Probe finds top Bulgarian politicians wiretapped

Bulgaria's interior ministry has ordered irregular wiretaps on top politicians for years, prosecutors said Monday after a probe which appeared to confirm opposition concerns just ahead of snap elections next month.

Deputy chief prosecutor Borislav Sarafov told journalists the probe had turned up "practices at the interior ministry that facilitate the unregulated wiretapping" of top politicians and business people.

"We have observed violations regarding the daily use of (wiretapping) equipment," he added.

The prosecutor's office opened a probe last month after Socialist leader Sergey Stanishev asked them to verify an anonymous report that alleged the widespread use of wiretaps against political opponents.

According to the report, wiretaps were used on President Rosen Plevneliev himself, while he was conducting negotiations to form a new caretaker government in February and March.

Former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his right-wing GERB-led government resigned on February 20 amid massive public discontent over poverty and corruption.

But Borisov is still a strong candidate to win a new mandate in snap elections on May 12, with his party leading opinion polls.

The anonymous report also accused former Interior Minister -- and GERB's current campaign manager -- Tsvetan Tsvetanov of ordering wiretaps on former Socialist President Georgy Parvanov and the leaders of the ultra-nationalist and Turkish minority parties during their dealings with GERB.

Further alleged victims included former Finance Minister Simeon Djankov, European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva and several influential business people.

Tsvetanov has denied the accusations.

Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said the results of the probe -- looking at the period from September 2009 to March 2013 -- had been handed over to the European Commission.

Under Bulgarian law, technical means of surveillance are only allowed in investigations where the crime carries a sentence of five years or more.