Bulgarian PM seeks dismissal of Interior Ministry chief secretary, better coordination in fight against crime

Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov said on August 18 that he was seeking the dismissal of Petar Todorov as Interior Ministry chief secretary, saying that there was an “internal problem” at the ministry and that “in practice, the minister does not work with him because there is no trust”.

Denkov said that he had asked Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov to prepare a report requesting the replacement of Todorov – chief secretary of the ministry since August 2021 – to be discussed by the Cabinet as early as next week.

Stoyanov, in office as part of the pro-Western government that came to power in June 2023, has been replacing several regional police chiefs, for underperformance, and has rejected allegations that these moves were a political purge.

Denkov, addressing a news conference after meeting Stoyanov and chiefs of security services, called to discuss steps after a series of high-profile serious crimes including this week’s murder of controversial figure Alexey Petrov, said that a coordination mechanism would be set up to enable the speedy exchange of information among the Interior Ministry, the security services and the Prosecutor’s Office.

Denkov said that last Friday, the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor’s Office had agreed to establish a coordination mechanism to exchange information, to improve the fight against drug trafficking and migrant smuggling.

Stoyanov should contact the Prosecutor’s Office, so that in addition to combating drug trafficking and migrant smuggling, the fight against corruption and against crimes against the person is also included in this cooperation, Denkov said. The anti-corruption commission and the State Agency for National Security should also be involved, he said.

The Prime Minister said that there would be a review of cases so that there were no “umbrellas”, a reference to an expression that some suspected crimes are not followed up because of political protection.

“Part of this mechanism will be the review of all reports relating to actions or inactions that could hinder the detection of crimes – the so-called ‘umbrellas’. The best way to work against such possible practices is when there signal to different institutions to get involved in the investigation to see if there is a problem. That becomes part of the task of this coordination mechanism,” he said.

He said that there would be a complete stepping up of the work of the services with the aim of pre-empting the committing of crimes.

Stoyanov firmly dismissed comments in the days since Petrov’s murder that Bulgaria would see a “gangster war” or was “returning to the mobster years”. Such comments have tended to come from political opponents of the current government.

Denkov categorically denied claims in some media that Petrov was instrumental in the forming of the current government.

“He had nothing to do with the formation of this government, with the legislative programme. This is speculation trying to create a negative image. I have not seen him and I have never spoken to him personally, though there were occasions when we are at the same event. His name was never mentioned in our conversations with GERB,” Denkov said.

Participants in the briefing declined to answer questions of detail regarding the murder of Petrov, saying that the investigation was proceeding and the release of information related to the investigation was the prerogative of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Denkov did, however, that there was no evidence of a connection between the murder of Petrov and other recent serious crimes.

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