Top Mobster Shot In Bulgaria, The EU’s Poorest, Most Corrupt State

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By Palash R. Ghosh | January 30, 2013 7:48 AM EST

He wasn’t carrying any oranges, but a Bulgarian mob boss, along with his bodyguard, were shot outside of a Sofia courthouse on Tuesday morning.

The Sofia News Agency reported that Zlatomir Ivanov – also known as ‘Zlatko Baretata’ (‘The Beret’) -- is now in a state of shock in hospital due to heavy blood loss following the attack.

The doctor who operated on the feared drug lord said Ivanov’s leg was injured, while his colon, intestines and urinary bladder were infected.

It is unclear if the mobster’s life is in danger or not.

The SNA reported that the would-be assassin (or assassins) was positioned on the roof of a building across the street from the courthouse, but managed to escape.

In a statement, the prosecutor’s office in Sofia said “such a brutal act of violence … in an area of major state institutions and public buildings in a way threatening the life and health of many citizens is a matter of serious worry and concern.”

Ivanov, 44, formerly a member of Bulgaria’s counter-terrorism squad, was due to appear at the Central Courthouse in Sofia to appeal an 8-year sentence for drug trafficking and murder when shots rang out.

His nickname comes from the fact that members of Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry, where he served during the early 1990s, are called ‘berets.’

Ivanov was originally arrested in Feb. 2009 after he turned himself in to Bulgaria's National State Security Agency.

Last year, he was sentenced to the prison term – he appealed that ruling and has since been under house arrest.

As a former government official, Ivanov has an unusual background for a gangster. He reportedly left the counter-terrorism squad to protest the arrest of other "berets" who clashed with local pimps in the southern city of Haskovo. Ivanov departed the agency with two other future mobsters Plamen Galev and Angel Hristov, aka ‘The Galevi Brothers,’  both of whom disappeared last year after being convicted of criminal charges.

In high school, Ivanov was a star wrestler and according to Bulgaria’s Focus news agency, he owns stock in some thirty companies.

Over the years, Ivanov has been linked to prostitution rings, car- theft operations, ordering murder contracts on other top mobsters, as well as keeping ties to Bulgarian military officials.

Despite many arrests, he was always released by the authorities.

He once told the bTV television channel: "If there are people who are drug bosses – there role must be the following – there must be relative peace in the streets without murders and fights. I have no way of clearing my name, and even though I haven't made my peace with that, I will always be known as ‘the drug boss.’ I am trying to survive.”

Bulgaria, the poorest country in the European Union, has long been pressured by Brussels to root out deep-seated corruption in its government and its ties to organized crime.

Since the fall of Communism in 1989, there have been dozens of high-profile public killings of mob figures by professional snipers in Bulgaria.

Mobsters are believed to be deeply entrenched in Bulgarian business and political spheres.

In 2008, Atanas Atanasov, a member of the Bulgarian Parliament and a former counterintelligence chief, told the New York Times: “Other countries have the mafia. In Bulgaria, the mafia has the country.”

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