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Bulgaria: Mafia Scandal Overshadows Elections

Sofia, 18 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - A mafia scandal has rocked Bulgaria on the eve of Parliamentary elections. Four top officials in the southern city of Kurdzhaly -- including the police chief, two officers from the Security-and-Anti-Terrorist Services, and the director of the Regional Tax Office -- were fired today on grounds of corruption and abuse of power.

Interim Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev announced the firings today after a meeting of the Cabinet with President Petar Stoyanov.

Bonev said the fired officials are linked to Ercan "Rocko" Rashid. Bulgarian authorities refer to Rashid as Kurdzhaly's local mafia boss, and arrested him this week on suspicion of involvement in arms smuggling, prostitution, car theft, murder-for-hire, racketeering, conterfeiting and illegal gambling.

Bonev said many top law enforcement officials have ties to the mafia, and he called on the new parliament to be elected tomorrow to tighten control over the judiciary system.

In a related development -- responding to published reports that he has ties to the Rashid crime family -- Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev demanded evidence of such allegations be presented directly to him.