Recriminations fly in case of Bulgarian sailors arrested in Spain
Relatives of the sailors from the crew of a Bulgarian ship seized by Spanish authorities with a cargo of three tons of cocaine last week said on August 23 that they were disappointed by the reaction of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov on the issue.
Borissov met with the sailors’ relatives on August 22 and implied that the sailors knew what their cargo was and should co-operate with the Spanish investigators. Twenty-one Bulgarian sailors were part of the crew and have been detained for the duration of the investigation.
In an open letter on August 23, the relatives of the crew said that Borissov failed to persuade them that the sailors were guilty, especially since the investigation in Spain was still under way and no charges had been officially pressed.
They rejected Borissov’s claims that the sailors could have tipped off law enforcement as soon as they found out about the nature of their cargo, as well as the prime minister’s suggestion that the ship’s captain assumes full responsibility for everything.
The letter said that the relatives hoped that Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov – who was due to meet with his Spanish counterpart Jorge Fernandez Diaz on August 23 to discuss the case – would meet them upon returning from Spain to give them details about the case against the Bulgarian sailors.
The relatives were reportedly denied contact with the sailors. According to the Foreign Ministry, the sailors were in good health and had been assigned three defence attorneys. The Bulgarian embassy was in constant contact with the relatives and ready to relay any new information on the case, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on August 21.
The ship, Sveti Nikolai, sailing under Bulgarian flag, was boarded by Spanish investigators who knew what the ship was transporting in international waters on August 13. The relatives asked Borissov to demand that the case be investigated by Bulgarian authorities, since it happened outside Spanish waters – although it is often the international practice that the closest country to such a drug bust takes the lead in the investigation.