Bulgaria is determined to get Bulgarians out of the international illegal drugs trade, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said a few hours after news broke of another bust by foreign police of a high-value cocaine smuggling operation.
On September 3, it emerged that Spanish police and British anti-organised crime agents had arrested two yachts off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, detaining four Bulgarians. The vessels allegedly were involved in an attempt to move 500kg of cocaine from South America to Europe.
The vessels were flying the British flag but Bulgarians were at the centre of the crime operation, police are alleging.
The bust follows an earlier operation by Spanish police in which a Bulgarian vessel, the St Nikolai, its captain and crew, were held on August 13 2012 after three tons of cocaine was found aboard. There is currently no information about any connection between the St Nikolai bust and the yacht arrests.
Public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television reported Tsvetanov as saying that two of those involved in the yacht cocaine smuggling operation were well-known to Bulgarian authorities. These two had been arrested some years ago in connection with involvement with a group that had been smuggling hashish on Spanish territory.
The operation against the two vessels on September 3 followed months of monitoring by intelligence services. Allegedly, the operation was led by Bulgarians, with several South Americans and Spaniards involved.
Bulgarian-language media said that the Bulgarians arrested were currently being held at Las Palmas.
Tsvetanov said that the Bulgarians were from Varna, Bourgas and Pazardzhik. He hinted that the woman arrested with the group, reportedly from Blagoevgrad and aged 25, had no part in the operation and that it was customary for such schemes to involve women to serve as decoys, giving the impression that such yacht trips were cruising holidays.
According to Tsvetanov, the Bulgarians recorded as the yachts’ owners had no registered business activities that would have enabled them to afford such vessels.
(Main photo: DEA)