Officers from Bulgaria’s Chief Directorate against Organised Crime arrested 14 people on June 8 in connection with alleged corruption involving the sale of driving licences at the State Motor Vehicle Inspectorate in Sofia.
Twelve were directorate staff and the other two arrested were owners of driving schools, a statement said.
The going price for a Bulgarian driving licence was reported to be between 2000 and 4000 leva (about 1022 to 2045 euro).
Police seized about 150 000 leva in cash, in various currencies.
Bulgarian National Television (BNT) said that it was understood that the head of the State Motor Vehicle Inspectorate was not among those taken into custody.
During a search-and-seizure operation, computers and documents were confiscated and the inspectorate’s building was sealed.
Interior Ministry chief secretary Mladen Marinov said that the operation was “extremely complicated and large” and full information could not be given at this stage because details were not yet final.
It was up to the Special Prosecutor’s Office to decide what to disclose about the investigation, Marinov said.
The alleged corruption involved the practical, not the theoretical, part of the driving test.
BNT said that unofficial information was that foreigners were among those who had bought Bulgarian driving licences.
Some of those detained in the June 2017 operation previously had been arrested in 2013, in an operation by anti-organised crime officers and the Prosecutor’s Office. At the time, the then-head of the inspectorate, Valentin Bozhkov, was fired.
Bulgarian Transport Minister Ivailo Moskovski said that the state would be “absolutely uncompromising” in detailing with irregular practices among control bodies in charge of prevention, safety on the road and reduction of traffic accidents.
The ministry recently stepped up security measures to prevent cheating on theoretical exams for driving licences.
In the past month and a half, about 20 000 candidate drivers had undergone these tests and there had been no reports of irregularities.
Because of the operation, driving tests have been suspended, and reportedly will be resumed on Saturday and Sunday.
Bulgaria has the highest rate of road deaths a year of any European Union country. The current government recently pledged a crackdown to improve road safety, including tougher action against speeding, driving while under the influence of illegal narcotics, and driving without a licence.