FBI director James Comey has described his visit to Sofia as important because his agency and Bulgaria work together in all spheres of action of the FBI, important for the United States and Bulgarians.
Comey and Prime Minister Boiko Borissov spoke at a joint news conference on March 4, ahead of planned meetings with Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General and its Interior Minister – although the day’s domestic news agenda was overshadowed by the latter’s resignation because of differences with the Prime Minister over the minister’s insistence that heads of state law enforcement and security bodies be replaced.
A meeting also was scheduled with the head of the State Agency for National Security, Vladimir Pisanchev, one of the officials that now-departed Interior Minister Vesselin Vuchkov had wanted dismissed.
Comey said that increasingly, criminals had “shrunk” the world, especially by virtue of their operations on the internet.
“On the internet, Bulgaria and America are next door neighbours, and if we are to fight the
scourge of crime, especially cyber crime and terrorism, we must shrink the world so that no one can find safe haven simply by being on the other side of the Earth from the people that they victimise,” Comey said.
Noting that he was at the beginning of his 10-year term of office, he said that this fixed term enabled the FBI director to stand outside of significant political influence “and meet our responsibilities for fighting organised crime, terrorism, cyber crime and many other things in a way that is professional and non-political.”
Comey, whose talks with the Prime Minister lasted an hour, said that he knew that he and Borissov had the same thinking on issues and said that he would return “multiple times” given the importance of the relationship between the FBI and the Bulgarian services.
Borissov said that the two had discussed the fight against organised crime, cyber crime and terrorism.
Comey’s visit is the third by an FBI director in the past 14 years, with previous visits in 2001 and 2011.
Comey and Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov discussed measures to combat terrorism and corruption, the Prosecutor-General’s office said.
The urgent need to adopt new anti-terrorism legislation was underlined in the talks, which also were attended by US ambassador Marcie Ries, the statement said.
Tsatsarov briefed Comey on his office’s proposals for anti-corruption measures.
The FBI director made a commitment to provide for practical training of Bulgarian prosecutors in fighting terrorism, the Prosecutor-General’s office said.
A statement by the State Agency for National Security said that Comey and SANS head Vladimir Pisanchev discussed specific results of co-operation between the FBI and SANS.
The emphasis of the talks was on achievements in countering financial crime, in particular against the legalisation of cash generated as a result of illegal activities and crimes related to bank card fraud.
Also discussed was the direction of future co-operation between the two partner services, as was the need to strengthen the exchange of information in connection with two-way movement of foreign fighters to and from conflict zones in the Middle East, and the fight against cyber attacks, SANS said.
Another point of emphasis was action to fight corruption, the statement said.