Bulgarian says innocent of charges that he breached U.S. embargo on Syria

From Reuters - April 17, 2018

SOFIA (Reuters) - When Bulgarian student Zhelyaz Andreev got a job at the Sofia office of a Miami-based company to help pay his way through university the last thing he expected was to be sucked into an international incident. He was wrong.

Last week, Bulgarian authorities arrested him following an Interpol Red Notice on a U.S. Department of Justice indictment for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and violate the Syria embargo by selling aircraft parts to Syrian Arab Airlines.

A judge ordered his release but banned him from leaving the country pending an extradition hearing. Dozens demonstrated to support him. Four other Bulgarians who worked at the Sofia office of export company AW-Tronics also face similar charges.

As a result, the 29-year-old finds himself at the center of a diplomatic incident.

I do not feel guilty. Everything I did in this company in the three years I worked there was a result of my job description ... and the direct orders of my superiors, he said.

The case has touched a nerve in Bulgaria, the European Unions poorest state, where many young people prize jobs with foreign companies because they pay better. Some said his case shows the peril young Bulgarians can face if foreign employers breach rules set outside the country.

Demonstrators last week in Andreevs hometown of Dobrich in northeastern Bulgaria and the capital held signs that read: You could be next and Working in a call center is not a crime.

Andreev faces charges for his role in six deals linked to the export of aircraft parts to Syrias national air carrier between October 2013 and March 2014, according to the indictment.


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