Deputy Environment Minister and Nine Others Charged with Illegal Waste Imports
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - Deputy Environment and Water Minister Krassimir Zhivkov and nine other persons have been charged with illegal actions related to waste imports and management. Seven of them are accused of participating in an organized crime group which includes public officers. The other three will be held liable for tax offences, the Prosecutor General's Spokesperson Siika Mileva said at a news briefing here on Saturday.
According to Genka Brezashka, one of three supervising prosecutors in the pretrial proceedings, the public officers in the crime group are Zhivkov and the director of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water (RIEW) in the northern city of Pleven.
Zhivkov was arrested on Thursday for 24 hours. Back then, Mileva explained that he is suspected of assisting the issue of notifications for waste imports mostly from Italy to companies which did not meet the corresponding requirements. To get these notifications issued, Zhivkov indirectly pressured Environment Ministry employees, and those who refused to cooperate were forced to resign.
Brezashka said that the Deputy Environment Minister is a very close friend of businessmen brothers Atanas and Plamen Bobokov. He went beyond the limits of the law to help the brothers carry out unlawful actions related to the import and export of waste. These actions were absolutely fictitious and were performed by companies financed and controlled by the Bobokovs.
Brezashka confirmed that Zhivkov, in his capacity of Deputy Minister of Environment and Water, exerted pressure on employees subordinate to him in the Ministry and on RIEW directors. The RIEW director in Pleven condoned bogus inspections which resulted in the reporting of false information.
The supervising prosecutors will ask the Specialized Criminal Court to remand four members of the crime group in custody, Mileva said. House arrest will be proposed for two other members, and 1 million leva bail for yet another. The three persons who are not members of the group but are charged with tax offences will be free on various amounts of bail depending on their financial position.
Remand in custody will be proposed for one of the Bobokov brothers, and 1 million leva bail for the other, Brezashka said.
In the home of Atanas Bobokov, investigators found a colour photograph, on the back of which are the names of well-known personalities, some of them murdered in the past, Mileva said. Large amounts of money, to the tune of 70 million US dollars or 100 million to 300 million leva, are jotted down next to the names.
In the home of the other brother, Plamen Bobokov, law enforcers found CVs with photos of employees of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, and a CV with a photo of a supervising prosecutor in the case against fugitive gambling mogul Vassil Bojkov.
The authorities have also impounded many accounting documents, contracts, letters of authority, valuables and luxury cars, Mileva added.
Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Ivailo Ivanov noted that investigative proceedings have been carried out at over 40 addresses. The law enforcement operation was organized in a matter of hours and was conducted in several regions.
The interim Administrative Director of the Specialized Prosecution Office, Angel Iliev, said the evidence gathered so far shows that the group has committed environmental, documentary and tax offences involving Environment Ministry employees.
A joint Bulgarian-Italian team has been set up on the initiative of the Bulgarian side. Some of the above-mentioned letterbox companies are registered in Italy.
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Tsvetan Kostadinov, Mayor of Cherven Bryag, Pleven Region, told BTA on Saturday that he has alerted the police and the Pleven RIEW about bales of waste of unclear origin spotted near the town. The waste is buried under the ground. Local inspectors estimate its amount to be about 350 cubic metres. It was probably dumped from two or three TIR trucks. The place is not accessible by car.
The RIEW told the Mayor that they will launch a probe on Monday. The prosecution service has also been notified about the case. MY/VE