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Bulgaria’s former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov arrested by police

Bulgarian police have arrested former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in connection with investigations by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, according to the country’s Interior Ministry.

The ministry said a “large-scale operation” related to 120 cases with “searches and seizures at many addresses” was underway, but did not address the allegations against Borisov.

Borisov, a former bodyguard to communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, was ousted in an election last April following popular protests against corruption during his 12-year rule. He has denied any wrongdoing.

He was arrested on Thursday along with other members of his opposition centre-right Gerb party, including a former finance minister, a former head of the parliamentary budget commission and a former head of the government’s information service.

“No one is above the law,” Prime Minister Kiril Petkov wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday evening.

Petkov was elected Nov after two unsuccessful elections last year. In a country where politics has long been tainted by allegations of bribery, his centrist We Continue the Change party’s promise of “zero corruption” won broad electoral support.

There was no comment from EU prosecutors following Borisov’s arrest, but earlier this week a statement said: “If fraud is not found, there can be no investigation. Many thanks to Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov for his determination, leadership and compelling vision in the fight against corruption.”

In a video appearance on Friday, Petkov said: “In the coming days we will see where the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office stands and whether it finally sides with the Bulgarian people”. He added: “Nobody should be afraid of the truth. Only the untouchables [a nickname for Borisov and his associates] have nothing to fear. Bulgaria can really change.”

His comments reflect the view that prosecutors have been reluctant to investigate the activities of Borisov and the Gerb party.

Borisov’s arrest came at the request of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry. His lawyer told reporters that the police search of the former prime minister’s apartment on the outskirts of Sofia was carried out with the court’s permission. “All I saw was the search warrant and the order for his 24-hour detention,” Menko Menkov said, adding that no items were taken during the search. He said he didn’t understand what Borisov was being accused of.

Borissov first came to power in 2009 after a landslide election victory and ruled with brief interruptions until last year. In 2020, simmering anger over corruption boiled over after photos emerged that appeared to show a pistol and wads of €500 notes on the Prime Minister’s bedside table. Borisov said the photos had been manipulated, but the anti-government protests lasted for several months.

However, his party Gerb remained popular with some voters as he spent heavily on infrastructure projects in what is still one of the poorest countries in the EU.

Borisov’s arrest sparked an outcry from his supporters, who gathered outside his home and later outside police headquarters, where he was arrested. Gerb politician and former Health Minister Kostadin Angelov called for protests against the arrest on Friday.

“Behind us is one of the modern concentration camps in Bulgaria, built by [the interior minister] Locking up politicians they have problems with,” Angelov told a small protest on Thursday, adding he wanted “a peaceful protest, not a riot.”

https://www.ft.com/content/8e7f1c9d-ce70-4b97-88bb-27cc0c29acfa Bulgaria’s former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov arrested by police

Adam Bradshaw

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