Bulgaria Appeals Court Keeps Notorious 'Octopus' behind Bars
Controversial Bulgarian businessman and ex-secret agent Alexey Petrov will remain permanently in detention, the country's court of appeals has ruled.
Petrov, who has been tried in the complicated high-profile 'Octopus' case for organized crime, was arrested at the beginning of May in the court hall after two witnesses said he pressured them to change their testimonials.
Petrov was first arrested in February 2010 and was not released on own recognizance until October, having spent what he claims to have been 8 months of abuse in the prison, during which his health allegedly deteriorated.
Petrov, a former employee of the State Agency for National Security, DANS, murky businessman and alleged crime boss, together with five other people, is facing charges of racketeering and extortion.
Petrov – a former employee of the State Agency for National Security, DANS, murky businessman and alleged crime boss, together with five other people, is facing charges of racketeering and extortion. He was in a special operation codenamed "Octopus."
At the beginning of May the key witness, Plamen Ustinov, former employee of Bulgaria's National Security Services, NSO, testified in Court that he came across the defendant in the town of Teteven three days ago and the later attempted to convince him to scrape his testimony. He further explained that this had been the third such meeting between them while various individuals had been coming to him ever since the arrest to offer him money to give up on appearing on the witness stand.
In an earlier Court session in another high-profile case involving kidnappings and codenamed The Impudent, Ustinov told the magistrates that Petrov had assigned him to murder Litex CEO, Grisha Ganchev, a petrol businessman and owner of Litex football club. (Bulgaria recently launched the mass production of cars under the Chinese Great Wall badge by Ganchev's Litex Motors near the northern city of Lovech.) The "Octopus" had further asked him to kill Vasil Bozhkov AKA The Scull, a murky Bulgarian businessman, as well as Valentin Shotev, who is also a witness in the "Octopus" case.
The detainees in the "Octopus" case were initially charged with organizing prostitution, drug trafficking, money laundering, racketeering, tax fraud and embezzlement.
In the summer of 2010, the prosecutor declared that it was impossible to solve the case with one trial and opened two trials against a total of 25 defendants, deploying a team of three prosecutors.
Petrov was released on house arrest in October 2010 after spending 8 months under arrest, which in February 2011 was changed to own recognizance. He ran for President in the end-October elections.
He continues to insist that the case against him is political retribution. He has vowed to sue for libel all who testify against him, stressing that this case will end up being a serious blow to national security and a humiliation for Bulgaria. In his words the cabinet and personally Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, are racketeering him.
He further denied pressuring any witness and explained that the meeting in question had been requested by Ustinov himself.
At the end of January, Ex-England Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith officially joined Petrov's defense team, hinting for journalists that he believes his client is innocent.
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