Passports-for-bribes in Bulgaria: The authorities are hiding the truth

Автор: Няма коментари Сподели:
The Ministry of Justice in Sofia

Posted By: Editors February 11, 2019

A manipulated verification has masked the truth about the issuance of Bulgarian citizenship to foreigners with criminal dossiers, according to an investigative report by Valia Ahchieva, which she contributed exclusively for

Two years ago, I came across information that Bulgarian citizenship has been granted to foreign citizens who have received convictions in European courts for crimes committed and are being searched by the services. I made a reportage-investigation broadcast on the public television BNT.

Bulgaria’s vice-president, Iliana Iotova, announced that she would no longer sign the Bulgarian citizenship decrees until everything was verified. There followed publications in Bulgarian media about corrupt practices and schemes for the sale of Bulgarian citizenship.

And then suddenly everything was quiet.

This lasted until the summer of last year, when the MP from the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS) Yordan Tsonev quoted from the tribune of the National Assembly facts from my investigation about those wanted persons who received Bulgarian citizenship. DPS requested for a commission to be set up in the National Assembly to investigate this. A case file was immediately opened at the Supreme Administrative Prosecution Office, by the Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Assya Petrova. Consequently the Minister of Justice Tsetska Tsacheva was asked to provide a report in connection with media reports that 114 persons wanted by Interpol had received Bulgarian citizenship.

This is the third check by the Supreme Administrative Prosecution Office on how Bulgarian citizenship is granted. In 2014 and in 2016, prosecutors’ inspections have found violations of the law, for which the Chairman of the State Agency for the Bulgarians Abroad was seized.

Again, everything went quiet away after the commission in the National Assembly was created and after the verification in the Ministry of Justice began.

Until all of a sudden, on 29 October, 2018, early in the morning, the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office entered the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad and arrested 20 agents of the agency, in connection with the investigation of schemes for the sale of Bulgarian citizenship. Charges were brought to four people, including agency chairman Petar Haralampiev.

Since then, the subject has attracted the attention of foreign media. That is because selling Bulgarian citizenship means, in fact, human trafficking. Third-country nationals obtain Bulgarian identity documents and go to Europe. Some want to find work, some go to steal, and others – to commit other crimes.

And among them are persons already with convictions. They have been in prison of a European country and then have been imposed an entry ban in the Schengen space under the 1987/2006 Regulation.

And what do these persons do?

They come to Bulgaria, they file submit their application to the State Agency for the Bulgarians Abroad and… they become Bulgarian citizens. And they return to Europe again, but with Bulgarian passports.

And when they once again caught by the European law enforcement authorities, those send a message to a special department in the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior – “SIRENE – Bulgaria” in the Directorate “International Operational Cooperation”.

The European services ask the Bulgarian authorities: “Did you give Bulgarian citizenship to that person who is wanted and is banned from entering Schengen? What will you do about it?”

After receiving such messages from the Ministry of Interior, a new procedure started in the “Bulgarian Citizenship” Directorate of the Ministry of Justice. This time – to withdraw the naturalization of the wanted person in question. And this was again done with a decree of the Vice President and on the grounds that the person has hidden information about his criminal registration, which could have been a reason for refusal.

This is what the verification assigned by the Minister of Justice Tsetska Tsacheva was supposed to find.

They should have checked all files in the Bulgarian Citizenship Directorate for the past 10 or 15 years and verify – WHICH PERSONS HAVE BEEN STRIPPED OF BULGARIAN CITIZENSHIP AND WHY?

By answering this question, the truth would be revealed, about how and why, for years, Bulgarian citizenship was granted to convicted and wanted persons in Europe, banned from entry into the Schengen.

Instead of carrying out a full and objective check, the verification was manipulated. Moreover, this took place at a time when the noisy arrests of officials triggered the interest of foreign media about the sale of Bulgarian passports.

This is how the Minister of Justice Tsetska Tsacheva presented to the Supreme Administrative Prosecutor’s Office a report according to which NO DATA were found about the cited 114 cases of persons wanted by Interpol who obtained Bulgarian passports.

The same was reported to the media – that this was a FALSE ALERT.

No. IT WASN’T FALSE, according to the documents I have. [This website is in possession of the documents.]

Branko M. is from Macedonia. And he has Macedonian citizenship.

His first criminal registration in Germany is from 1999. Branko was sentenced to 9 years and 9 months in prison on charges of violating the Narcotics Act and his data were entered into the SIS Schengen Information System. He was sentenced to imprisonment in Germany from 22.09.2006 to 09.08.2011. Subsequently, on 9 August 2011, Branko M. was deported from Germany. But, only a week later, on 16 August 2011, he was declared as searched to be arrested for deportation/expulsion from the country by the Foreigner’s service in Frankfurt.

He was also It was also declared as wanted a national level by the Prosecutor’s Office in the same city to serve the remainder of his sentence.

The same Branko, who was declared wanted in August 2011 for deportation from Germany, received Bulgarian citizenship the following year – in 2012. This took place with the approval of the Council for Citizenship under the Minister of Justice and with Decree signed by the Vice President of Bulgaria.

And Branko goes back to Europe with his Bulgarian passport, despite his Schengen ban.

Until they catch him again in Europe. And then, from Germany, they send a signal to the Bulgarian Directorate “International Operational Cooperation” of the Interior ministry, sector “SIRENE”, informing them that they have a so-called Form for coincidence with respect of Macedonian citizen Branko M., under Schengen ban, but who acquired Bulgarian citizenship in 2012. And that despite the ban, the person goes around in the Schengen space with his Bulgarian passport.

The task of these SIRENE bureaux is to maintain up-to-date and correct information in the Schengen database.

And after this signal of the German services, a new procedure at the Ministry of Justice was open. Two months later, on 18 May 2013, there was a new decree by the Vice President – to withdraw the Bulgarian citizenship of Branko M.

There dozens of such cases.

Why did the inspection at the Ministry of Justice not reveal the name of the Macedonian citizen Branko M., convicted and wanted in Germany, with a Schengen identification number of Germany, who nevertheless received Bulgarian citizenship?

Why did the inspection not find the other persons?

This is because of the subject of the inspection was manipulated, narrowed and directed to search in the wrong direction.

The real question is why has the Council for Citizenship with the Minister of Justice NOT BEEN AWARE of the sentences of and the status of wanted persons of the applicants for citizenship?

Why did the State Agency for National Security (DANS) and the Ministry of Interior not give negative opinions regarding these applicants, in the process of considering their applications in the Citizenship Council? Why didn’t DANS checked with this department of the Ministry of Interior – “SIRENE – DMOS”, are there any data for these applicants in the Schengen Information System? Why didn’t DANS reporte that they do not have an adequate system for such a check, and in practice the granting of Bulgarian citizenship depends only on the good faith of the candidates? That is, the person to writes in the application that he or she has a Schengen ban or a conviction.

Even now, such data exist somewhere in the Ministry of Justice folders. However, the inspection ordered by Minister Tsacheva did not even touch them, because the task assigned was “WHO HAS RECEIVED BULGARIAN CITIZENSHIP, DESPITE THE NEGATIVE OPINIONS OF THE MINISTRY OF INTERIOR AND DANS”?

A wrong question was asked, because the correct question would have revealed the truth.

Instead of screening the documents about the persons who have been deprived of Bulgarian citizenship and the reasons for this, the report on the justice ministry verification describes a number of cases that have nothing to do with the issue. For example, the Ministry of the Interior has given a negative opinion to granting Bulgarian citizenship to two deaf twin sisters of Afghan nationality with refugee status because one stole a deodorant from the streets in Sofia and the other stole blue jeans.

A truly objective review at the Justice Department should have answered the question:

For how many persons the Council of Citizenship under the Ministry of Justice has received information from the “SIRENE – DMOS” Section of the Ministry of Interior in the Ministry of Justice in the last 10 years, that they have been convicted, wanted and with a Schengen ban, and for how many of them was the naturalization canceled by the Vice President’s Decree?

Only then will the scheme be uncovered.

Somewhere in Europe, in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Greece, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, people of Macedonian, Albanian, Moldovan and Serb citizenship, are being convicted, some are jailed, then expelled to their countries, but they arrive in Bulgaria, go to the counter of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, and receive a Bulgarian passport.

And they return to Europe.

When the wanted Macedonian citizen Branko M. arrived at the Ministry of Justice desk to receive his Bulgarian passport, the employee exclaimed to her colleagues:

“Wow, this man has grown old!?”

Well yes. Branco has grown older. A go-between has brought his documents with his photo in the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad in Sofia, requesting Bulgarian citizenship for Branko as early as June 2006, apparently, while the drug lawsuit against him was still ongoing in Germany. Two months before Branko went in jail in Germany, the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice opened his dossier for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship.

Branko received his Bulgarian passport 6 years later, when he left prison. While the German authorities were searching for him to be detained for expulsion, he came to the counter in Bulgaria and personally received his passport. As a ticket for returning back to Europe.

                                                                           Valia Ahchieva        

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