FILE PHOTO: Former Bulgarian Prime Minister and leader of centre-right GERB party Boyko Borissov leaves in his car after casting his vote at a polling station, during parliamentary and presidential elections, in Sofia, Bulgaria, November 14, 2021. REUTERS/Spasiyana Sergieva

March 18, 2022

SOFIA (Reuters) – Police in Bulgaria have detained former prime minister Boyko Borissov as part of an investigation into alleged blackmail dating back to 2014-2019, prosecutors said on Friday.

The decade-long rule of Borissov, 62, ended last spring when he lost an election that showed popular anger over high-level corruption in the European Union’s poorest member state. He remains leader of centre-right GERB, the largest opposition party.

A new centrist coalition government took office in December, pledging zero tolerance on graft in Bulgaria, which is ranked as the EU most corrupt member state by Transparency International.

The former finance minister Vladislav Goranov and GERB’s media adviser Sevdalina Arnaudova were also detained late on Thursday for 24 hours, prosecutors said in a statement.

Sofia City Prosecutors will have decide later on Friday whether to extend Borissov’s detention to 72 hours or release him, after examining the details of the investigation, they said.

The GERB party has decried the arrests, labelling them a political repression and called for early elections. Hundreds of GERB activists protested for hours in front of the government building.

Borissov has repeated denied any wrongdoing to different allegations of graft-prone activities in the past decade.

Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, welcomed the probe and said police have shown that no one was above the law.

“Only without fear from the untouchables Bulgaria can truly change,” Petkov said.

($1 = 1.7762 leva)

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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