THESSALONIKI – A Thessaloniki felony court tried on Monday the first out of five pending drug trafficking cases brought against Bulgarian national Ognian Atanasov.
All five cases concern actions that became known to the Greek authorities after Atanasov – also known as the “Bulgarian Escobar” and the “Phantom of the Strymonas Valley” – escaped from the agricultural prison of Kassandra in 1998, Chalkidiki, while most charges are in danger of expiring under the 20-year statute of limitations.
Atanasov, 56, had been sentenced in the mid-90s to 18 years in prison after being found guilty of trafficking 2.5 kilos of heroine. He returned to Greece from Bulgaria, where he was serving a sentence for different crimes. In August 2010, the Greek authorities requested the extradition of “The Phantom”, which the Bulgarians approved on condition that he first serves his sentence in his home country.
A Bulgarian lawyer called to testify as a defence witness said that Atanasov had been hospitalised in his home country since 2016 with “a 100 pct disability rate”. “He has severe psychological problems and his brain is not functioning,” the witness said.
The court will resume its session on Tuesday afternoon, at the Prosecutor’s suggestion.