02 December 2010

Former Bulgarian minister denied US Visa

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The denial of a US Visa for the former Bulgarian interior minister Rumen Petkov due to his involvement with suspected drug lords during his time in office between 2005 and 2008 has sparked significant controversy.

After the US Visa refusal Mr Petkov, who is now a senior lawmaker for the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, gave up his diplomatic immunity and asked to be investigated in a bid to clear his name.

Mr Petkov has also threatened to sue current interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and customs chief Vanyo Tanov for defamation for their public allegations that Mr Petkov was connected to two businessmen believed to be involved in Bulgaria's illegal drug market.

James Warlick, US ambassador to Bulgaria, said the decision to refuse the US Visa was based on "a criminal investigation" but would not divulge any details.

Mr Petkov resigned from his post as interior minister in 2008 after a wire-tap information leak revealed that he had had a meeting in 2006 with two businessmen suspected at the time of controlling the drug market in Bulgaria.

A special parliamentary commission and prosecutors looked into the matter and cleared Mr Petkov of any wrongdoing but the details of the investigation were not made public.  

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