The Bulgarian government, police and judiciary are blaming each other for being ineffective in curbing a surge in violent crime, following two Mafia-style assassinations and an explosion in Sofia this week.
A restaurant owner was slain after a gunfight erupted in his dining room on Tuesday evening while Nikolai Tsvetin, the leader of a suspect organisation, was eating there.
Tsvetin escaped unhurt, but his bodyguard was wounded.
An hour later a bomb exploded in front of a shop in the Bulgarian capital. It is being viewed as a warning from one crime boss to another.
Further, a businessman was on Wednesday murdered while driving his son to school. The boy returned fire, though there are no reports of any casualties.
“If you see a well-known 'businessman' walk into a restaurant followed by 20 to 30 friends ... I advise you to leave,” Interior Ministry Secretary General Boïko Borissov said with bitter irony.
Interior Minister Georgy Petkanov demanded changes in the law to “stop people like this coming into restaurants and bars with armed bodyguards and terrorising the clientele.”
"This level of crime comes with being a country in transition where the rules are changing and a privatisation process is underway," Petkanov said.
“If you see a well-known 'businessman' walk into a restaurant followed by 20 to 30 friends ... I advise you to leave”
Interior Ministry Secretary General
Police say they have questioned 224 people and arrested another 61 in connection with the two murders and the blast.
But former Interior Minister Bojidar Popov told journalists: “The less the police do, the more active the businessmen become. Turf wars break out when the state allows criminals to settle their own scores. It is anarchy,” AFP reported.
The president of the parliament's law commission, Anelia Mindova, blamed the interior ministry.
Instead of working systematically, the ministry “waged sporadic campaigns” against crime, she charged.
Bulgaria plans to implement reforms to its justice system at the demand of the European Union which the former communist country hopes to join by 2007.
Mafia-style gangs emerged in Bulgaria in the confusion that followed the fall of communism in 1989 and special in arms trafficking, blackmarketeering, prostitution and drug smuggling.
According to official figures crime rose by 115 incidents per 100,000 members of the population in September 2003.
In 2002, the government said, 134,933 crimes were registered by the police.