April 25, 2018 / 12:20 PM / 7 months ago

Bulgarians accused of Syria dealings unlikely to be sent to U.S. - prosecutor

SOFIA (Reuters) - It is unlikely that five Bulgarians will be extradited to the United States to face charges of exporting aircraft parts to Syria’s national airline in violation of a U.S. embargo, Bulgarian chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said on Wednesday.

Bulgarian citizen Zhelyaz Andreev, 29, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Sofia, Bulgaria, April 16, 2018. Picture taken April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Washington has sought the arrest and extradition of Zhelyaz Andreev and four other Bulgarians who worked at the Sofia office of the Miami-based export company AW-Tronics.

“There are not enough legal prerequisites for the extradition,” Tsatsarov told reporters after a meeting with the prime minister, the justice minister and the U.S. ambassador.

“The chance that the extradition requests will be respected by the Bulgarian court is, in our view, minimal,” he said.

Andreev has already been released from detention and Tsatsarov had said he would not detain the others for now.

Andreev, 29, has denied the accusations, saying he did not take any managerial decisions at the company and was not aware of a U.S. embargo.

Consultations between the U.S. Department of Justice and Bulgaria’s Justice Ministry started on Monday, and U.S. officials had agreed that there was no need to detain the suspects, Tsatsarov said.

The United States has about two months to send detailed extradition requests. Tsatsarov said he believed they lacked a legal basis as the offences in question did not appear to be crimes in Bulgaria.

A total of 11 people have been indicted in the case, including two AW-Tronics managers, Miami residents of Iranian origin.

They, along with the company’s export compliance officer, pleaded guilty last October to conspiracy to defraud the United States and illegally export aviation parts and equipment to Syrian Arab Airlines. They were sentenced to up to two years in prison.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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