Head of the Gambling Commission in Bulgaria has been detained by prosecutors for questioning.
This is the second time prosecutors raided the commission in the space of two weeks amid fears of connections to organised crime, according to Bulgarian media reports.
According to Bulgarian National Radio, beside the Head of the Gambling Commission other 18 of the commission’s employees were also taken in for questioning, but it was not clear if any of them were detained.
In January prosecutors raided the Sofia offices of Nove Holding, the company owned by controversial Bulgarian businessman Vassil Bozhkov, who allegedly is the mastermind behind the possible criminal activity. Nove Holding has diversified interests and owns several of Bulgaria’s largest bookmakers and lottery operators.
After the raid, prosecutors said that Bozhkov was facing seven separate charges which included leading an organised crime group, extortion and attempted bribery.
Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev said that Bozhkov was not in Bulgaria and would be the subject of a European arrest warrant. Bozhkov, whose Nove Holding owns Lottery Bulgaria and National Lottery, has been circulated as internationally wanted, because he has left Bulgaria. He is said to be in the United Arab Emirates.
The Gambling Commission raid comes just weeks after a bill was tabled in Parliament that proposed to ban private lottery games. Media reports have claimed that some of those private operators did not pay their taxes and fees in full, with the shortfall estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of leva range.
Bulgaria’s Specialised Prosecutor’s Office yesterday sought remand for Todor Markov, who is a current member of the State Commission on Gambling and for Plamen Georgiev who is a former member of the commission.
The two have been accused of involvement in organised crime masterminded by the gambling tycoon Vassil Bozhkov.
Yesterday, the specialised court declined the application of the prosecution to remand the two officials from the State Gambling Commission, arrested for alleged involvement in an organized crime group.
According to the judge, the measure of pre-trial detention is too heavy until all the details of the investigation into the Bozhkov case have been clarified. The court ordered house arrest for the two. The court also ordered Todor Markov and Plamen Georgiev. not to contact officials from the Gambling Commission in order not to influence the investigation.