Bulgaria drugs trade funds Hezbollah: report

SOFIA Tue Apr 8, 2008 12:48pm EDT

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SOFIA (Reuters) - Profits from drugs trafficking through Bulgaria have been used to fund organizations like Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, the parliamentary security commission said on Tuesday.

Bulgarian crime groups trading in synthetic drugs and Arabs linked to militant groups had been cooperating in the trafficking, said the draft report obtained by Reuters and due to be debated in parliament this week.

"Part of the money accumulated from drugs trafficking are being used to fund terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad," said the report. It gave no further details.

Lebanese Hezbollah, a guerrilla group backed by Iran, fought a 34-day war in 2006 against Israel. Islamic Jihad is a Palestinian militant group sworn to destroying Israel.

Bulgaria lies on one of the main drug trafficking routes between Europe and southwest Asia.

There is growing pressure on Bulgaria's Socialist-led government at home and from the European Union to get serious about fighting rampant organized crime and graft.

High-ranking police officials were arrested last month and accused by prosecutors of passing sensitive information to shadowy businessmen.

The draft report, based on data from the national security agency, said drug seizures had fallen after interior ministry officials passed classified information to crime groups.

Last week, Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev gave the interior minister 10 days to draft plans to rid his ministry of corrupt police officers linked to crime bosses.

The report cites interior ministry data showing police seized 169 kilos of amphetamines last year, compared with 324 in 2006 and 1,018 kilos in 2005.

Despite its declared war on crime and corruption, Bulgaria has not charged any senior officials with graft and has put only one organized crime boss behind bars.

Local observers and EU diplomats say politicians and magistrates are often linked to crime groups, and tensions within the ruling coalition are also not helping any clean-up.

(Reporting by Anna Mudeva and Tsvetelia Ilieva; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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