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Fri Apr 29 21:46:37 SAST 2016

Daughter of 'Cocaine Kingpin' kidnapped in Bulgaria

Reuters | 05 March, 2013 15:42

Three masked man abducted the 10-year-old daughter of a convicted Bulgarian gangland boss according to police.

The European Union's poorest member state has been repeatedly criticised by Brussels for doing too little to fight corruption and gangsterism. The failure to implement rule of law helped spark protests that toppled the government last month.

Driving an SUV, the three men blocked a car taking the daughter of Evelin Banev to school, shot and wounded its driver and abducted the girl, police said in a statement. The driver was hospitalised but his life was not in danger, doctors said.

"Police blocked roads into and out of (the capital) Sofia. All operational and search measures are being taken to establish the location of the child," the police statement said.

Banev, 49, was arrested in Italy last May in an international police operation dubbed "Cocaine Kingpins" involving Bulgarian, Italian, French, Swiss and Spanish authorities. Italian police said Banev's gang was responsible for smuggling around 40 tonnes of cocaine into Italy per year.

A Bulgarian court last month sentenced Banev - known as "Brendo" - to 7 1/2 years in prison for laundering drug-dealing profits of over 2 million euros ($2.6 million). Italy handed him to Bulgaria for that trial but he is now back in an Italian jail awaiting trial for drug trafficking.

Successive governments have failed to solve hundreds of high-profile contract killings that have plagued Sofia and other cities since the late 1990s. The issue has contributed to Bulgaria's exclusion from the EU's passport-free Schengen zone.

But Tuesday's abduction was the first since 2009, when police arrested 25 people in connection with 16 kidnappings of rich and famous Bulgarians for ransom. Last April a Sofia court sentenced four of the accused to at least 16 years in jail.


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