Bulgaria probes reports of properties bought by sanctioned Russians

The Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office has assigned the State Agency for National Security to investigate allegations that Russian citizens and legal entities sanctioned by the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom have acquired real estate in Bulgaria, the Prosecutor’s Office said on January 6.

The investigation is also to cover allegations of informal paramilitary structures operating in Bulgaria which are reported to be trying to advance interests against the country’s national security.

The Prosecutor’s Office said that the findings would be made public.

The statement said that an investigation announced on December 16 2022 into allegations against a paramilitary body, the Military Union – Bulgaria National Union Shipka, was continuing.

The investigation is in connection with Bulgaria’s Criminal Code’s special part, chapter one, section one, which covers treason, with article 95 referring to the penalties for a coup attempt, rebellion or armed insurrection for the attempted overthrow of the state. Penalities may include imprisonment for 10 to 20 years, life imprisonment or life imprisonment without parole.

On January 5, Bellingcat investigative journalist Christo Grozev, who has been declared wanted in Russia, told a parliamentary committee that in Bulgaria, he saw a large concentration of specific agents of the Russian services.

“We have a rather casual attitude towards giving visas and residence permits to people who have properties,” Grozev said.

Grozev said that Bulgaria is one of the key countries in terms of the interest of Russia’s special services. “They see Bulgaria as easy prey,” he said.

He told the committee that he had evidence of Russian financial flows to Bulgarian media. Grozev alleged that the funds passed through a citizen of North Macedonia employed as a correspondent in Bulgaria.

(Photo of the Palace of Justice in Sofia, headquarters of the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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