a camping site on the Black Sea coast. The cause of death was listed as "serious stomach ailment" triggered by long-running alcohol abuse and drinking of poor quality liquor. (In the light of this diagnosis, it seems amazing that half of the Bulgarians somehow manage to survive...) Friends and relatives insist he was not a heavy drinker, knew about his pancreas condition and took good care of his health.

Curiously enough, just days after Petrov's arrest in February, Bozhinov said in an interview he firmly planned to testify in the case and to offer scandalous facts. Nikolov insists the President personally called Bozhinov back then to pressure him to not get involved.

Meanwhile, Parvanov announced the launch of his own political project, for the time being, under the form of a "civic initiative," as he called it; a RZS Member of the Parliament made headlines by sending a letter to the media insisting he had been brutally raped in the Parliament's restroom by the Co-chair of the GERB Parliamentary group, Iskra Fidosova; (He later recanted the story, saying it was a joke, and retaliation against rumors his leader, Yanev, is homosexual); Borisov proudly announced in GERB men only love women and women only love men; a journalist and a driver were arrested while attempting to do a report on Tsvetanov's house in the village of Shuma.

Latest political maneuvering recap:

1. A year and a half after GERB's victory in the general elections on promises to eradicate corruption and crime and carry out transparent policies, names of key party members, including the icon of the cabinet's anti-crime effort, continue to be entangled in scandals involving property scams.

2. Nearly four years after Bulgaria's EU accession, political power at any price remains the norm. The President of a full-pledged EU Member State, instead of dedicating himself to charitable work after the end of his term, (as most in Western democracies do), favors the unique Russian "Vladimir Putin" model of running back and forth between the Presidential and Prime Minister's office. (Luckily, in Sofia, they are across the street from each other.) Not to speak of Parvanov's obvious disregard for the Constitution banning him from being a political leader. Of course, he calls the new movement an "initiative," but it is, at the least, deceitful to launch it one year before the end of the last term and to travel constantly around the country in an attempt to gather support while still in office.

3. Over four years after journalist Ivo Indzhev was fired from the private TV channel bTV upon attempting to investigate the ownership of a penthouse of this same President, a colleague was arrested when trying to do a report on a politician's property. No surprise here - Bulgaria was just ranked 70th in the 2010 Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

4. Ten years into the 21st century, heterosexual orientation is among the utmost political qualifications, and a certain sign of integrity and ability to lead.

5. After 21 years of "democracy," murder lurks around the corner, haunting us with the odds of being the retribution tool of our political leaders.

6. Bulgaria's key statesmen – President, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, along with a political party leader, are intertwined by the Octopus' tentacles. Throwing the country's top criminal, (as Tsvetanov keeps saying), at each other like a hot potato shows a frantic effort to keep the skeletons of their past deep in the closet while the mafia still pulls the strings of Bulgarian politics.

Downright Halloween spooky. Boo.

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Tags: president, Prime Minister, Octopus, The Tractor, Aleksei Petrov, Iliya Bozhinov, Plamen Nikolov, Bulgarian Socialist Party, Georgi Parvanov, GERB, Boyko Borisov, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, GERB, Movement for Rights and Freedoms, RZS, Yane Yanev, Interior Minister, DANS


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