Busted: Bulgarian Officials Caught Selling Passports for Bitcoin

Bulgaria passport
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Authorities in Bulgaria have clamped down on the shady sale of international passports to foreigners from some parts of Eastern Europe in exchange for bitcoin. Erring citizens of Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova, and Macedonia have been allegedly involved in the perpetration of such illegal activities.

Officials Arrested

The citizenship issuance which was authorized by Bulgarian officials has landed suspected officials in the police net. Among those who were apprehended by the Prosecutor’s General Office are Bulgarian State Agency for Bulgarians’ matters abroad Peter Haralampiev, General Secretary Krasimir Tomov and the member of the agency Mark Stoyov.

Corroborating the apprehension of these officials, the Chief Prosecutor of the State Ivan Geshev stated:

“Peter Haralampiev, Krasimir Tomov, and Mark Stoyov have been arrested for fraud with the issuance of Bulgarian passports to Ukrainian, Moldovan and Macedonian citizens.”

While the legal counsels of the accused officials have denied their clients’ involvement in the receipt of unauthorized payments, the Prosecutor General insists that they have evidence to prove the process was facilitated with a digital asset as the means of exchange.

The scandal has put the government in a bad light but the Vice Prime Minister of Bulgaria Valeri Simeonov maintains that he has no intention of relinquishing power because of the level of corruption in the agency.

Apart from the involvement of government officials in this action which is punishable by the law, 20 individuals were recently detained in Bulgaria for selling the country’s passport to desperate citizens of Ukraine, Moldova, and Macedonia. The suspects allegedly received close to $5.6 thousand for just a document.

Leveraging the EU Concession

Bulgaria became a member state of the European Union (EU) in 2007. The EU passport provides citizens of other EU member states with the concession of traveling and living within the territories of the EU with little or no restriction.

The business of selling fake passports is being leveraged by several illegal immigrants who are keen on obtaining papers to enter EU countries. An underground syndicate in Greece with a branch in the Czech Republic was swooped upon by the Europol in 2016. Five among its operators were Ukrainians while other leaders of the group were citizens of Sudan and Bangladesh.

These criminals specialized in the sale of fake Schengen visas, residence permits, and driver’s licenses. The fee for obtaining forged documents depended on the region of the individual involved. Immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia could obtain their passports for £3,000 to £3,500 while European citizens could pay as much as £8,000.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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