Journalists Killed  |  Bulgaria

Bobi Tsankov

freelance

January 5, 2010, in Sofia, Bulgaria

At least two gunmen opened fire on Tsankov, 30, author of a book and newspaper articles on reputed crime figures, and two other men on busy Aleksandur Stamboliiski Boulevard in downtown Sofia around 12:30 p.m. Tsankov died at the scene while the other two men--identified by the daily Dnevnik as Tsankov's bodyguards--were hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Sofia prosecutor Nikolai Kokinov told reporters that 15 bullet casings had been found at the crime scene.

Late the same day, a Ministry of Internal Affairs task force arrested two reputed crime bosses, Stefan ("Sako," or "the Jacket") Bonev and Krasimir Marinov, local press reports said. Authorities said they were also seeking Marinov's brother, Nikolai. Krasimir Marinov was freed January 17 but ordered not to leave the country.

Authorities said they suspected the Marinov brothers of ordering the murder but offered no information as to the motive or the gunmen, according to local press reports. The news website Mediapool, citing unofficial sources, said Tsankov was to testify in court against the Marinov brothers in a money-laundering case.

From September 2009 until days before his murder, Tsankov wrote a series of articles in the tabloid Weekend that purported to reveal the activities of Bulgarian crime figures, according to local press reports. The latest article, published January 1, alleged that reputed crime boss Meto Ilienski had ordered the killing of a rival, Zhoro Iliev.

Tsankov had made similar accusations in November 2009 on the popular Nova Televiziya show "Goreshto" (Hot). The show's host, Veneta Raikova, said she had talked with Tsankov the day before he was killed to discuss details of another appearance, the Sofia News Agency reported. Raikova said she understood Tsankov was going to reveal details about the recent killings of three other Bulgarian crime chiefs, the news agency reported.

One of the suspects, Bonev, was arrested in November 2009 after allegations he had threatened Tsankov during and after a wild car chase through the streets of Sofia. At the time, the journalist said Bonev had told him not to publish anything about Ilienski. Bonev was freed on bail after the 2009 episode.

In his book The Secrets of the Gangsters, published in December 2009, Tsankov claimed to have had close relationships with several crime bosses who were killed in recent years. He was preparing a new book about the activities of a drug-trafficking group, press reports said.

A former Viva Radio host, Tsankov gained notoriety several years earlier after a number of people accused him of taking money for advertising that he did not air, according to press reports. In June 2006, a Sofia court convicted Tsankov of fraud and gave him a three-year suspended sentence, the daily 24 Chasa reported. Tsankov also survived two explosions, in 2003 and 2004, at his home. According to local press reports, Tsankov had more than 70 pending fraud cases at the time of the murder.


Motive Unconfirmed: CPJ is investigating to determine whether the death was work-related.


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