The Guardian: Bulgarian Businessman Killed in Broad Daylight in Sofia
An influential businessman has been shot dead outside his office in broad daylight in Sofia, in a case likely to raise questions about organised crime in Bulgaria, writes the Guardian.
The killing of Petar Hristov in an affluent Sofia neighbourhood on Monday happened just days after Bulgaria took the reins of the EU’s six-month rotating presidency for the first time since joining the bloc in 2007.
Petar Hristov, a 49-year-old executive said to have close ties to Bulgaria’s ruling party, was shot in the chest while getting into his jeep shortly after 10am on Monday morning. He was taken to hospital but died of his wounds half an hour later. Witnesses said the shots came from a nearby car.
Bulgaria’s chief of national police, Hristo Terziyski, told reporters it was likely business interests were behind the killing.
Hristov was the owner of a large dairy company, Laktima, and also had interests in construction, real estate and tourism.
According to Bulgarian media, Hristov was close to Bulgaria’s ruling European Development of Bulgaria (Gerb) party and had taken part in numerous party events. The daily newspaper Dnevnik described him as an ally of the prominent Gerb politician, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, a former interior minister, who is deputy chair of the party.
According to Gerb’s website, Hristov had campaigned in 2016 for the party’s presidential candidate, Tsetska Tsacheva, who went on to be defeated by Rumen Radev, a political newcomer allied to the Socialist party.
The killing of Hristov comes amid close scrutiny from Brussels, which has criticised Bulgaria for doing too little to fight criminal gangs and official corruption. Three weeks ago, a senior tax official was shot in his car in central Sofia. He remains in a critical condition.
Bulgaria has been regularly chided for falling short in the fight against corruption and judicial reform in annual monitoring reports that it has been subject to since it joined the EU in 2007. However, EU officials believe the government has made strides in tackling organised crime since the influence of criminal gangs was described “as pervasive in many spheres of Bulgarian life” in a US embassy cable in 2005.
An EU report published in November concluded that “a broad change in the criminal environment has taken place over the past 10 years, with organised crime becoming less visibly violent and constituting less of a threat to the stability of society than in the past”.
The report added that “the overall picture in Bulgaria [is] therefore becoming more similar to the situation in some other member states”, a view a view shared by some independent experts.
The commission, however, called for greater transparency in reporting organised crime and has raised concerns about some judicial reforms. In 2016, Bulgaria’s interior ministry told local media it was monitoring 424 organised crime groups that were operating in the country.
The EU is also monitoring government efforts to crack down on corruption in high places. Bulgaria has been named as the most corrupt country in the EU by Transparency International and activists say high-level officials have not been prosecuted for corruption.
Last week, President Radev vetoed an anti-corruption bill, saying the proposals would not be effective and could be used to persecute political opponents.
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