Jailed Bulgarian drug dealers forfeit assets worth R46.5m to State
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THREE Bulgarian nationals have been handed a collective 60 years’ imprisonment and had their assets worth R46.5 million forfeited to the state, says the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)
In what has been described as one of South Africa’s biggest drug busts, 973 bricks of cocaine with an estimated street value of R580m were found hidden in the hull of a vessel anchored at Saldanha Bay harbour.
Police received information about cocaine entering the country via Cape Town harbours last year. The vessel, the Windward, was identified and traced to where it was anchored at the Table Bay Harbour.
It then sailed to Saldanha Bay harbour in January 2021 where it remained while undergoing maintenance.
It left the port for a sailing test on February 25 before returning the next day. The following day, it received a cargo transfer at sea, then returned to the Saldanha Bay harbour on March 1.
Police assisted by members of the Special Task Force, boarded the vessel, arresting four Bulgarian and six Myanmar men. They found 973 bricks of cocaine, hidden in the front castle's hull, with an estimated street value of R580m.
NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the state withdrew charges against one Bulgarian and six Myanmar nationals.
“During the search of the Bulgarian’s residence, $1 125 630 and €4 300 were found and seized. The Bulgarians had two luxury SUVs which they bought while in the country. All the vehicles, the Windward and two other vessels were seized and forfeited to the state following a successful order applied for by the Asset Forfeiture Unit,” said Ntabazalila.
Mario Radoslavov Vasev, Asen Georgiev and Atanas Mihaylov Bikov were found guilty of drug dealing and entering South Africa illegally using fake documents when they appeared at the Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday .
Vasev was sentenced to 25 years for dealing in drugs. The court ordered that 13 years be suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted for dealing in drugs.
He was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for illegally entering South Africa. This sentence will run concurrently with the sentence for drug dealing.
Ivanov was sentenced to 25 years direct imprisonment for drug dealing. Twelve years were suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted for dealing in drugs. He was sentenced to a year imprisonment which will run concurrently with the sentence handed down for drug dealing.
Bikov was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment wholly suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted for dealing in drugs. He was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for illegally entering South Africa wholly suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted for contravention of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002, committed during the period of suspension.
In addition, he paid R2.5m to the Criminal Asset Recovery Account (CARA) to be used in the fight against crime.
State prosecutor, advocate Aradhana Heeramun, welcomed the sentence, saying: “This is the second-largest cocaine seizure in South Africa. It is a clear example of an international organised crime syndicate in operation. The illegal trade in narcotics is a prevalent and serious offence. It has ties to gangsterism and other crime and therefore has a huge negative effect on social economic circumstances of communities as a whole.
“The Organised Crime Component and Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority, once again set the benchmark for a massive forfeiture. We are very pleased with the outcome,” she said after the conclusion of the court proceedings on Friday.