Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on August 16 that Bulgarian law enforcement agencies were aware of the impeding drug bust on a Bulgarian-flagged cargo ship in Spanish waters.
“We knew a lot of things, but there was no way to tell the sailors to run from the ship because we were going to seize it,” Borissov said.
Answering the question whether the Bulgarian crew were involved in the trafficking, Borissov said: “It is difficult for the judiciary to judge who was involved and who was not.” He said that the sailors should prepare themselves for a lengthy investigation because the quantity of drugs seized during the bust was so large.
Borissov also said that Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov would be travelling to Spain within a week, but gave no further details as to what the goal of Tsvetanov’s trip was.
Bulgarian cargo ship Sveti Nikolai was seized on August 15 near the Spanish port of Cadiz with three tons of cocaine on board. Among the 31 people arrested as part of the law enforcement operation were 22 Bulgarian sailors in the ship’s crew.
Two more Bulgarian nationals were arrested in relation to the case in Bulgaria, the Interior Ministry said, as part of a joint operation with law enforcement agencies from France, the US and UK.
The ship was sailing to the Galicia region of Spain, where the drugs were to be unloaded and shipped to Madrid, from where they would have been distributed to other European countries, reports in Spanish media said.
The Bulgarian crew, who now face charges of drug trafficking, was not armed and did not resist when the ship was boarded by law enforcement.
The sailors had no criminal record in Spain, but local investigators were awaiting further information from Bulgarian law enforcement on whether any of the sailors had a criminal past in Bulgaria, news website mediapool.bg said. The names of Bulgarian sailors were not released by the investigators.
The cargo ship, which flies the Bulgarian flag, is managed by Bourgas-based maritime cargo shipping company Seaborne Trade. Its managing director, Doichin Doichev, told news website dnevnik.bg that his firm had lost contact with the ship several days before the drug bust.