A current and former member of Bulgaria’s Gambling Commission have been charged with involvement in an organised crime group allegedly headed by Vassil Bozhkov, it emerged on February 11 from an announcement by the Specialized Criminal Court.
Plamen Georgiev was a member of the commission at the time that it was headed by Ognemir Mitev, who is reported to be among those taken into custody in a succession of prosecutors’ raids on the commission. Todor Markov has headed the control activities department since 2019.
Bulgarian National Television reported on February 11 that the Specialized Criminal Court declined an application by prosecutors to remand Georgiev and Markov in custody, and ordered them into house arrest.
The court ordered Georgiev and Markov not to contact officials at the Gambling Commission so as not to influence the investigation.
Counsel for the defence put it to the court that Markov was, from 2014 to 2019, holder of the position of “junior expert”, a clerical one that could not influence the work of the Gambling Commission. Markov told the court that he did not know Bozhkov and his associates.
Georgiev told the court that he was the only accused to be detained after he had volunteered to appear before investigating authorities. He said that, during his time as part of the Commission, numerous inspections of its work were carried out by the Ministry of Finance, and no irregularities had been found.
Reports quoted the prosecutor’s office as saying that, including Bozhkov, eight people had been the subject of criminal charges so far. Twenty-five witnesses have been questioned in the investigation into Bozhkov’s alleged organised crime group.
Bozhkov, also reported to be facing extortion and attempted bribery charges, is said to be in the United Arab Emirates. Bulgaria’s Justice Minister Danail Kirilov said last week that extradition application papers were being prepared. Bozhkov, claimed by some media to be the wealthiest man in Bulgaria, has denied wrongdoing.
(Photo: Jason Morrison)