The District Prosecutor’s Office in Bulgaria’s city of Plovdiv has pressed charges against five people, one a Migration Directorate official, who were involved in producing fake permanent residence cards for non-EU nationals.
On one of the charges, falsifying identity cards, the penalty is up to 10 years in prison.
Three of the group face charges of assisting foreigners from Turkey and Tunisia to reside illegally in Bulgaria. If found guilty on this charge, they face up to five years in prison and a fine from 3000 to 10 000 leva (about 1500 to 5000 euro).
One of the group is charged with illegal possession of insignia in violation of the Interior Ministry Act and Judiciary Act. The insignia included those of the Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, the National Police Directorate and the Prosecutor’s Office. This crime carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, or probation.
The announcement by the Prosecutor’s Office of the bust follows raids from January 15 to 18 in Plovdiv, Ihtiman, Karlovo and Samokov.
In 15 search-and-seizure operations, items found included long-term residence cards for foreigners, photographs of various individuals, copies of identity documents of Albanian citizens, and production equipment.
The Prosecutor’s Office said that the false documents were prepared in order to be provided to Albanian, Turkish and Tunisian citizens “for the purpose of their free movement within the borders of the European Union”.
The fees charged by the group allegedly exceeded 10 000 euro for a permanent residence card.
The statement said that one of the group, a police officer employed as an inspector at the Interior Ministry’s Migration Directorate, supplied the other with data from the ministry.
So far, two foreign nationals had been caught trying to leave the borders of Bulgaria, to travel elsewhere in the EU, using the fake cards.
Five false official documents for long-term residence of foreigners, which prosecutors described as being of “extremely high quality workmanship” had been seized.
At two of the addresses searched, two pistols and ammunition were found.
The accused also were involved in preparation false education diplomas, which they sold for 2000 leva.
The District Prosecutor’s Office will on January 19 lodge a court application to remand the accused in custody pending trial.