Extradition of Alleged Bulgarian Drug Lord Upheld on Appeal

Crime | July 17, 2012, Tuesday // 15:08|  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 Appellate Court ruled Tuesday to extradite alleged top criminal Evelin Banev AKA Brando to Italy for one year to face trial there as well.

With the rule, it upheld the June 20th decision of the lower instance, the Sofia City Court. The rule is final and cannot be appealed.

Brando has been charged in Italy with illegal drug trafficking and has an Interpol arrest warrant. The Bulgarian magistrates grounded their decision on being officially approached and asked by Italian authorities to extradite the alleged criminal.

During the year, he will be brought back to Bulgaria to be tried by the same Sofia City Court on charges of large-scale money laundering, the Italians have assured.

Banev, his ex-wife Monica Dobrinova, her sister Desislava Dishlieva and Simo Kraychev are indicted for money laundering from narcotics trafficking and contraband. According to the charges, the gang acted in Bulgaria, Switzerland, Austria and Germany and they have laundered EUR 11 138 650.

Banev was arrested on May 16 in the Black Sea town of Sozopol in an international special police operation codenamed Cocaine Kings, along with 15 other Bulgarians, 12 Italians, one Slovenian, one Romanian, and one Georgian.

One June 1, the Sofia Appellate Court upheld the lower instance ruled to keep Brando permanently behind bars. The Prosecutor requested the measure on grounds Banev planned to secretly escape from Bulgaria to avoid the money laundering charges and trial.

His lawyers say that his defense rights have been violated thus there was need of examining the said document from the arrest and the raid.

Two of the witnesses in the case reside permanently abroad and have refused to testify.

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 of money laundering. The Prosecutor's Office, however, denied having any information about a recent crime committed by him.

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 knew more and different details.

At the June 20th Court session on Brando's extradition, the defense counsel argued that it would violate her client's defense rights because even if he is brought back, there would not be enough time to prepare for the Bulgarian trial. She further stated she could not understand why the Italian investigation is getting priority when the Bulgarian one is in a much more advanced stage.

The lawyer, one of the top criminal ones in Bulgaria, Ina Lulcheva, added one year was too long of a period since Brando needs only to appear to be indicted. She voiced suspicions that the numerous statements of Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, linking Banev with the trafficking of 10 tons of cocaine and money laundering in Switzerland and with the delivery of a total of 40 tons of the drug to Italy have influenced the outcome.

There is no evidence so far to back Tsvetanov's claims about the defendant being suspected of any crime in Switzerland.

Brando is to be kept behind bars until extradited to Italy.

Seven of those detained in the special police operation "Cocaine Kings" were extradited to Italy on July 12 and 13.

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Tags: Sofia Appellate Court, extradite, Italy, Ina Lulcheva, defense, 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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