Bulgarian mafia puts £345k bounty on premier's head

A BULGARIAN criminal gang has set a €400,000 (£345,000) bounty on the head of the country's prime minister.

In a revelations carried in the Bulgarian media from government sources, an unnamed mafia boss has apparently called for the "physical elimination of the prime minister" Boiko Borisov.

Tsvestan Tsvestanov, the Bulgarian interior minister, neither confirmed nor denied the allegations yesterday, saying only that "necessary measures are being taken".

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The fact that a mafia gang had the temerity to order the assassination of the prime minister of a European Union country could further exacerbate Bulgaria's unwanted reputation as a hotspot of organised crime.

Mr Borisov, who came to power last year promising to crack down on corruption that has plagued the Balkan country, has made no comment other than to joke that the bounty "was too little for my life".

The Bulgarian newspaper 24 Chasa reported the country's intelligence service had monitored a meeting of crime bosses at the King George Palace Hotel in Athens four months ago. In circumstances befitting a Hollywood film several "Bulgarian participants came ashore from yachts, accompanied by numerous bodyguards".

They then decided to fund the "elimination" of Mr Borisov.

The Bulgarian National Intelligence Service confirmed security surrounding the prime minister had been tightened.

Just who was the mastermind of the alleged plot to assassinate the prime minister remains unclear, although, another Bulgarian newspaper claimed the order came from a notorious smuggler linked to the drugs trade.

The Standard newspaper claimed the unnamed man had made a call to a group known to specialise in assassinations.

An attempt to eliminate the PM might have links to the Bulgarian government's campaign against organised crime and corruption that has blighted the country since end of communism. Authorities have recently tried to prosecute a number of suspected mafia bosses.

If the allegations are true then it would be the third plot to assassinate Mr Borisov that the authorities have thwarted. In the past the 51-year-old politician, first as Sofia mayor and then as interior minister, faced criminal threat, and earlier this year he revealed intelligence agents had foiled a plot to kill him in 2005.