It appears as though a small handful of enterprising government officials out of Bulgaria were looking to make some extra money on the side. The Bulgarian police have busted a ring for selling passports in exchange for Bitcoin Core (BTC).
The country’s Prosecutor’s General Office has arrested General Secretary Krasimir Tomov, an official with the Bulgarian State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, Peter Haralampiev, and an agency employee, Mark Stoyov. The arrests were confirmed by the Chief Prosecutro of the State, Ivan Geshev, who said, “Peter Haralampiev, Krasimir Tomov, and Mark Stoyov have been arrested for fraud with the issuance of Bulgarian passports to Ukrainian, Moldovan and Macedonian citizens.”
Lawyers representing the accused have denied the allegations, but the prosecutor’s office affirms that it has evidence that the trio issued passports in exchange for unauthorized payments through cryptocurrency. The arrests are just the latest in a scandal that has rocked the country.
20 people were recently detained in Bulgaria for allegedly selling passports to individuals from Macedonia, Ukraine and Moldova. They charged around $5,600 per passport and the continued corruption has many in Bulgaria calling for Vice Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov to step down. Simeonov has said that he will not be held responsible for the corruption and refuses to give up his power.
Bulgaria has been a member of the European Union (EU) since 2007. As a member, it can issue EU passports that give the holders rights to travel and live in other EU countries with virtually no restrictions.
Fake passport rings in the EU have been busted before. Two years ago, Europol broke up a ring operating out of Greece with an office in the Czech Republic. The group was led by citizens out of Ukraine, Sudan and Bangladesh.
In addition to passports, the group would also issue residency permits and driver’s licenses and fees varied from type of document and origin of the solicitor. Someone out of Africa, Asia or the Middle East would pay as much as $4,300 for a passport, while a European citizen would be forced to pay more than $10,000.
Additionally, a Polish criminal gang was busted for issuing Polish passports to Ukrainian citizens and then illegally transporting them to the UK.