The term “Bulgarian mafia” is used to describe the organised crime groups that are active throughout Bulgaria.

Bulgarian mafia spans from the sportsmen and wrestlers of the Communist period (1944 to 1989). In Bulgaria after 1990, the word wrestler came to be recognised as a mafia man. The mafia man was usually tagged as a mug, and anyone who sported a strong physical build, shaved head, golden jewellery, sunglasses and wearing certain styles of clothing, was usually associated as this. The mafia also had control over many Bulgarian businesses, so the word “businessman” became associated the same way as wrestler, or mug. They also worked their way into Bulgarian politics.

The Bulgarian mafia are amongst the most brutal and violent in the world, and the organised crime groups. They are involved in many different activities, some of which are, Human trafficking, Prostitution, Cigarette smuggling, Drug trafficking, illicit antiques trafficking, extortion (under the cover of corrupt security/insurance companies) and the arms trade.

The crimes often link to the government and to government officials. Bribes are said to not be an uncommon thing between the high officials of Bulgaria. They also appear to have connections and work closely with the Russian mafia, Croatian mafia, Serbian mafia, Macedonian mafia, and the Italian mafia.

Contract killings are a big part of mafia life, since the fall of communism in 1989 there have been more than 150 mafia contract killings in Bulgaria, and it is usual for them to be done in broad daylight, and frequently in the city centre of Sofia. These killings are carried out by highly professional snipers, and the cost of hire is said to be £20,000 or more.

Here is a list, taken from of the most notable contract killings in Bulgaria:

Vasil Iliev – Founder of VIS1 and VIS2. Killed – 25 April 1995.
Andrey Lukanov – former Bulgarian prime minister. Killed – 2nd October 1996.
Ivo Karamanski, aka “The Godfather” – Shot by a drunk acquaintance – 20 December 1998.
Pantyu Pantev, aka “Polly” – Drug smuggler, linked with VIS, & SIC. Several assassination attempts, all from different enemies. He was shot dead – 9 March 2001.
Iliya Pavlov – Founder of Multigroup and the richest person in Bulgaria. Shot dead – 3 July 2003.
Konstantin Dimitrov, aka “Samokovetsa” – Drug smuggler and billionaire, linked with VIS. Shot dead – 7 December 2003.
Dimitar Hristov, aka “Mitko the Little One” – Shot dead – 4 June 2004.
Milcho Bonev, aka “Baj Mile” – One of the founders of SIC. Shot dead – 20 July 2004.
Georgi Iliev – (Vasil was his brother) Head of VIS2. Shot dead – 25 August 2005.
Emil Kyulev – Past elite swimmer and banker, and he was linked with SIC. Shot dead – 26 October 2005.
Anton Miltenov, aka “The Beak” – Drug smuggler, and a right-hand man. Shot dead – 30 October 2005.
Ivan Todorov, aka “The Doctor” – Drug smuggler. Shot dead – 22 February 2006.
Georgi Stoev – Past wrestler, linked with VIS and SIC. Had written nine books about the mafia bosses. – Shot dead in Sofia on 7 April 2008.
To date (2009 source), there has been just 1 conviction in these cases, and this is thought to be so because of just how corrupt the Judicial system is. In fact in 2006, the EU sent Klaus Jansen, who is the head of a German criminal investigation office, to assess the Bulgarian process of fighting organised crime.

Klaus evaluated the situation and concluded that Bulgaria had failed to put into place modern principles/methods in the fight against organised crime. Klaus found many faults to criticise, one of these being the low commitment of the Bulgarian police force to fight against the crimes.

His report also stated, like mentioned above, that “indictments, prosecutions, trails, convictions, and deterrent sentences remain rare in the fight against high level corruption and he described Bulgarians efforts to fight crime as “a total mess”. Klaus also gave light to the fact that any European police information passed onto Sofia, could end up in the hands of the criminals.

Of course this report was not well received and the interior minister described it as exaggerated and protested against the image Klaus was painting of the situation in Bulgaria.

Organised crime is prominent and happens in all aspects day to day in Bulgaria, especially because this is a country where jobs are hard to find and crime pays.

In Bulgaria the Mafia men are quite easy to spot, quite often they like to show off and dress in their flashy gear, wearing their many gold chains around their necks, and displaying a confident and cocky persona, often accompanied by a few females in tow. Another tell tale sign to look out for is, if on the beaches the men are walking around shirtless, quite often the mafia members will be scarred with multiple stab wounds.

The general public should not worry about coming into contact with a member of the mafia or with getting caught up in a brawl. The mafia generally keep a low profile in front of the public and have no intention of harming them. Most of the crime will go un-noticed to anyone who is not directly involved, it is usually done quietly and corruptly.

Gen. Lyuben Gocev – Retired Secret Service general, former minister of foreign affairs, and rumored to be linked with SIC. Also rumored of being the “eminence grise” of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and its connection with the mafia.
Krasimir Marinov, aka “Big Margin” – Co-founder of SIC
Nikolay Marinov, aka “Small Margin” – Co-founder of SIC
Mladen Mihalev, aka “Madzho” – Co-founder of SIC
Georgi Slavov, aka “The Head” – Son of Stoil Slavov.
Ventsislav Stefanov – Co-founder of SIC
Rumen Nikolov, aka “Pashata” – Co-founder of SIC
Vasil Bozhkov, aka “The Skull” – Billionaire and gambler. Has links with SIC mob bosses and is suspected of using their services.
Zlatomir Ivanov, aka “Zlatko Baretata” – Drug smuggler.
Plamen Galev
Angel Hristov
Alexey Petrov
Georgi Parvanov
The following news articles all relate to the Bulgarian Mafia: