Manuela Maleeva’s Mercedes was stolen by me!

  • With Krasimir Hristov – Bakata and Nikolay Zarev – Dankina, we earned 2-3 thousand marks a week from raised boats for Ukraine
  • Protected witnesses are traitors and sign their own death warrants. My personal friend Vasko Ketsa from “The Killers” sang it like that
  • We loaded the wood mafia with 100 cubic meters of poplars per night for pulp, they gave us 200 marks per cubic meter
  • With the cops – service for service, we paid according to the position and what they had to close their eyes to

In the last issue of “24 hours – 168 stories” we told you about the ex-criminal Ivan Hristov (names have been changed for security reasons), who is 57 years old today and lives in a sheltered apartment. He stole cars, lifted safes from homes, participated in robberies, fraud, kidnapping, extortion, arms trafficking and counterfeit alcohol. In front of the media, Ivan told us about his experience as part of “organized crime”, as he calls it, and why he has now abandoned this way of life.

Ivan survived several attempts, a heart attack and two strokes. There are four heart stents. He spent 16 years in our country’s prisons – Pleven, Belene, Lovech. He entered 5-6 times. In this issue, read his memories of car thefts in the 1990s, the timber mafia and the attacks on him.

– Who ordered you and your group to steal cars for Ukraine?

– It wasn’t one person. Several people participated in the scheme. It was a whole canal. I know everyone’s names, but I can’t say them. I and the people in the group, including Krasimir Hristov – Bakata and Nikolay Zarev – Dankina (both killed – note ed.), were responsible for the car thefts themselves. We had to cover the number of 14 ladas and take them to “Iliantsi”. There, another person was already in charge of them before they left the border. In order to cover the figure they wanted, we traveled all over Bulgaria. It wasn’t hard to find. A lot of people drove boats. They had the reputation of middle-class cars, but still better than “Moskvich” and “Zaporozhets”. I remember the “Lada 2107”, which came out in 1982 and was the pinnacle of the Lada classics. Then more expensive models appeared. They started ordering us Audis and Mercedes.

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– How much did you earn from a stolen car?

– From the latkes, the profit was not much – 2-3 thousand marks a week, or 12 thousand marks a month. With other cars like Audi and Mercedes it depended on the specific model. For them, the orders were not like with the latkes. There’s no way you can get 14 a week. However, when you get a call about an Audi 80 C, which was worth a bag of money back then, you have to research which city has one and which person bought it in order to steal it. Not everyone could afford such a car. Then the methods of theft also changed. Lada was easy. When modern cars came in, we started using a decoder. That’s how we broke them. We were finding our devices. I can say that I was earning good money – as soon as the second BMW 7 series in Bulgaria was mine, then take care. The first belonged to the head of customs from Sliven, the second – mine, bought from Germany.

– Have you received an order for the car of a famous politician, singer, actor, athlete?

– Yes, we have also received such orders. I have an interesting case from 1989. I stole the Mercedes of Manuela Maleeva (our best tennis player – note ed.), but I was caught. Not now, but later. It was another order – specifically for her car. We knew very well who she was. I accepted the order because they promised us a profit of 5 thousand marks per person. There were two of us. They would just gild us. We executed the whole plan well. We had information on where she was moving, route, where she was parking, everything. We acted.

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– How did they catch you?

– The situation is risk wins, risk loses. We got caught. It was neither the first nor the last time. Mistakes happen in haste. But that didn’t stop me after that. The profit would be very good. Imagine – from 14 Ladas per week we took 2 thousand marks per person, and only for her car they gave us 5 thousand marks per person. How to refuse? We got right down to it.

– Who was the organizer of the stolen car channel? Could they report you to the police if you were arrested?

– We acted as a group. We shared the profit. The fact that someone might betray you is something you constantly think about, but that’s the game. There are no friends in it. You stick up for those around you, even though any one of them might decide to save themselves by singing you out. So Vasko Ketsa from the “Killers” (sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of lawyer Petar Lupov from Veliko Tarnovo and Shumen businessman Rumen Rachev – note ed.), who was a personal friend of mine, was betrayed by a protected witness. I have been offered many times, but I have refused. They told me: “Tell me names, tell me who was with you, who ordered and paid for you”, but I was always adamant: “It can’t be done”. If I did then, you wouldn’t be talking to me now. I would directly sign my death warrant. There are always traitors.

– Have you received orders to kill?

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Read the answer to this and other questions HERE

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