Bulgarian 'Killers' Head, 2 Gang Members Get Life without Parole
A Bulgarian court has delivered the toughest sentence to the president of the country´s Sumo Federation, founding him guilty of leading a gang, involved in murders, beatings, arsons and explosions.
Shumen Regional Court judges in the high-profile criminal case codenamed The Killers sentenced on Thursday to life without parole Petar Stoyanov the "Chieftain".
Two more defendants in the case - Georgi Valev and Vasil Kostov aka Vasko Ketsa (The Sneaker) - received the same sentence.
The three stood trial together with three other members of the gang - Yanko Popov, Petar Atmadzhov, and Raycho Stoynev.
All defendants pressed for acquittals, claiming lack of proofs for their role in the crimes.
They were among a number of people arrested in the summer of 2010 in what has been dubbed special operation "Killers" by Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, and were later charged with three contract murders, two beatings, two arsons and one explosion.
The operation was carried out by the police, DANS, and the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office in connection with the murder of the controversial Samokov football club president Yuriy Galev.
Petar Stoyanov is a leading figure in the Bulgarian sumo world. He has a silver and two bronze world medals in amateur sumo. The "Chieftain" is also a close friend to Bulgaria's best sumo wrestler Kotooshu.
After the arrest, the administration of now-former President, Georgi Parvanov, came out with an official statement refuting media allegations that Stoyanov is or has ever been an adviser to the President, but the chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science, Children, Youth and Sports, confirmed that Stoyanov was an adjunct advisor for them.
The "Chieftain" has denied any connection to organized crime.
Vasil Kostov is believed to have been the right hand of the Chieftain, while Georgi Valev – the person who ordered two of the murders. Yanko Popov is charged as one of the perpetrators and with being one of the gangs ringleaders.
Petar Atmadzhov has taken part in two murders and two beatings. Raycho Stoynev had helped two killers hide in a mountain cabin, which he managed.
At the time, Tsvetanov announced known -criminal, Yanko Popov aka Tutsi, had ordered the murder of Yuriy Galev while the President of the Bulgarian Sumo Federation was one of the organizers Galev's murder. The other person ordering the murder was identified by the Minister as Vasil Kostov aka Vasko Ketsa (The Sneaker), who had also organized the murder of Shumen businessman Rumen Rashev.
Another known criminal, Metodi Ivanov, had been the keeper of the gun with which Galev was murdered. The actual shooter was identified as Georgi Petkov aka Damchi.
Part of the group members are also connected to some other high-profile mafia killings in the recent past, Tsvetanov said, but did not offer more details.
In July, the 24 Chasa (24 Hours) daily published an article informing the "Killers" received an order for Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's assassination about 6-7 months ago, citing sources from the investigation. The Interior Minister declined commenting.
Tsvetanov, however, has hinted the "Killers" may be behind the slaying of Bulgaria's top banker Emil Kyulev. Emil Kyulev, one of the richest men in Bulgaria, was shot and killed in 2005. His murder was particularly shocking because he did not fit the profile of an underworld boss.
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