Has anyone ever bought counterfeit money?

14 million euros counterfeit money

At first glance, it looks like a successful action by the Bulgarian public prosecutor's office: On November 1, 2016, chief prosecutor Sotir Cacarov stated at a press conference in the second largest Bulgarian city of Plovdiv that the National State Security Agency had reported 14 million euros of counterfeit banknotes in the Metschka reservoir near the city. During the operation 13 IŽ brand hunting rifles from Udmurtia, Russia, with serial numbers obscured, were also found. These were stolen from a gun shop in Haskovo in January 2014, after which the shop was set on fire. 3.2 kilograms of marijuana were also found. The public prosecutor speaks of the biggest blow to date against the Bulgarian counterfeit money mafia. It is the largest sum ever found in Bulgaria.

Prosecutor presents a perpetrator

But this is where the questions start. According to the prosecutor, three men were involved in the matter. Two of them have not yet been noticed by the authorities as criminals. Prosecutors claim that one of the two, Atanas Angelov, is the main character and has him arrested. Blossoms worth 1.25 million euros were found in his house, as well as weapons and marijuana. When the police came to his home in Părvomai, a town near Plovdiv, on Thursday, October 27, 2016, they did not find Atanas Angelov. But his mother let the police into the house. The following Monday, Angelov appeared at the prosecutor's office in Plovdiv and informed them that another 12 million euros could be found in the Metschka reservoir.

Atanas Angelov had worked as a truck driver for many years. When he began to develop symptoms of epilepsy, he was no longer allowed to drive a truck and Angelov began to work in agriculture. He grew pumpkins and plums and also hired himself as a driver for the tobacco farmers in the village. The mayor joked in the media that the village could use the counterfeit euro bills. The villagers describe Angelov as a "good man who tried to help others". They believe he is little more than a straw man in the history of counterfeit money. In front of the coroner, Angelov is said to have cried and begged for mercy.

The main defendant is probably just a straw man

The public prosecutor's office portrays his neighbor Rumen Jankov as Angelov's accomplice. He is unemployed, but, as the village says, has large sums of money at his disposal. He had built a new house and spent an enormous sum on arranging his son's wedding. His car was found in the parking lot in front of the Carigrad hotel in Părvomaj, where the wrong money was being sold to an intermediary. Jankov is currently at large on bail of 5,000 leva (2,600 euros). The alleged buyer of the counterfeit money, Najden Bonev, is also not in custody. Police say he was the first to admit that the 12 million had been hidden in the reservoir.

Counterfeit money of excellent quality

The quality of the flowers is very high, say the investigators: They give them a "grade of 9.7" out of ten points. Most likely, the money comes from the printing works of the well-known Bulgarian counterfeiter Petăr Pavlov, whom Europol director Rob Waneright described in 2011 as one of the best euro counterfeiters. Pavlov also comes from Părvomaj. He became famous for forging banknotes, documents and tax stamps for alcohol and cigarettes in the early 1990s. Pavlov has close ties to the Bulgarian mafia. In 2003, when the future Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov, was still chief of police and personally led the operations against counterfeiters, Pavlov was charged with counterfeiting, but was able to make a deal with the Plovdiv public prosecutor: Pavlov pleaded guilty to having "material that used, manufactured, stored and hidden "for the counterfeiting of banknotes" and got away with a three-year prison sentence, which had been suspended. Borissov said succinctly: "We'll arrest you and the prosecutors will let you go again."

In 2011, Pavlov was arrested again. A court in Sofia sent the case back to the Plovdiv court of first instance. There the proceedings were only continued five years later. At the end of October 2016, the Plovdiv District Court sentenced Pavlov to two years in prison for counterfeiting money, which he immediately appealed. His print shop is now doing very well.

When did the millions get into the reservoir?

Two versions are circulating in the media about when the money was hidden in the reservoir. Either it happened after Angelov and Jankov realized the police were after them. Or the notes have been in the lake for 8 or 9 years so that they age naturally and are more difficult to distinguish from real euro notes. So far it is not clear where the false money from the Metschka reservoir should go. According to Interpol estimates, flowers made in Bulgaria are circulated in Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Macedonia.

Bulgaria - a leading country in the counterfeiting industry

According to Interpol, Bulgaria was among the top 3 for counterfeiting in Europe until 2006. In recent years Bulgaria has lost its leading position to other countries, but organized crime is still very active in this area. In April 2016, a printing company with 2.5 million false euros was discovered in a village in northern Bulgaria, and these notes were also of the highest quality. And in October 2016, 3 million false euro bills were found, also in a Plovdiv printing house. Police experts assume that the various printing companies produce and sell the counterfeit money under the protection of influential officials from the police and politics. Officially, this is of course denied.