Bulgarian drug gang leader handed sentence after long trial

Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation ruled on May 20 to confirm the six-and-a-half-year sentence of Zlatomir Ivanov, who was convicted on charges of organising a crime group to distribute drugs in February 2012, but was acquitted on the charges of ordering the assassination of an alleged rival.

Ivanov was on trial with 20 co-defendants, 10 of whom were acquitted and the rest were found guilty. The high court decided to uphold the ruling of the appellate court, which reduced the length of the initial sentence from eight years, judging that Ivanov had no blame for the long duration of the trial.

The investigation and court case lasted seven years, most of which Ivanov spent in detention or under house arrest. He has about two years of his sentence to serve in prison, according to specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg.

Another factor that contributed to a prolonged trial was Ivanov’s shooting in as he was about to enter the Palace of Justice in central Sofia in January 2013, which delayed the hearing of the case in the appeals court. The appellate court later cited Ivanov’s worsened health as a reason for reducing his sentence, but the high court struck down that part of the ruling, Legalworld.bg said.

Ivanov, 47, is better known by his alias Zlatko Baretata, Bulgarian for Zlatko ‘the beret’, a reference to the time he spent in Bulgaria’s anti-terrorism special unit in the early 1990s, whose nickname is ‘the berets’.

His official businesses ranged from private security to gambling establishments, as well as companies trading oil products and pharmaceuticals, according to reports in Bulgarian media. In the late 1990s, he was suspected of involvement in human trafficking and smuggling stolen cars, as well as the drug trade – in 2003, a report by the Centre for Study of Democracy think-tank named him as the leader of one of Bulgaria’s six largest drug gangs.

Despite several arrests on suspicion of illegal activities, no charges were pressed against him until February 2009, when he was accused of organising and leading a group involved in the drug trade and assassinations. The high court’s decision is final and cannot be appealed further.

(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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