Police arrested former State Agency for National Security (SANS) official Alexei Petrov February 9 during a special operation codenamed “Octopus” – a clampdown on organized crime by former security officers.  Authorities also nabbed 14 other suspects during the operation, including several criminals with long rap sheets. Bulgaria has been left reeling after an inexplicable spate of violence, assassinations, extortion and kidnappings in recent months (see Risk Watch, January 20, 2010). The chief prosecutor announced that seven of the detainees are being held without bail on charges related to racketeering, prostitution, drug distribution, money laundering, tax fraud and embezzlement at the Kremikovzi metals company. If the charges do not hold up in court and Petrov walks free, Interior Minister Tzvetan Tzvetanov will have no choice but to resign, analysts say.

 

 

Analysis and forecast: Decreasing Risk

 

The arrests bring Prime Minister Boyko Borisov closer to establishing a regular chain of command in the police and security services. This will clear the way for new investigations and arrests: Authorities have already gone on to detain members of two drug-trafficking groups and are searching for customs officials linked to Petrov. Political Capital expects that operation Octopus and future police actions will strengthen stability and security. The cleanup process began last year when Borisov reformed SANS and handed some of its authorities to the Interior Ministry. This was followed by changes in the customs and judicial systems. The arrests represent the “visual” phase of Borisov`s effort. This master plan will probably continue with corruption-related charges against judges, prosecutors and politicians.

 

Interior Minister Tzvetanov has the highest approval ratings of any government minister in Bulgaria, according to an Alpha Research opinion poll quoted by the Focus Information Agency. The numbers do not reflect public reaction to the Octopus operation because the polling data was collected before the news broke. However, the numbers do reflect reaction to an earlier crime-busting operation known as The Impudent. Some 74% of respondents said they approved, the article said.