The Bulgarian mafia is an informal term to describe any number of organized crime groups originating from Bulgaria.

Organised crime groups and activitiesEdit

Bulgarian organized crime groups are involved in a wide range of activities, including drug trafficking, cigarette smuggling, human trafficking, prostitution, illicit antiquities trafficking, extortion (often under the cover of ostensible security and insurance companies) and the arms trade. They appear to have connections with the Russian Mafia, Serbian Mafia, and the Italian Cosa Nostra.

Living criminal figuresEdit

Contract killingsEdit

Since the fall of communism in 1989, there have been more than 150 high rank heads mafia-style contract killings in Bulgaria, frequently perpetrated in the centre of the capital, Sofia, in broad daylight. There has been at most 1 conviction[2] in these cases to date, though sources differ.[3][4] This is frequently blamed on the alleged widespread corruption at all levels of the Bulgarian judicial system including the Prosecutor's Office.

The cost of contract killings carried out by highly professional snipers has been estimated at approximately £5,000-£50,000 The more important the more expensive one worth .[2]

Some of the most prominent assassination targets of recent years (in chronological order):

  • Vasil Iliev - Founder of VIS1 and VIS2. Ambushed by an unknown killer on his way to Club "Mirage" on 25 April 1995.
  • Andrey Lukanov - former Bulgarian prime minister (1990). Killed on 2 October 1996.
  • Ivo Karamanski, aka "The Godfather" - Shot by a drunk acquaintance in front of his house on 20 December 1998.
  • Pantyu Pantev, aka "Polly" - Drug smuggler, initially affiliated with VIS, later with SIC. He was rumoured to have stolen half a ton of cocaine from the Russian or Colombian mafia. Several assassination attempts, including one with a missile,[5] all attempts for different reasons from different rivals . He was shot dead on the Caribbean island of Aruba on 9 March 2001.
  • Iliya Pavlov - Founder of Multigroup and the wealthiest individual in Bulgaria. There is no official evidence for criminal activities but he was widely considered to be one of the bosses of the mafia. Former employees claim that he was involved in a prostitution ring. He was shot dead in front of his office in Sofia on 3 July 2003 (a failed assassination attempt had been made in 1997).
  • Konstantin "Samokovetsa" Dimitrov - Drug smuggler and billionaire, connected with VIS. Shot dead in Amsterdam on 7 December 2003.
  • Dimitar Hristov, aka Mitko the Little One - Shot dead on 4 June 2004 in a cafe together with his bodyguards Kaloyan Savov and Zhivko Mitev by two hitmen disguised as Eastern Orthodox priests.
  • Milcho Bonev, aka "Baj Mile" - One of the founders of SIC and closely associated with Mladen Mihalev, aka Madzho. He was believed to be an important link in the drug trafficking and distribution network in the Balkans, and was investigated by Bulgarian and Serbian special services. He had survived an earlier assassination attempt in September 2001. Bonev was shot dead in broad daylight in a garden-restaurant in Sofia on 20 July 2004 together with five of his bodyguards.[1][6]
  • Georgi Iliev - Brother of Vasil Iliev and head of VIS2. Shot dead in front of his club at Sunny Beach, Bulgaria on 25 August 2005.
  • Emil Kyulev - Former elite swimmer and banker, connected with SIC. Shot dead while driving down Boulevard Bulgaria in Sofia on 26 October 2005.[7][8]
  • Anton Miltenov, aka "The Beak" - Drug smuggler, right-hand man of Konstantin "Samokovetsa" Dimitrov. Shot dead in a popular cafe in the centre of Sofia on 30 October 2005 (together with his co-workers Ivan "The Ghost" Todorov and Nikolay "The Eyeglasses" Dobrev). An earlier attempt on his life had been made on 28 June 2002.
  • Ivan Todorov, aka "The Doctor" - Drug smuggler. Shot dead on 22 February 2006. He had survived a previous assassination attempt on 18 April 2003 in which his Mercedes was blown up while driving down the main boulevard of Sofia.
  • Georgi Stoev - Former wrestler, connected with VIS and SIC. Had written nine books about Bulgaria's mafia bosses, many of whom he claimed to know personally. Shot dead in Sofia on 7 April 2008.[9]

Other mafia-related assassinationsEdit

  • Georgi Kalapatirov - Chairman of Bulgaria's football team Lokomotiv Plovdiv, shot dead in 1995.
  • Georgi Prodanov - Chairman of Bulgaria's football team Lokomotiv Plovdiv, shot dead in 1995.
  • Petar Petrov - Chairman of Bulgaria's football team Lokomotiv Plovdiv, shot dead in 1998.
  • Georgi Iliev - Chairman of Bulgaria's football team Lokomotiv Plovdiv, shot dead in August 2005.
  • Nikolai Popov - Chairman of Bulgaria's football team Lokomotiv Plovdiv, shot dead in 2005.[10]
  • Alexander Tasev - Chairman of Bulgaria's football team Lokomotiv Plovdiv, shot dead in May 2007.
  • Yanko Yankov - Mayor of Elin Pelin, shot dead in January 2007.
  • Dimitar Yankov - Chairman of the Municipality Council of the seaside town of Nesebar, shot dead in May 2007.[11]
  • Manol Velev - Bulgarian notorious businessman-mobster with close links with the BSP. Murder attempt on 6 November2007.
  • Borislav Georgiev - Director of AtomEnergoRemont, one of the major Bulgarian energy companies. Shot dead in April 2008.
  • Petar Lupov - Prominent lawyer, involved in the defense team for a group of shareholders of the former Trakya Bank against DZI Bank. Shot dead on 25 March 2009 in Veliko Tarnovo.[12]
  • Bobi Tsankov - Controversial investigative journalist, criminal writer, radio and TV host. Shot dead in downtown Sofia, January 2010.[13]
  • Zlatko Baretata - Notorious Bulgarian mobster. Assasination attempt in Downtown Sofia on 29-January 2013.


Judicial prosecution and fight against criminal networksEdit

In 2006, the EU dispatched the head of Germany's criminal investigation office Klaus Jansen to assess Bulgaria's progress in fighting organised crime. He concluded that Bulgaria had failed to implement modern principles and methods in the fight against crime, criticising among other things the low commitment of the country's police force to combat organised crime.[14][15][16] The report further observed that "indictments, prosecutions, trials, convictions and deterrent sentences remain rare in the fight against high-level corruption" and described efforts to fight crime as "a total mess". Jensen also suggested that European police information passed to Sofia could end up with criminals. In a reaction to the report, Interior Minister Rumen Petkov described the findings as exaggerated and protested against Jansen's way of presenting the situation in Bulgaria which, in his words, demonstrated his incompetence.[17]

In the Bulgarian judicial system, the Prosecutor General is elected by a qualified majority of two-thirds from all the members of the Supreme Judicial Council and is appointed by the President of the Republic. The Supreme Judicial Council is in charge of the self-administration and organisation of the Judiciary.[18]

List of Prosecutor Generals in Bulgaria post-1989:


Much of the post-Communist Bulgarian mafia originates from the professional sportsmen and especially the wrestlers of the Communist period (1944–1989). The Iliev [[Vasil Iliev|brothers, Krasimir "Big Margin" Marinov and Iliya Pavlov were all students of the school for future champions "Olympic Hopes" (Bulgarian: "Олимпийски надежди").[19]

In post-1990 Bulgaria, the word борец ("wrestler") came to denote a mafia man (a common synonym is мутра (mutri),[20] literally "mug"). The image of the Bulgarian "mug", including a sturdy physical build, a black suit, sunglasses, a shaved head, and golden jewellery, became iconic for the so-called Bulgarian "transition" (to market economy). They would also drive a car with a license plate with double numbers. [5]

The mafia came to control much of Bulgarian business, so the word "businessman" acquired similar undertones. The "mugs" also infiltrated Bulgarian politics (it was often alleged that SIC and VIS were connected to the two main parties of the 1990s, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Union of Democratic Forces, respectively).[19] As the UDF government (1997–2001) made the registration of the criminal insurance businesses more difficult, much of their networks and personnel were integrated into existing legal insurance firms, while at the same time the principal bosses moved the focus of their attention to smuggling, trade and privatization.[5]

During the government of National Movement Simeon II (2001–2005), assassinations became especially common. There was also frequent evidence for the close ties between the criminal networks and politicians and officials. UDF chief prosecutor Ivan Tatarchev allegedly recreated together with Ivo Karamanski, NMS-II finance minister Milen Velchev was photographed playing cards with Ivan "The Doctor" Todorov, and most recently BSP interior minister Rumen Petkov negotiated with the shadowy "Galev brothers".


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Bulgarian Mobster Suspect Widow Testifies in Court", Sofia News Agency, October 31, 2007. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Watt, Nicholas. "Corruption still dogs Bulgaria on eve of ruling on membership", The Guardian, May 15, 2006. Retrieved on 2009-07-02. 
  3. "EU warns Bulgaria after killings", BBC News, April 8, 2008. 
  4. Shields, Rachel. "Murders prompt EU warning for Bulgaria over organised crime", The Independent, April 9, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-06-03. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "SIC transit gloria", Capital, March 17, 2001. Retrieved on 2008-06-03. 
  6. "Bulgarian Mobster Murder Trial in Court Again", Sofia News Agency, July 13, 2007. 
  7. "Emil Kyulev: Who Was He?", FOCUS News Agency, October 26, 2005. 
  8. "Police Release Picture of Bulgaria's Top Banker Suspect Killer", Sofia News Agency, October 26, 2005. 
  9. "Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Georgi Stoev's Gangster Pulp", The Nation, April 29, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-06-26. 
  10. [1]Template:Dead link
  11. Typical News from Bulgaria.
  12. "Prominent Veliko Tarnovo Lawyer Shot in Broad Daylight", Sofia News Agency, March 25, 2009. 
  13. "Bobi Tsankov was killed in a shooting in the Sofia centre", Dnevnik, January 5, 2010. 
  14. "Bulgarian mafia turf wars to hit EU", The Times Online, May 21, 2006. Retrieved on 2010-04-27. 
  15. "Es wird Kämpfe geben", Der Spiegel, June 26, 2006. 
  16. "Bush’s Bulgarian Partner in the Terror War Has Mob History, Investigators Say", Congressional Quarterly, March 2, 2007. 
  17. "Anti-crime fight problems hinder Bulgaria's EU accession - Jansen", The Sofia Echo, June 26, 2006. 
  18. Structure of the Prosecutor’s Office in the Republic of Bulgaria. Retrieved on July 2, 2009.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Залязват ли мутрите, или облакът е тъмен. Йово НИКОЛОВ. В-к Капитал. Брой 35, 03 септември 2005, 00:00
  20. Dan Bilefsky. "A Crime Writer’s Pages Come to Life in His Death", New York Times, January 31, 2010, pp. A8. Retrieved on May 8, 2010. 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

"Bulgarian mafia boss shot dead", BBC News, December 20, 1998. 

"Bulgarian tycoon gunned down", BBC News, March 8, 2003. 

"Bulgarian football boss shot dead", BBC News, August 26, 2005. 

"Bulgarian sex slave gang smashed", BBC News, October 17, 2006. 

Jackson, Patrick. "Laying bait for child smugglers", BBC News, July 27, 2007. 

Lungescu, Oana. "Bulgaria under pressure over crime", BBC News, June 7, 2008. 

"Reading Room - The ABC of Bulgaria's Drug Trade", The Sofia Echo, December 18, 2003. 

"Tight Security, Melee as Bulgarian Gangster Boss Turns up in Court", Sofia News Agency, May 16, 2007. 

"Bulgaria's Football Elite Flock to Iliev's Memorial Service", Sofia News Agency, August 28, 2005. 

"The Polish Magazine Wprost's list of top 100 of the richest men in Eastern Europe". 

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