Petar Hristov – a Bulgarian businessman believed to be close to the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) – was shot dead in front of his main office in Sofia on January 8.
The murder coincides with the start of Bulgaria’s chairmanship of the European Union. Although Hristov’s connection to GERB does not seem the likely reason for his death, the killing will further worsen Bulgaria’s already very poor image as a country that has failed to fight organised crime and corruption for years, and could result in a loss of support for GERB’s current government.
Hristov is owner of the dairy producer Lakrima, but also has been involved in companies in the construction, tourism, finance and consultancy sectors, according to local media. According to local media, he is close to Tsvetan Tsvetanov – the right hand of GERB’s leader and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. Hristov participated in various GERB activities in the town of Veliko Tarnovo, including in the party’s campaign for the latest presidential election.
The motives for the killing are not yet known. Police said in a statement they have not received any information about threats to Hristov’s life, and he was not using bodyguards.
But while the official statement provided no further information, daily Dnevnik quoted Ivaylo Ivanov, head of the Sofia directorate of the police as saying that the police is probing whether the murder was connected to Hristov’s business.
Ivanov added that a likely motif could be Hristov’s assistance in revealing of a serious crime. He did not elaborate, but according to Dnevnik the businessman helped the investigation to identify a criminal group named “The Insolents” by the police that has kidnapped several people.
Hristov was also involved in a case against Orlin Todorov, former head of the division for fighting organised crime in Veliko Tarnovo. Todorov was sentenced in April 2017 for providing illegally classified information to Hristov. Todorov subsequently filed and won a claim against Bulgaria in Strasbourg.
Hristov’s death further tarnishes the country’s reputation, following mass protests against a late December government decision to allow the expansion of a ski resort in the UNESCO-designated Pirin National Park.