Local leader of Bulgaria’s nationalist NFSB arrested in operation against people-trafficking gang – reports

The Kostinbrod chairperson of the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria – part of the United Patriots, the grouping of ultra-nationalist and far-right parties that is the minority partner in government – has been taken into custody for alleged involvement in people-trafficking of foreign migrants, reports on July 25 said.

Anelia Veleva, who in 2015 was the NFSB’s failed candidate to be mayor of the town 15km west of capital Sofia, getting all of two per cent of the vote, was among a group taken into 72-hour custody after being found in a car transporting migrants illegally from the Turkish to the Serbian border, the reports said.

Local media said that the press centre of the NFSB confirmed that they recognised Veleva from reports about the arrests and said that they would make an official statement later on July 25.

“We have not spoken to the investigating authorities, but we understand that is her,” local media quoted Roumyana Atanassova of the NFSB press centre as saying.

NFSB leader Valeri Simeonov, who is deputy prime minister in charge of demographic and economic policy in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s coalition government, has not commented.

Prosecutors confirmed that those taken into custody included an Anelia V but refused to confirm a political party identity as the suspect’s party affiliation was not relevant to the investigation.

Others detained in the operation include a former Interior Ministry employee.

Prosecutors are expected to ask for a court order on July 26 remanding the accused in custody pending the outcome of the trial on people-trafficking charges.

The arrests took place on July 23 on Trakiya Motorway when police intercepted four vehicles transporting nine migrants illegally to the Serbian border.

The foreign nationals, said to include Syrians and Iraqis, had been handed over to the Migration Directorate, an Interior Ministry statement said. They were said to have paid from 500 to 1000 euro to be transported across Bulgaria between the two borders.

The operation against the people-trafficking operation had been planned for two months, the statement said.

Initial statements by the Plovdiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office after the police operation said that some of those taken into custody had not been part of the criminal operation.

The NFSB has a strong line against migration as one of its key platforms.

In January 2017, in a statement opposing a supposed plan to set up a refugee centre in the town of Shoumen, the party said that “given the unstable external and domestic political situation in Bulgaria and the world and the admission and displacement of migrants on the territory of the EU and Bulgaria, the majority of them representing radicalized Islamist masses, including Arab, African and Middle Asian descent, absolutely not enlightened in the lifestyle and culture of our millennial city, the patriots propose the acceptance of declaration of their non-admission into the territory of Shoumen municipality and the establishment of centres of any type”.

In the months before that, the party spoke out against purported plans for refugee centres in Stara Zagora and in Mezdra, among other places.

The Mezdra statement, in December 2016, said “given our own economic, financial and social problems, we are strongly opposed to the involvement of our municipality in the refugee problem. We do not want to become the next victims of the growing international and humanitarian crisis.”

In Parliament in November 2016, the United Patriots proposed a resolution on “solving the migrant problem in Bulgaria” which, among other things, called on the then-government to boost measures to protect the state border – including providing for the use of water cannon, tear gas and firearms “when necessary” – and to take urgent steps to sign bilateral readmission agreements with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and others.”Countries whose nationals are systematically violating the state border,” the draft resolution said.

“We have a Fatherland that we are obliged to protect!” the draft resolution said.




The Sofia Globe staff

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