Bulgarian traffic cop filmed taking bribe becomes national anti-hero
Footage viewed tens of thousands of times online of a Bulgarian traffic policeman accepting a cash bribe has propelled him to an unwanted form of national celebrity and excited comment from some of the country’s top officials.
It also is alleged that the traffic policeman has previously been punished for taking bribes and, after 18 years as an Interior Ministry employee, has applied for early retirement – although whether that has anything to do with his sudden fame is not known.
In the video, which has been viewed more than 28 000 times on YouTube and more than 50 000 times via Facebook, the policeman is seen slipping his hand just inside the driver’s door to accept folded money.
In a country where perceptions of corruption run high and where there have been previous busts of traffic police for corruption, the video has caused excited national conversation, with any number of talking heads ready to talk about the “so, what do we do now?” phenomenon – the traditional phrase hinting that a traffic policeman is willing to trade cash for a blind eye.
Speaking to Bulgarian National Television, the head of Sofia’s traffic police, Tencho Tenev, said: “the video is a fact and it shows our employee taking some money”.
He added that in such cases, there were “two sides to the coin” and urged all motorists from whom bribes were solicited to report the matter to the Interior Ministry immediately.
The Prosecutor’s Office confirmed on November 18 that, on its own initiative, it was investigating the matter.
Interior Minister Vesselin Vuchkov said that it was “hardly a secret that similar events are routine” and the issue was to improve mechanisms so that instead of ad hoc reactions to such cases, there was a systematic anti-corruption policy at the Interior Ministry.
“I think we have the units and the abilities to deal with this problem,” said Vuchkov, who took office on November 7 as part of the new government.
According to BNT, since the beginning of the year 43 disciplinary proceedings had been initiated by the Interior Ministry in connection with cases of corruption. Sixteen employees had been dismissed and the fate of the rest was pending, the report said.
Tihomir Bezlov, of the Sofia-based Centre for the Study of Democracy, said, “the problem really is the culture of society. The problem is that when we compare with other countries, Bulgaria is first or second in Europe for bribery”.
A report in Trud identified the policeman that it alleged was in the video and said that he a track record of accepting bribes. He had applied to retire and would be eligible for bonuses on the basis of his 18 years’ employment, but would not receive this money if he was fired on disciplinary grounds.
Vuchkov said that he expected that the investigation into the policeman seen in the video would be completed swiftly.