OCCRP Weekly News Roundup

Bulgarian Authorities Nail the ‘Hamster,’ ‘Cigarettemen’ and More

Bulgarian police arrested alleged mobster Anton Petrov, aka “The Hamster,” on Tuesday.

Authorities say Petrov ran an organized crime group involved in prostitution. In addition to Petrov, his driver and two other individuals were arrested. Earlier in the day, police arrested two men who allegedly collected money from prostitutes before handing it over to Petrov.

Petrov is also a detainee in the infamous “Octopus” trial. The Octopus detainees were initially charged with organizing drug trafficking, tax fraud, prostitution, racketeering and embezzlement.

And on Thursday, Bulgarian authorities announced that in a police operation codenamed “Cigarettemen,” five members of an organized crime group dealing in cigarette smuggling were detained. According to FOCUS News, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetanov said:

“The group was dealing with large-scale illegal cigarettes trafficking of more than 22 million pieces in 2011. According to initial calculations, the group has caused a financial harm to the state of more than BGN 8 million (US$5.1 million)…”

Finally, with the participation of the Bulgarian General Directorate for the Fight Against Organized Crime, a 25-year-old Bulgarian man, who went by the screen name “nurd,” was arrested for involvement in Operation Card Shop…


Operation Card Shop

A two-year FBI investigation of suspected hackers called Operation Card Stop resulted in 24 arrests across four continents, including the Balkan countries Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia.

The investigation focused on a fake “carding forum” created by FBI agents to lure sophisticated hackers onto the site. The online forum, called “Carder Profit” was a marketplace for users to exchange stolen account numbers. The hackers were accused of targeting online financial and banking information.

The New York Times reports that the sting, in which FBI agents posed as hackers on internet forums, prevented over US$205 million in losses on more than 400,000 compromised debit and credit cards, according to US authorities in New York.


Romanian Intrigue?

The tale of former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase grows stranger as prosecutors investigate allegations that three policemen and a doctor helped the former PM escape jail time.

Nastase, who served as Romanian Prime Minister from 2000-2004, was sentenced to two years of prison on charges that he used illegal fundraising methods in his 2004 reelection bid.  Last week, when policemen arrived at his home to take him to jail, he shot himself in the neck in an apparent suicide attempt.

But there are suspicions over the reliability of Nastase's medical diagnosis. Romanian media sources have questioned the circumstances of the suicide attempt as photos of Nastase do not show blood, and he wore a light scarf and no oxygen mask on the way to the hospital.

Neither the policemen nor the doctor under investigation were named.

Regardless, Nastase arrived on jail on Tuesday to start his two-year prison term after a court ruled there was no impediment to start his sentence. Nastase’s lawyers will likely appeal the ruling.

Finally, on Thursday, after a series of convictions and acquittals, the Romanian Supreme Court sentenced controversial Romanian businessman Corneliu Iacubov to seven years in prison.

According to investigators, in 2005 Iacubov participated in crimes including money laundering and selling assets in the oil company RAFO at below their market value. The total losses amounted to almost US$7,000,000.