Hundreds of arrests in Bulgarian operation against people-trafficking, illegal migration and electoral abuses

Twenty-five people have been taken into custody in connection with alleged people-trafficking and 225 foreign citizens detained for being in the country illegally, Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry chief secretary Georgi Kostov said on October 24.

Kostov was speaking at a joint news conference in Sofia with Bulgarian Deputy Prosecutor-General Borislav Sarafov, Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova, Deputy Interior Minister Philip Gounev and the head of the State Agency for National Security, Dimitar Georgiev.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on the morning of October 23 that nationwide operations had begun against people-trafficking and vote-buying. Bulgarians go to the polls in mayoral and municipal elections and a national referendum on October 25.

Kostov said that in the operation, more than 2200 staff had been deployed, with 478 patrol cars. The staff had checked more than 2000 locations, 10 765 people and more than 5500 vehicles.

In all, actions had been initiated against 995 people either involved in people-trafficking or in abuses of electoral rights, he told the October 24 news conference. On October 23, Borissov had predicted the arrest of “1000 people”.

Sarafov said that by the time of the news conference, a total of 679 tip-offs had been followed up. Of these, 78 had resulted in pre-trial proceedings in connection with violations of electoral rights and 36 pre-trial proceedings regarding other cases. Six of this total had resulted in summary proceedings, with four people accused. Of the 679 complaints, 381 were in connection with vote-buying.

Sarafov said that Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov had lodged nine requests for the removal of the immunity from prosecution of candidate mayors and municipal councillors. The Deputy Prosecutor-General thanked the Central Election Commission for its timely response to each of these requests.

SANS head Georgiev told the news conference that the main people-traffickers were foreign nationals.

He said that citizens of Syria, Iraq and Jordan had been detained in the course of the operation, and had been found to be resident in Bulgaria. Given that this represented a threat to national security, steps had been taken to deport them and to impose a five-year ban on re-entering the country.

Georgiev added that the others, Bulgarians, served more as acccomplices in the people-trafficking operations.

Meanwhile, in a separate bulletin, the Interior Ministry said that 26 people who had entered Bulgaria illegally had been detained on October 23. The group, who said that they were citizens of Syria and Iraq and which included minors, were detained after traffic police stopped a Sofia-registered van on the Trakiya Motorway near Stara Zagora.

The van initially ignored the signal to stop. The driver then halted the vehicle, jumped a barrier and tried to escape but was arrested by a traffic police officer. The driver was a 51-year-old Bulgarian from Chernogorovo municipality. Pre-trial proceedings had been initiated, the Interior Ministry said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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