CAR OF DISCORD

by Bozhidara Georgieva

Everyone who has had some work to do with the Bulgarian police should have noticed the despicable conditions in which rank and file officers often work

car.jpg

Everyone who has had some work to do with the Bulgarian police should have noticed the despicable conditions in which rank and file officers often work. Their uniforms are bad, their offices have been last repaired in the times when the Bulgarian police was called People's Militia, and they often have to pay out of their pocket for fuel to drive their rather old and rusty patrol cars.

Seemingly, some officers have found an ingenious way to drive something better. No, we are not talking about the confiscated Porsche that Sofia police used to patrol with in the 2000s.

In 2008, a businessman from Blagoevgrad, Dimitar Chongov, bought a second-hand Toyota Land Cruiser. He followed all the necessary procedures to register the 4WD.

A year later, the Gotse Delchev police contacted him about the car.

They asked Mr Chongov to leave his Toyota with them for a "check up" as they have spotted some problem with the number of the car's chassis, an indicator that it might have been stolen from its first owner.

Mr Chongov agreed to leave his car with the police and received a document for this.

He never saw his Toyota back, even after the Interpol and various insurers cleared the car – no-one was searching for it.

Instead, the police started driving the car, Mr Chongov alleged in an open letter sent to the media in 2023. They even crashed with it. Mr Chongov himself saw his Toyota being towed after some malfunction.

And then, the speeding tickets started to arrive.

At a certain moment, the fines that Mr Chongov had to pay for violations done with his car while it was "kept" by the police amounted to 2,600 leva. He even had difficulties travelling abroad – for a time people with unpaid traffic tickets were not allowed to drive out of Bulgaria.

Mr Chongov successfully sued the traffic police for the fines. He then successfully sued Gotse Delchev police to have his car returned.

You might think that it all ended here. After all, Bulgaria has the rule of law.

You will be wrong. The police refused to return the car because, it claimed, in 2022 the Toyota had become its property.

Mr Chongov's last resort was to make some noise in the media and to ask the Interior Ministry what was going on. So far, the response from the police was that they were checking what happened.

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