In February 2012, gCaptain reported that in March 2011 Bulgarian shipmaster Captain Svetlozar Lyubomirov Sobadzhiev was arrested in Cristobal, Panama after 168 kgs of drugs were found in the bow thruster compartment of his ship. The Council Of American Master Mariners (CAMM), upon request by the Bulgarian Shipmaster’s Association, aided in finding defense counsel for Captain Sobadzhiev. Defense funds have been depleted in fact-finding efforts and to evolve a detailed chronology of events. Since that time CAMM has put in many hours pro bono in this endeavor, but additional funds must arise to continue efforts.
There is nearly a strict liability standard for drug cases in Panama. This means that once drugs are found aboard a vessel and it is determined that the Master was in charge, that an extremely strong defense is required to change the presumption of the government that the Master is closely involved and therefore is a culpable party and likely guilty. Moreover, there are other difficulties in drug cases in Panama: the Prosecutor is not allowed to charge the detainee with a lesser offense, and there is no provision for bail bond. Therefore, the Master could be detained as if lawfully incarcerated. Sentences for drug-related crimes in Panama are long.
There has been much on-going activity in support of the efforts to liberate Captain Sobadzhiev through means outside the courtroom, but more support is needed.
A Call For Help
The Bulgarian Shipmaster’s Association has opened a donor account in assistance to the relatives in collecting the funds needed. Here are the bank details:
Societe Generale Expressbank, Transportna Branch,
BIC: TTBB BG 22
IBAN: BG51 TTBB 9400 5525 7756 73 USD
Holder: Bulgarian Ship Masters Association
Letters may be also written to Panamanian and Bulgarian authorities for fair treatment of seafarers and urge them to resolve these issues. Please clearly mark the recipient of letter; the BSMA will forward accordingly. Address letters to: Bulgarian Shipmasters’ Association
17 Panagyurishte Str.
Varna, Bulgaria 9000