Several protagonists in a series of Bivol investigations into an organized crime group (OCG) in Bulgaria’s northwestern city of Vratsa were arrested on April 17, 2018 in an operation of the gendarmerie and the Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime (GDBOP). The brothers Anri and Mancho Kovachevi, Nikola “The Gypsy” Georgiev, as well as two of their “runners-up” – Deyan “Duhasta” Ivanov and Parvan “The Bunker” Slavchev were detained for 72 hours and are to be interrogated in the capital Sofia, Bivol has learned. An international arrest warrant has been issued for Galin Zahariev from the same group.

The operation took place more than six months after Bivol’s first revelations about the participation of the Kovachevi brothers in a cocaine traffic channel from South America to Europe. In addition to drug trafficking, the group’s “repertoire” has included arson, beatings, murder plots, property fraud, usury, car theft, and construction equipment theft.

All this happened with the protection of local policemen who had provided a cover-up. In a scandalous video, first published by Bivol, Anri, Mancho, Galin, Nikola and Parvan are seen hugging former policeman Tsvetan Blagoev and his colleague Tsvetan Gotsov.

The men from Vratsa, however, are part of a larger criminal network that has well-established international logistics. They are also associated with pro-Russian Serb and Bulgarian ultranationalists, new facts from Bivol’s ongoing investigation into the group reveal.

Elderly retiree – target of gangsters

The investigation began after the accidental detention at the Zurich airport of a 67-year-old Bulgarian woman arriving from Sao Paolo with 700 grams of extremely pure cocaine. The woman, named Tsvetanka Evstatieva, told the Swiss police that she had been sent to Brazil by the brothers Mancho and Anri Kovachevi from Vratsa. The information had been handed over to the Bulgarian authorities, but they ignored it until Bivol published the confession of Tsvetanka, who is currently serving a prison sentence in Switzerland.

 

Tsvetanka Evstatieva

Immediately after the publication, her grandson, Iliyan, was brutally beaten and had to leave the country because the Bulgarian law enforcement authorities failed to provide protection for him.

Milko Atanassov Stoyanov had also been part of this group and had been used by the thugs as a straw man in schemes for car and construction equipment theft. Stoyanov is a direct witness to the conversations and plotting of Anri and Mancho Kovachevi, Galin Zahariev and Nikola Georgiev, as well as their subordinate gangsters. But he has decided to break with their organization. In November last year, Milko Stoyanov sought Bivol for an interview, after reporting to the GDBOP and the Prosecutor General.

In front of our camera, Stoyanov recalled with details the wet orders discussed in his presence. Bivol already published some of his statements in which he reveals theft schemes, the plan to kill the Zov News publisher, Dr. Ezekiev, an arson order and the protection provided by the Vratsa police.

 

In the sequel of the interview, Milko Stoyanov remembers the case of Tsvetanka Evstatieva and claims that her life will be under threat after she is released from prison. In his presence, Mancho Kovachev had stated the following:

“If my brother does not want to shell money, I am ready to go to Switzerland and clean somewhat there.”

Stoyanov also claims he had been threatened and wanted by Anri and Mancho Kovatchevi after his first video interview was published. His location is unknown at the moment. Before Bivol, he said he was ready to be accountable for his sins, but he also wanted to become a protected witness.

His story revealed that the plans of the Kovachevi brothers are much broader than the failed cocaine shipment from Sao Paolo for which they mull eliminating the witnesses.

Dominican cocaine and heroin from the “Soviet Union”

Stoyanov further claims that he had to travel to the Dominican Republic to meet Bulgarians from Sofia and bring back to Europe illegal drugs, most likely cocaine. For this purpose, his passport had been photographed and sent “by Viber” to the gangsters for them to judge if he “had the right appearance” to be a mule in such an operation.

Another plan envisaged for Milko Stoyanov to travel to Russia to carry heroin to Serbia, hidden in a car’s secret compartment. He had traveled twice to Pirot (Serbia) in connection with the organization of such trafficking. There he had met an individual with the nickname “Mitko The Bomb”, a Bulgarian gangster with a ten-year jail sentence who had been hiding in the neighboring country with which Bulgaria does not have an extradition agreement. Mitko’s wife, named Elena, had worked in Sofia.

The second time I went to Pirot, he phoned some Serb to come and see me and from Serbia I was supposed to travel to the “Union” (he meant the Soviet Union as for many older Bulgarians this is still a synonym of Russia – editor’s note) through Romania,” Stoyanov recalls. “With prepared cars in which there were secret compartments and so on, and bring them to Serbia, and bring them from Serbia to Bulgaria… For delivery of drugs from the “Union”… 10 or 15 kilos, these were the planned quantities.”

Apart from Serbia and Russia, the Vratsa gangsters also had “people” in Italy. One of them, Trayan, had been living there under a false identity, “250 miles from Milan,” because of being wanted by Interpol.

All this speaks of a well-run criminal organization, operating on several continents, with the Vratsa group being just part of the big picture. New evidence uncovered by Bivol reveals the friendship between Bulgarian and Serbian

Nationalists serving the Russians and narco-traffickers

It turns out that Anri Kovachev and his associate Nikolay Georgiev are in a warm relationship with the chairman of the Bulgarian paramilitary organization “Orthodox Dawn” Zhivko Ivanov and with the Serbian ultranationalist Haci Bratislav Zivkovic.

Ivanov and Zhivkovic are old acquaintances and participants in the military operations in Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk on the side of the Russian separatists.

 

Zhivko Ivanov and Haci Bratislav Zivkovic

In 2017, Zivkovic was arrested in Romania for spying for Russia and expelled. Romanian counterintelligence SRI has intercepted him entering the country several times, where he has organized a network for collecting information, especially about the NATO base Mikhail Kogalniceanu, as well as the civilian and military radars of Romania along the Black Sea coast, the Romanian Hotnews portal reported.

Zivkovic was expelled from Romania with a 15-year ban on returning. Romanian media noted then that he was one of the most active pro-Russian and anti-Western Serb ultranationalists. The Serb has repeatedly participated in military action in the separatist republics of Ukraine. Besides a Serbian passport, Zivkovic also had a passport from the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, as well as government awards from the Russian Federation, according to the communiqué of the Romanian SRI.

The Bulgarian authorities do not seem to have such problems with Zivkovic. In Bulgaria, he travels undisturbed to Orthodox sites together with his Bulgarian “colleague” – the nationalist leader Zhivko Ivanov. He is also obviously in a close relationship with Nikola “The Gypsy” Georgiev and Anri Kovachev, as evidenced by photos from the Troyan Monastery published on Facebook.

 

From left to right: Nikola “The Gypsy” Georgiev, Haci Bratislav Zivkovic, Zhivko Ivanov and Anri Kovachev

The exact charges, if any, the prosecution plans to press against the group of Anri and Mancho Kovachevi are not currently known. There is no evidence of an active investigation into international drug trafficking channels, as well as of interest on the part of the National Security Agency in the activities of the ultranationalists associated with the Vratsa group.

Bivol continues to investigate their connections and contacts with individuals who have apparently provided a cover-up and protection over the activities of the Vratsa OCG over the years. The fact that the operation in Vratsa was a surprise for the local police and anti-mafia unit, who had not been aware of it, also speaks of this.

To be continued…

 

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