Interpol-sought Bulgarian Drug Lord Stays in Jail

Crime | May 19, 2012, Saturday // 14:48|  views

Evelin Banev, aka Brando was arrested in Bulgaria on May 16 on suspicions of cocaine trafficking and money laundering both in Bulgaria and Switzerland. Photo by BGNES

The Sofia City Court ruled Saturday to keep permanently behind bars alleged top criminal Evelin Banev AKA Brando.

Banev was arrested on May 16 in the Black Sea town of Sozopol on suspicions of money laundering.

The Prosecutor requested the measure on grounds he planned to secretly escape from Bulgaria to avoid the money laundering charges and trial.

The information about his alleged plan comes from a recording, made with Special Surveillance Devices, SRS, of a phone conversation where Brando could be heard telling his ex-wife that he was planning to leave the country and hide abroad. The magistrates ruled that the use of SRS was legal.

The defense council argued that SRS cannot be the only grounds to keep someone in jail, without other evidence, reminding of a similar case where Bulgaria has been sentenced by the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.

People close to Banev are quoted saying it seems totally incredible that a person, who has been allowed to leave the country at any moment, will inform his wife on the phone that he wanted to flee.

Until the recent arrest, there were no new charges and Court restrictions against Brando.

In the aftermath of the arrest, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, informed that Banev had an Interpol arrest warrant in Switzerland on charges of trafficking 10 tons of cocaine from South America to Europe and money laundering. The Prosecutor's Office, however, denied having any information about a recent crime committed by him.

Banev's lawyer, speaking in the courtroom Saturday, reminded that the said arrest warrant has not yet been presented before the magistrates, adding it was "ridiculous to claim someone wanted to flee the country because they have been sought by Interpol."

Brando, himself, testified that the conversation had been simply a joke and he never intended to leave Bulgaria.

The Sofia City Prosecutor, Nikolay Kokinov, said earlier that he had no idea about the Swiss interest towards Brando, and the impressive amount of smuggled cocaine, adding it was possible Tsvetanov knows more and different details.

Banev, his ex-wife Monica Dobrinova, her sister Desislava Dishlieva and Simo Kraychev are indicted for money laundering for over EUR 2 M from narcotics trafficking and contraband. According to the charges, the gang acted in Bulgaria, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Standard daily writes that a Swiss bank expert will testify about Banev's, Monica's and Desislava's bank accounts and transactions. The testimony will, reportedly, reveal that Banev used funds from legitimate businesses as credit which he later repaid through deals with offshore companies from Panama and US, thus legalizing the money from cocaine trafficking.

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Tags: Nikolay Kokinov, Prosecutor, Brando, INTERPOL, address warrant, Evelin Banev, Sozopol, arrested, money laundering, drug, Cocaine, trafficking, Switzerland, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, SRS, permanent detention


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