Bulgaria initiates own investigation into alleged traffickers in Austria and Hungary death lorry case
Bulgaria’s Specialised Prosecutor’s Office said on September 4 2015 that it had initiated its own investigation into three people in connection with the lorry found in Austria containing the remains of 71 refugees.
The office said that it was investigating Metodi Georgiev, Tsvetan Tsvetanov (not the former interior minister of the same name) and Kasim Hasan Saleh, as well as others whose names were not given, in connection with an offence under article 321 of Bulgaria’s Penal Code, the forming, directing and participation in an organised crime group.
The case was initiated after co-ordination meetings were held between representatives of the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office and Austrian authorities, at which evidence, including that obtained through international co-operation, was discussed.
The statement said that Bulgaria had taken the necessary steps to conclude an agreement on the setting up of a joint investigation team involving the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office and representatives of the Austrian and Hungarian judicial authorities.
There would be a co-ordination meeting at Eurojust in The Hague involving representatives of the three countries to exchange information and take decisions on further action, the statement said.
On August 27, a refrigeration lorry with a Hungarian registration was found a motorway in Austria near the Hungarian border. Inside were the corpses of 59 men, eight women and four children who had fled the war in Syria.
Initial forensic examinations found that the people had died from asphyxiation. Some reports have suggested that the refugees were already dead when the lorry crossed the border from Hungary into Austria.
Subsequently, a group of Bulgarians and a citizen of Afghanistan were arrested and appeared in court in connection with the case.
A Hungarian court upheld an application by prosecutors for the accused to be remanded in custody for a month pending further investigation.
Prosecutors in Hungary said that the charges that would be laid against the individuals would be people-trafficking, including torture, intended for financial gain. A decision on criminal charges in connection with the deaths of the 71 will depend on forensic examination establishing whether the people died in Hungary or Austria.
(Photo: Special Prosecutor’s Office, Bulgaria)