WikiLeaks: Bulgarian Soccer Symbol of Organized Crime, Corruption

Sports | January 3, 2011, Monday // 10:43| Views: 4242 | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: WikiLeaks: Bulgarian Soccer Symbol of Organized Crime, Corruption The cables, published by the El Pais newspaper, are entitled "Bulgarian Soccer Receives Red Card for Corruption" and were sent less than a year ago – on January 14, 2010. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Since the fall of Communism, Bulgarian soccer has become a symbol of organized crime's corrupt influence on important institutions, according to fresh diplomatic cables of the US embassy in Sofia, revealed on WikiLeaks.

The cables, published by the El Pais newspaper, are entitled "Bulgarian Soccer Receives Red Card for Corruption" and were sent less than a year ago – on January 14, 2010.

The confidential document says that Bulgarian soccer clubs are widely believed to be directly or indirectly controlled by organized crime figures who use their teams as way to legitimize themselves, launder money, and make a fast buck.

It points out that despite rampant rumors of match fixing, money laundering, and tax evasion, there have been few arrests or successful prosecutions.

The document features the following list of what have been described as the most well-known connections with organized crime in Bulgaria's football:

- Todor Batkov, the proxy and front-man for the infamous Russian-Israeli businessman Michael Cherney, aka "Mikhail Chorny," owns the popular Sofia team Levski FC.

- the powerful business conglomerate TIM owns Cherno More Varna.

- the notorious Marinovs, aka "Margin brothers," who are on trial for murder, racketeering, and organized crime, own Slavia.

- Nickolay Gigov, an alleged arms dealer, owns Lokomotive Sofia.

- Grisha Ganchev, a known money launderer and organized crime figure, owns Litex.

- Vassil Krumov Bozhkov, aka "the Skull" was the former owner of CSKA, one of the most important Bulgarian teams.

The US embassy officials laud the new center-right government for staring to investigate tax evasion and money laundering allegations against some soccer clubs, but point out that given the deep roots of organized crime in Bulgarian soccer, this has had little impact so far.

“Cleaning up Bulgarian soccer would be a public sign of the seriousness of the Prime Minister, himself a soccer fanatic, in combating organized crime,“ the cables say.

FULL TEXT of the fresh diplomatic cables of the US embassy in Sofia, as published by El Pais newspaper, READ HERE

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