by Stamen Manolov

The Bulgarian public was treated to an extraordinary real-life Monty Python Flying Circus episode when cops burst into the homes of Former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, his Former Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov and his publicist Sevdelina Arnaudova, and arrested the trio on charges of extortion.

Boyko Borisov under arrest

As soon as the news of the Thursday evening arrests broke out a significant chunk of the Bulgarian population went into a frenzied jubilation comparable, according to one observer, to that goal at the 1994 World Championship Bulgaria scored against Germany. That goal. Folks started popping open new bottles of Rakiya and some of Borisov's neighbours in Bankya even organised a small fireworks display. Is the tyrant really going where he should have gone a long time ago?, Bulgarians were asking their Facebook friends.

The list of crimes and misdemeanours attributed to the former prime minister can easily take up several pages of a magazine – or several volumes of court papers. During all the years Borisov has been in power he is credited with an assortment of offences like his tapped orders to the chief of customs to terminate a tax investigation against an entrepreneur (who died in a hotel room soon thereafter – his wife later also died in similar circumstances), like the embezzlement and fake contracts over the Hemus Motorway, like dozens of meaningless village stadiums erected with EU money, like the tax protection of Russian company LUKoil, like the extortion of various businesses including Eurohold and the Bobokovi Brothers, like the wads of Euro notes and gold ingots in his bedroom, like the house in Barcelona and so on and so fourth.

Borisov, Goranov and Arnaudova were taken to a police station where they spent the night. GERB supporters, including former ministers, organised protests claiming their boss, Borisov, was being repressed politically. Significantly, they referred to him as the "leader of the opposition" rather than the former prime minister, who had been in control of everything that went on in Bulgaria since 2009.

Boyko Borisov being released

Boyko Borisov being released

The issue was quickly internationalised. Laura Kövesi, the European chief prosecutor, had been in Bulgaria the previous day. She disclosed there were about 120 tips of serious fraud being committed in Borisov's Bulgaria. Some Bulgarians were quick to interpret this as a direct reference to the former prime minister. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was about to visit on the following day. Some conspiracy theorists promulgated the hypothesis that Borisov's arrest was nothing but a ploy to deflect the attention of the general public for the (much more serious) news that Austin was about to "order" Bulgaria to provide military aid to Ukraine (which in their opinion meant a surefire war-starter with Putin). Manfred Wörner, the leader of the European People's Party, of which Boyko Borisov's GERB is a member, was quick to announce he would intervene.

No one is above the law, commented Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.

On the following day Borisov's lawyer, Menko Menkov, told the TV hacks the arrests were illegal as the cops did not spell out precisely what the detainees were accused of. A bit of goo was promptly put in circulation: poor Borisov had spent the whole night on just a wooden bench and the cops gave him... a croissant for breakfast.

About 20 hours after the arrests Borisov, Goranov and Arnaudova were released with no charges. The GERB crowd was exultant.

Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov, who appears determined to dismantle the corrupt, "captured" state Borisov has created, commented that the state prosecution office had ignored important pieces of evidence. The three detainees were not interrogated at all in the course of a full day. The prosecution deliberately delayed the hearings in order to gain time and have the arrests annulled over statute limitations.

The Bulgarian prosecution office is headed by Ivan Geshev, who has almost unlimited powers to direct investigations and order arrests. Geshev is thought of as a close associate of the former prime minister, an errand boy who strikes hard whenever he is told to – or just looks the other way whenever he is not.

One of Boyko Borisov's all-time favourite bons mots, dating back to the early 2000s when he was this country's top cop, was "We [the police] catch them [the criminals], but they [the judiciary] let them go free."

John Cleese and Michael Palin could not have contrived that more convincingly. 


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