Bulgarian Court Puts Off Trial against High Profile Traffickers of Archaeological Artifacts

Bulgarian Court Puts Off Trial against High Profile Traffickers of Archaeological Artifacts

The two alleged bosses of a high profile ring for the smuggling of archaeological artifacts from Bulgaria to Germany - Dimitar Zdravkov and Angel Peev - were arrested at the time of a trafficking deal in March 2013 in Southern Bulgaria. Photo: BNR

The two alleged bosses of a high profile ring for the smuggling of archaeological artifacts from Bulgaria to Germany – Dimitar Zdravkov and Angel Peev – were arrested at the time of a trafficking deal in April 2013 in Southern Bulgaria. Photo: BNR

The District Court in the southern Bulgarian city of Pazardzhik has postponed once again the hearing of the trial of two high profile traffickers of archaeological artifacts.

The two men on trial – Dimitar Zdravkov, aka Palyonkata, and Angel Peev, aka Malkiya – are facing charges of leading an international antique trafficking ring.

They were arrested back in the spring of 2013 in a special operation of the Bulgarian police at the time of a deal for the sale of valuable archaeological artifacts at a location along the route of the Trakiya Highway in Southern Bulgaria.

At the time of their arrest, the police seized from them over 200 gold and silver Antiquity coins, and over 70 different archaeological artifacts, including five ancient rings, gold-coated decorations, a bronze figure of mythical hero Hercules (Heracles), and several Antiquity vessels.

The District Court in Bulgaria’s Pazardzhik has put off the hearing against the two alleged high profile traffickers because the second expert report on the case which is being prepared by archaeologists and numismatists has not been completed yet, reports BNR.

Even though the first expert report on the case provided evidence that the archaeological artifacts seized from the traffickers are authentic, the defense has requested a second report.

The new report is being drafted with the participation of two additional experts in Antiquity archaeology.

According to the prosecution, the defense has taken made this request in order to drag the trial through time.

Thus, as a result of the court proceedings the two defendants Zdravkov and Peev have been released on bail, and allowed to walk free for the past 1.5 years.

Reports citing Bulgarian anti-mafia policemen from the directorate in charge of fighting the trafficking of cultural heritage artifacts allege that Zdravkov and Peev are “major dealers of Bulgarian antiques abroad".

According to the charges filed by the prosecution, the two men operate a ring smuggling archaeological artifacts from Bulgaria to Munich, Germany, where Zdravkov’s wife, Virginiya Zdravkova, a famous clothing designer, owns a store for designer clothes, with her husband serving as the store’s manager.

The investigators claim that the antiques trafficking channel run by the two defendants has enjoyed political protection for years.

Most of the artifacts confiscated at the time of the two men’s arrested are unique items whose value literally cannot be calculated, reports say.

If found guilty, the two men may get up to 6 years in prison, and a fine of up to BGN 20,000 (app. EUR 10,200).

The next sitting of the court in Bulgaria’s Pazardzhik in the high profile trial for the trafficking of archaeological artifacts is to take place in January 2016.

Treasure hunting and the trafficking of antiques are rampant crimes all over Bulgaria bringing the mafia hundreds of millions of euro every year while destroying irreparably the country’s invaluable cultural heritage.

These vessels are just two of the archaeological artifacts captured by the Bulgarian police at the time of Zdravkov and Peev's arrest in 2013. Photo: Bulgaria's Interior Ministry

These vessels are just two of the archaeological artifacts captured by the Bulgarian police at the time of Zdravkov and Peev’s arrest in 2013. Photo: Interior Ministry Press Center

Background Infonotes:

Treasure hunting and illegal trafficking of antiques have been rampant in Bulgaria after the collapse of the communism regime in 1989 (and allegedly before that). Estimates vary but some consider this the second most profitable activity for the Bulgarian mafia after drug trafficking. One recent estimate suggests its annual turnover amounts to BGN 500 million (app. EUR 260 million), and estimates of the number of those involved range from about 5 000 to 200 000 – 300 000, the vast majority of whom are impoverished low-level diggers.