This is the second article from an investigative report by Valia Ahchieva.
In the Bulgarian Parliament, an ad-hoc Committee of Inquiry is examining all data, facts and circumstances regarding the reports in Bulgarian and international media about the scandalous bribery scheme for the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship by foreign citizens.
After the meeting, Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said one of the issues discussed was “to what extent Bulgarian citizenship may be acquired by persons who have a criminal record in Interpol, etc.”
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has ordered an inquiry by the Ministry of Interior and DANS (the State Agency for National Security), which should clarify whether there are cases in which Bulgarian citizenship has been granted to persons who have a criminal past.
Verification after verification
The first was made by the Ministry of Justice. It took place rapidly and Minister Tsetska Tsacheva reported that there were no such data about wanted persons from Interpol who had received Bulgarian citizenship.
But the documents in our possession reveal otherwise.
And the case of the Macedonian citizen Branko M. from my investigation proved that a convicted person in Germany, before going to jail, can file the documents for Bulgarian citizenship at the Ministry of Justice.
He may stay in prison for 5 years, then he may be deported, he may be wanted for arrest, they may impose a ban on him in the Schengen Information System (SIS), but … nevertheless, the wanted person can safely go to the counter at the justice ministry in Sofia and receive his Bulgarian passport . And with this document, he can hit the road.
But it’s not only Branko M…
Apparently we have to remind some facts of the past two years to the civil servants of the Ministry of Justice. They have obviously forgotten them, since the result of the inspection of the Inspectorate was that they did not issue Bulgarian passports to wanted and convicted persons.
The case of Ljubisha P.
The Council for Citizenship of the Ministry of Justice decides to retrieve the naturalization (to take away Bulgarian citizenship) from Ljubisha P. from Macedonia.
He has received Bulgarian citizenship under decree by the Vice President of Bulgaria dated 20.12.2016.
But the International Operational Cooperation Directorate of the Interior Ministry of Bulgaria a request has been received from Interpol-Skopje to declare the person as wanted for detention and subsequent extradition. And on 31 October 2018, the Ministry of Interior informed the Ministry of Justice.
According to Interpol Skopje, on 19 September 2015, the wanted person Ljubisha P. has entered from Bulgaria by car and the Macedonian border officials found 9.78 g of cocaine hidden in a bag. The person was sentenced to 20 December 2017 by the Court in the city of Strumica, Macedonia, to one year’s imprisonment for the crime – of illicit manufacture and distribution of narcotic substances and precursors.
What opinions did the Ministry of Interior and DANS gave to the Council for Citizenship in 2016, when Ljubisha P.’s application for Bulgarian citizenship was granted?
What have they received for it?
The year is 2018.
The case is Blagoja K.
On 28 June 2018, the Council for Citizenship of the Ministry of Justice decided to revoke abolish the Bulgarian citizenship of Blagoja K. from Macedonia.
He received a Bulgarian passport by decree of the Bulgarian Vice President of 18 June 2010.
But on 2 March 2018, 29 March 2018 and 27 April 2018, the Directorate “International Operational Cooperation” of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior sends notifications to the Ministry of Justice that Blagoja K. has been banned from entering Schengen and has been issued a Schengen identification number by Norway.
The person was found guilty on 9 February 2007 by the Borgarting Court of Appeal for committing the following crimes under the Criminal Code of Norway – a computer crime and qualified theft in complicity, and convicted to 2 years and 6 months of imprisonment.
In July 2006, in Oslo, the person was able to access data on a large number of bank cards by placing a reading device at two ATMs.
From 31 July 2006 to 8 August 2006 Blagoja K. was an accomplice in the fraudulent use of bank cards. Norwegian police authorities inform the Bulgarian side that the person has entered and resided illegally on the territory of the Kingdom of Norway.
The SIS alert (the ban to enter Schengen) was issued on 12 March 2008 and has a validity period until 13 December 2019.
What opinions did the Ministry of the Interior and issued with respect to Blagoja K. in 2010 when his application for Bulgarian citizenship was approved by the Council for Citizenship Council, while his ban on entering Schengen was already 2 years old?
The case of Ilija S.
On 17 May 2018, the Council for Citizenship decided to revoke the Bulgarian citizenship of Ilija S. from Macedonia.
He received Bulgarian citizenship by Decree of the Vice President of 17 November 2011.
However, on 21 September 2017 and on 12 February 2018, the Directorate “International Operational Cooperation” of the Ministry of Interior informed the Ministry of Justice that Ilija S. is denied entry into Schengen, with a SIS alert from Italy
The measure was imposed by the Piacenza Prefecture for illegal entry and residence on the territory of the country, the measure being issued on 29 September 2005 and valid until 17 September 2019.
What opinions did DANS and the Interior Ministry issue in 2011, when Ilija S.’s application was honoured, while he was with a 6 years-old ban to enter Schengen territory?
The case of Ace I.
On 4 April 2018 the Council for Citizenship decided to revoke the Bulgarian citizenship of Ace I.from Macedonia.
He received a Bulgarian passport with a Decree by the Vice President of 26 July 2012.
However, on 25 January 2018, the Directorate for International Operational Cooperation of the Ministry of Interior informed the Ministry of Justice by letter that Ace I. is banned from entry and residence on the territory of the countries of the Schengen area with a SIS alert from Hungary.
Ace I was sentenced by the 18th and 19th District Court in Budapest on 26 January 2012 for drug abuse in large quantities with as penalty – expulsion for a period of 4 years.
How did DANS and the Ministry of Interior check te convicted person Ace I.? On 26 January 2012 he was sentenced, and after 6 months – on 26 July 2012, he already has a Bulgarian passport. How come?
The case of Marko K.
On 13 April 2017, the Council for Citizenship decided to revoke the naturalization of Marko K.
He is from Albania and has received Bulgarian citizenship under decree by the Vice President of 27 December 2012.
With letters of 26 August 2013. and 28 November 2016, the International Operations Co-operation Directorate of the Ministry of Interior notified the Ministry of Justice that the person was banned to enter Schengen with the SIS alert from Greece. The Greek authorities have informed the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior that Marko K. has been arrested several times for illegal entry and residence in Greece and falsification of documents. He was sentenced to 4 months in prison, deported on 13 May 2011, and the measure in the SIS is mandatory and valid from 26 April 2011.
How did the DANS and the Ministry of Interior examine the candidate for Bulgarian passport Marko K. and how did he receive Bulgarian citizenship in December 2012, a year and 8 months after he was banned to enter Schengen?
The list of such cases could be longer.
But, they all show the same scheme.
Persons already indexed in the Schengen Information System (SIS) who have been convicted and banned from entering Schengen come to Bulgaria and file applications for Bulgarian citizenship. First, they queue at the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad from where they receive the Certificate of Bulgarian ancestry, and then they cross the garden in front of the National Theater and stand at the other counter, at the Ministry of Justice, to file the application.
And then the work of the services – DANS and the Ministry of Interior starts. How do they check each candidate for Bulgarian citizenship?
What facts do they collect for these persons to write a positive or negative opinion and submit it to the Council for Citizenship at the Ministry of Justice?
Because it’s on the base of this assessment that the decision is taken – whether to grant a Bulgarian passport.
And here comes the problem for the Bulgarian services. They look for data on their database systems, but … there is no data.
Because these people have come to Bulgaria as phantoms. They do not live in Bulgaria. They do not work in Bulgaria. They do not even commit crimes in Bulgaria to make sure they don’t appear in Bulgarian databases.
In the Bulgarian Citizenship Act there is a requirement for foreigners to have at least 5 years of permanent residence in Bulgaria in order to obtain a Bulgarian passport. But there is a big exception: for those who present a Certificate of Bulgarian ancestry. Practice has so far shown that this exception generates corrupt schemes. It supersedes replaces the objectives of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act. It also supersedes the policy toward Bulgarians.
According to this exception in the law, if you obtain a certificate of Bulgarian ancestry from the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, then you don’t need to be physically in Bulgaria to obtain a Bulgarian passport.
You can visit Bulgaria, drink a coffee and file your application. Then you can come another time, have another coffee and … you will get your passport.
This is why DANS and the Ministry of Interior cannot find in their systems data on convictions, prohibitions and arrest warrants of this kind of candidates for Bulgarians. Because they are like phantoms.
Well, there’s a way to find something. If, from the DANS building, the civil servants would make the effort to go to the Ministry of Interior building – in the Directorate “International Operational Cooperation” – sector “SIRENE”, and check the Schengen electronic system. But it is only for those who have sentences in Europe.
How about sentences in third countries?
There is no electronic system for this at all. The check is complicated and long. And it requires a lot of work with Interpol offices in these third countries.
And as there are no ways to check, I wonder how reliable are the decisions of the Bulgarian Services?
What is their face value?
How reliable these decision are, as we now know that some people are held in prison somewhere in Europe, while the Ministry of Interior and DANS don’t notice?
And when they get out of prison … they get their Bulgarian passport.
Only when they are caught somewhere in Europe, we learn the facts about them.