Surprising Witnesses Emerge in Bulgaria's 'Octopus' TrialCrime | June 20, 2012, Wednesday // 11:27| views
Alexey Petrov, a former employee of the State Agency for National Security, DANS, murky businessman and alleged crime boss, together with five other people, is facing charges of racketeering and extortion. Photo by BGNES
Lawyers of controversial Bulgarian businessman Alexey Petrov requested from the Sofia City Court to release their client from arrest, after presenting 4 new witnesses.
All four took the witness stand to give accounts fully contradicting the recent one, of another witness in the case – Petar Ustinov.
After hearing the new testimony, the magistrates decided to postpone their decision by another 2 weeks.
Petrov, who has been tried in the complicated high-profile 'Octopus' case for organized crime, was rearrested at the beginning of May after two witnesses said he pressured them to change their testimonials.
He was first detained in February 2010 and spent what he claims to have been 9 months of abuse in jail, during which his health allegedly deteriorated.
Petrov AKA The Tractor and The Octopus, a former employee of the State Agency for National Security, DANS, murky businessman and alleged crime boss, together with five other people, is facing charges of racketeering and extortion.
At the beginning of May, the key witness, Plamen Ustinov, former employee of Bulgaria's National Security Services, NSO, testified in Court that he came across the defendant in the town of Teteven three days ago and the later attempted to convince him to scrap his testimony. He further explained that this had been the third such meeting between them while various individuals had been coming to him ever since the arrest to offer him money to give up on appearing on the witness stand.
These claims of pressure on the witness led to the magistrates' decision to send Petrov in jail again.
On Wednesday, one of the newly-emerged witnesses, Damyan Asenov, explained that the attempted attack on Petrov's life last year, at the time he campaigned in the presidential elections, has been ordered by a senior police officer.
The Tractor, on his part, stated that Ustinov was involved in the attack. He told the magistrates that in the summer of 2010, Ustinov went to his office and handed him a declaration he has written how the Chief Secretary of the Interior, Commissar Kalin Georgiev, the Chief of the Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime, GDBOP, Stanimir Florov, and the Deputy Sofia City Prosecutor, Roman Vasilev, to testify against Petrov.
At this point Ustinov had demanded from The Tractor a "huge" amount of money to not give the implicating account. After receiving a negative answer, Ustinov went to GDBOP to offer his services in testifying against the defendant.
The magistrates decided that they now need to hear Ustinov once again and hold a cross examination with him and the 4 new witnesses. They will rule on July 3 if Petrov is to be released from jail.
In an earlier Court session in another high-profile case involving kidnappings and codenamed The Impudent, Ustinov told the magistrates that Petrov had assigned him to murder Litex CEO, Grisha Ganchev, a petrol businessman and owner of Litex football club. (Bulgaria recently launched the mass production of cars under the Chinese Great Wall badge by Ganchev's Litex Motors near the northern city of Lovech.) The "Octopus" had further asked him to kill Vasil Bozhkov AKA The Scull, a murky Bulgarian businessman, as well as Valentin Shotev, who is also a witness in the "Octopus" case.
The detainees in the "Octopus" case were initially charged with organizing prostitution, drug trafficking, money laundering, racketeering, tax fraud and embezzlement.
In the summer of 2010, the prosecutor declared that it was impossible to solve the case with one trial and opened two trials against a total of 25 defendants, deploying a team of three prosecutors.
Petrov was released on house arrest in October 2010, which in February 2011 was changed to own recognizance. He ran for President in the end-October elections.
He continues to insist that the case against him is political retribution. He has vowed to sue for libel all who testify against him, stressing that this case will end up being a serious blow to national security and a humiliation for Bulgaria. In his words the cabinet and personally Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, are racketeering him.
He further denies pressuring any witness.
At the end of January, Ex-England Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith officially joined Petrov's defense team, hinting for journalists that he believes his client is innocent.
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