Illegal Antiques' Channels and Lyudmila Zhivkova's Role Part II

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Illegal Antiques??™ Channels and Lyudmila Zhivkova??™s Role Part II: Illegal Antiques' Channels and Lyudmila Zhivkova's Role Part II Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (Sofia Photo Agency)

"The Illegal Antiques Channels and Lyudmila Zhivkova's Role", is an investigative material by Darik radio crime reporter Bogdana Lazarova on the state-organized antiques' trafficking in Bulgaria. It was published in the book, called "Affair", written by Bogdana Lazarova and her colleague Nikolay Hristov. is publishing the whole material, dividing it into several installments.

1981 was a strange and very peculiar year for Bulgaria. A power blast on the radio "Free Europe's" building in Munich took place on February 22 and destroyed almost entirely the Russian, Czech and Georgian editor's offices. On May 13, this very same year, the Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca fired at Pope John Paul II at the "Saint Peter" square in Rome, and from then on the "Bulgarian Trace" in the attempt on the Pope's life begun to spread out. On July 21 of the same year, the Polish President Leh Valensa signed his historical agreement with the Polish government. On the same day, July 21 1981, Lyudmila Zhivkova, Chair of the Culture Committee and daughter of Todor Zhivkov, the first man in the Communist Party and in the Bulgarian State, died. So, in this environment, during this same 1981 began the secret proceedings against the people from "Cultural Heritage", known as "Lyudmila Zhivkova's Circle". Despite being sentenced in 1982, in 1990 they were released from jail. The case against them was afterwards renewed and the final judgment - decree for the discontinuation due to legal prescription from the Military Prosecutor's Office beared the date July 16, 2003. The case has been, in reality, dragging on for 22 years.

A little bit after Lyudmila Zhivkova realized that Party bosses were conducting large scale treasure-hunting under the cover of the Secret Services and the Military an decided to clean house for the State's benefit, a strange and striking coincidence happened - on November 2, 1973 she was gravely injured in an auto accident with another accident occurring on her way to the hospital. She was in coma fro several days while the driver of the heavy truck who had caused the accident disappeared and information about him remains unavailable till today. Another strange coincidence - the accident happened only a month after another one - on October 3 a strange heavy truck caused a side collision with the black government issued automobile "Chaika" carrying the Secretary of the Italian Communist Party Enrico Berlinguer, who had just arrived on an official visit in Bulgaria. It is still argued if the incident has been just a regular auto accident or an attempt on Berlinguer's life.

From the mid 70's, after becoming the Head of the Culture Committee, Lyudmila Zhivkova began surrounding herself with her own protГ©gГ©s. While specializing and studying in London, she became close to Krustio Mutafchiev, serving as Chief of the Administrative and Financial Office at our Embassy there, from 1966 to 1978 with a three-year interruption. Mutafchiev later became on of the bosses of "Cultural Heritage". After returning from London, at the end of 1978 he was appointed Chief Specialist at the Foreign Ministry while since September 1979 he was assigned to lead a group of employees at "Cultural Heritage".

While he was at "Cultural Heritage", the writer Georgi Markov was murdered in London, on September 7, 1978 on the "Waterloo" bridge. The weapon used becomes known as "the Bulgarian Umbrella'. Shortly after, Scotland Yard initiated an investigation of the "Bulgarian Umbrella" version. It is presumed until today that the information has been leaked by a Bulgarian intelligence agent. In his only interview, a little bit before dieing, Krustio Mutafchiev says that Dimitar Dimitrov, officer at the First Central Secret Service's Bureau has been singled as the "snitch". Mutafchiev himself, however, has, seemingly been an agent at same Bureau: Zhivko Popov entrusted me with the task to work as a spy and to be in charge of the administration of the newly created agency "Cultural Heritage". I managed the materials of the group of Liliyana Todorova and Hristo Dzavela and the general operational leadership of Zhivko Popov and remained as the person to see to the Agency's funds while being exclusively warned by Petar Mladenov that the expenses' approval is to come from the three Ministers in charge of the Agency's activity.

Who was really the "mole" spilling out in front of the British Intelligence the truth about the "Bulgarian Umbrella" remains a mystery even today. Another "mole" leaked serious information about the attempt on Pope John Paul II's life and his identity has not been revealed either; it is known only that he has had a very high ranking in the Bulgarian's Intelligence and State. This was, however, the second huge failure of the Bulgarian Intelligence. Actually, the first version about KGB and Moscow ordering Secret Services in Bulgaria to murder the Slavic-born Pope was voiced for the first time not by the reporter Claire Sterling, but by Iordan Mantarov, ex-Secret Services officer, spying in the French capital from 1979 until the same 1981 and then remaining in Paris as immigrant. Actually, afterwards, he has been questioned regarding Bulgaria's participation in the attempt on the Pope's life. For an intelligence colonel, already known to be clearly connected with the attempt on the Pop's life and the so-called: Bulgarian Trace" to remain as immigrant in Paris was, however, considered another serious failure of the Secret Services in Bulgaria. Around that time, another officer from the Bulgarian Intelligence stayed in Paris and he was, on top of everything else, part of the "super secret" staff of the First Central Secret Services Bureau. He is the reporter Vladimir Kostov. In her book, Claire Sterling writes that the Zhivko Popov has been then the coordinator of the Bulgarian espionage in Western Europe. A serious mistake, made by Ivan Tomov Donchev, another officer from the First Central Secret Services Bureau and the person considered by the Western Intelligence Agencies as the connection between Bulgarian Secret Services and the Italian terrorist organization "The Red Brigades', added to the huge failures. If he had taken upon himself to establish such connection, this, certainly, was the next, quite serious failure.

If Zhivko Popov, had indeed, supervised and monitored Bulgarian spies in Western Europe, all these failures, have been, without doubt, attributed to him. And the version that this was the real reason for him being brought to trail and not the formal one - for acquiring huge amounts from the Cultural Heritage's' fund, seems quite logical. His status at the First Central Secret Services Bureau is shown by the reference given about him regarding his trail for the "Cultural Heritage" and "Fund 1300 years Bulgaria". From 1952 to 1955 he has been an officer with the Internal Army. He is fired from there in October of 1955 due to cutbacks. Until December of 1956, he is a self-employed Secretary at the "Culture House" of the Interior Ministry. From December 8, 1956 until May 10, 1962 he is an officer at the 7th Secret Services' Bureau from where he voluntarily resigns. Three years later he is accepted for real military service at the First Central Secret Services Bureau with the rank major. His career there ends on April 30, 1981 when he is fired from his post of Chief of the Acting Reserve Department with the ranking of lieutenant-colonel.
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