Whole sale of diplomas
In two months of journalistic investigation, the newspaper “Politika” has discovered more than ten channels for manufacturing and distribution of falsified diploma for secondary and higher education. The materials are submitted to the National Service for Combating Organized Crime (NSCOC), which is already working on this case. In contrast to the police, the Ministry of Education showed no interest of “Politika” investigation, as it was summer vacation time.
The offers for false diploma are freely disseminated through the Internet, where following advertisement can be seen: “I sell diploma for secondary and higher education,” “Valid diploma for secondary and higher education from a school of your choice,” Diploma Site”, “We sell original diploma for secondary and higher education”, “I sell diploma from secondary and higher education in all alternatives” There are sincere scamps, who dare to ask for 100 lev to be paid on a bank account, and then they exchange the contact e-mail. They think that in this way the buyers of falsified diploma will become aware of breaking the law, and will not go to police to say they were deceived.
The connection with “serious traders” of false diploma is being established in two days. At the beginning, the talks are not much open or the candidate is appropriately checked. At the contact e-mail several advertisement for property sale are sent, followed by intimidations from the moderator of the site “Dalavera.net” that the IP sends advertisements to various, and sometimes non-existing e-mails. In several letters the moderator uses the court as a scare, but after he is convinced that the client is real person and has serious intentions of buying diploma, the intimidations stop. This happens during the first day, and the next day the specific offer arrives, where the price of around 2,000 euro is asked for false diploma from the University of National and World Economy, with specialty in “Accounting and Auditing”.
“The Diploma is normal and registered, so when you tell me the year of issuance that you want I will tell you the exact price and the deadline when the diploma will be delivered,” the offer states. Two photos, copy of the ID card and diploma for secondary education are required. Fifty per cent of the amount is paid in advance, and the rest is given after receiving the document.
Unless the agents from the National Service for Combating Organized Crime are involved, the investigation will stop here. The reporter can go out at the meeting and pay in advance the required amount. But, in this case he is already collaborator or inciting a criminal act and he threatened by the Bulgarian legislation.
The investigation of NSCOC forces is also connected with a series of procedural requests. It is a must to find a prosecutor close to this issue, which will initiate the procedure. But if according to the estimations of prosecutor, just as in the case of the Education Ministry, the problem is insignificant, then one can hope for an accidental discovery. This is the practice in 90 per cent of the discovered workshops for fabricating secondary and higher education diploma in the past years. The policemen encounter them either by a signal for production of falsified Bulgarian and foreign identity documents, or along the false foreign visas, driving licenses, control and traffic license or medical certificates. Small number of illegal printing house produces just one type of forgeries.
“We do not have much of an experience in discovering this type of crime,” admits one of the employees in the National Service for Combating Organized Crime. The last case was on July 13, 2005. A criminal group of five persons has been arrested, preparing and placing full arsenal of falsified documents. Organizer of the gang is 49-year old man with double citizenship – Macedonian and Bulgarian. This phenomenon is observed among several criminal groups. They are comprised of at least 4 persons, of which one always has double citizenship – Macedonia, Serbian or Russian. In this case, the organizer had a criminal record and was convicted of falsifying documents in Macedonia. He was a former manager in the industry sector.
The workshop for forging documents was located in Sofia, in “Levski” settlement. An important role in this scheme played the company of accounting, auditing and tax consultation “Vezilka”. The director was the Bulgarian Snezina Stefanova Ivanova, born on May 26, 1962. The other two managers in the company were the Macedonians Stojanov Pece and Stojanov Ilija. They became partners in 2003, when they divided the ownership and took over the assets of another bankrupted company of Snezina Ivanova.
Active participant in the group was the artist from Trojan city, Ivan Hadzijski, talented young man, claiming he had nothing in common with the others. He only admitted he knew Ivanova, who was his accountant. During the search of the house of one person from the same town of Trojan, who also participates in the group, a hiding place was discovered with three bags of fake diploma for secondary education with a stamp and signature, false tokens, customs declarations with stamp and small-caliber gun with bullets. The software of the falsifiers was maintained by another collaborator who lived in Pleven. The case is still under investigation, and no charges are filed yet.
In 2004, in the registration of “Vezilka” changes have occurred. The scope of company’s activities was expanded by adding the agricultural production. This is a modern approach, taken by those involved in grey economy in Bulgaria, a practice widely used in the past years. The murdered smuggler on the island of Aruba and head of the organized criminal group Konstantin Dimitrov – Samokov called himself “potato producer”. The killed drug dealer and head of the gang for contracted killings, Anton Miltenoc a k a Kljuna was also registered as farmer. The farming is in vogue, as a way for the criminals in shadow to justify their illegal proceedings from criminal activity.
Although maybe in a different scale, the producers of falsified documents also need to justify their illegally gained proceedings, so they register themselves as farmer.
The experts distribute two types of diplomas: fake diploma and original diploma, obtained in illegal way. It is harder to investigate the second type, because in most cases they are related with the corruption in the respective secondary or higher education institutions. One of the few cases even reached the court several years ago.
In the Nineties, German citizen Reiner Shute obtained diploma from the Technical Faculty of the Florida University. He arrived in Bulgaria and became master candidate at the European Faculty of Mining-Geological University. Today this university is closed, but for a certain period of time was issuing tones of fake diploma.
The University, from which the German got the diploma, is not considered as legitimate in many countries, including ours. Under pressure of the then rector of European faculty of Mining-Geological University, the German was accepted with an option to continue his education. After a year he received a diploma of higher education with the title master, without knowing a single word in Bulgarian. He did not have to demonstrate any knowledge of languages because the exams he has taken (ten in total) were fictitious. The explanation of the rector was that there has been a translator who posed the questions and translated the answers. Once he has succeeded, the German tried to get PhD degree in Plovdiv. But the luck was not on his side there.
During the investigations another problem emerged. The prosecution saw no reason to press charges, adding that the German citizen has been already punished by taking away his diploma. The case is not closed yet, but it is very likely that it could end with acquittal.
Another type of deception is the publications, with which the foreigners protect their dissertations. There are amazing cases. A candidate has submitted seven scientific publications to get higher title. Four of them were already published, and he was the publisher. The other three were published in the most famous journals in a very short period of time. This has raised the suspicion, which was confirmed with the additional examination. It was established that the foreigner scanned the journal, but erased part of the contents and there wrote the name of his publication. In the same way he has replaced some of the last pages. Everything else was authentic. This was carried out in a very professional way, so the editors did not spot the deceit.
“Bulgaria became part of the world mafia for forging diplomas,” admits Petar Kenderov, president of the High Commission for Attestation. He is academician, professor and doctor in mathematics. He has graduated at Moscow State University. Prof. Kenderov claims that most of the diploma sent for validity check in Bulgaria, contained elements indicating they were not issued here.
How diplomas are being forged? With contemporary computer technique the real diploma is being scanned, and with the same font the name of the person is being changed. Members of another commission are being inserted, mostly non-existing names, which allegedly brought a decision on the title. False number is also attached. This is very professional, so the foreigners (the strongest is the German market) buy such diplomas and on that ground pretend to get title of professor.
The issue of fabricated diplomas is being raised only after there is an official request for testing the validity of the document. On contrary, this can never be discovered. A German citizen has written a heartbreaking letter to our ambassador in Germany that he lost his diploma and he urgently needed a replication. His request was processed, but to everyone’s surprise it was noted that a diploma was never issued to a person with that name and under that number. During the examination it was concluded that the German has successfully used the forged diploma, and he knew it was forged because he paid a large amount of money for getting it. If a duplicate is issued with the appropriate signatures and stamps, the fake diploma is being verified. Many foreigners know that and try to avoid the national and Bulgarian legislation.
There are people who do not know they are violating the law, because they buy the diploma from a company that is officially registered in the country. This practice is very common in Macedonia. So, the buyer is escaping the accountability, because he used an intermediary.
On the other hand, the intermediary is also innocent, claiming that he does not know the people who made the diploma. He has procured the document from a third person and got commission from the customer, but it is not his role to be the detective. “Many times we have operations to follow the path of forged diploma to customers and to see which are the companies and persons distributing them, but for now we do not have data whether similar investigations are carried out abroad,” says docent Petar Kenderov.
Although the number of fake diploma has been reduced in comparison with previous years, there are still dozens of them. Foreign markets are the main stimulus for the counterfeiters. Some of the discovered samples can be confused with the originals, but there are also many amateur attempts, which can be published in the funny pages in newspapers under the headline “Spot the difference” All fake diploma discovered last year are with the signature of the last president of the High Commission for Attestation, although they were registered as being issued during the mandate of Kenderov.
“Obviously they have not scanned my signature yet,” he comments. The forgers still use the signature of the scientific secretary from 2000, and five other persons have performed this duty in the meantime. According to the information from the High Commission, the scientific degrees are sold at higher price than the usual diploma – a price reaching up to 12,000 euro.
There is one element reoccurring in almost all fake diploma discovered abroad, claimed to be with Bulgarian origin. There are some traces of the Russian language. The forgers obviously do not spot the difference, because the suffixes and cases do not leave an impression to them. In the other diploma from abroad, there was an absurd such as educational degree of “professor”.
The investigation of “Politika” found dozens of e-mails with the suffix “ru”. The offered price for fake diploma in one of them is 600 lev. The prices of fake documents are from 1,000 euro and above. The person offering this 600-lev diploma says he has launched a “promotional offer” due to the low demand, emphasizing that the price will be valid until the end of August, The deadline for making these fake documents is two to three weeks. The payment is in cash, although the installments are an option, but the document is given after the final installment is paid.
More than 300 fake diploma for secondary and higher education were discovered in private houses in Pernik in 2004. The operation of the National Service for Combating Organized Crime went on for two months. Two men, 68 and 47 years old, were accused after finding out they sold diploma for 50 leva each, which is the record price even for counterfeited diploma.
Nine workshops for fabricating documents were discovered in Sofia, Plovdiv, Kyustendil and Silistra in April 2003. The searched companies hid behind the legal consulting services, and their offices were in suburbia. During the search in Plovdiv dozens Bulgarian, German, Dutch and Irish passports, Bulgarian and Russian diploma as well as ID cards with photos and data were found. The lawyers advised the criminals to claim they were collectors. In their statements they are still saying they had an intention to put the fake diploma and ID cards on the walls instead of wallpapers. The paradox is that after taking the statements they were immediately released. The reason is that the punishment for forging documents is up to three years imprisonment, and therefore they cannot be kept in constant custody.
Most of the illegal printing houses are in the province and not in the capital where the headquarters are located. On February 10, 2005 in the town of Svishtov a private printing house was discovered issuing hundreds false diploma. Behind the company was the unsuccessful municipal advisor and activist of the National Movement “Simeon the Second,” Volodja Georgiev. His official income comes from the bookstore and advertising company in the “City of Customs Officers”, as Svishtov is often called. The illegal forgers assess Georgiev as dilettante, because he was breaking the market prices. He wanted to make money from the turnover and not the quality.
Volodja Georgiev has affinity towards Svishtov Economic Academy, where thanks to him, more that 200 current and future customs officers and transporters graduated in a different way. Georgeiv knew that his business will not run for a long time. When he was imprisoned he offered to buy coffee to the police officers and then theatrically stretched his arms in front of him to be handcuffed. During the search, the police found 154 stamps from different Bulgarian education institutions, municipal and tax administration, notary public, state institutions.
Great deal of the documents was issued thanks to the fact that he was president of the school board in the State Trade Gymnasium “Dimitar Hadzi Vasilev”.
During the investigation, it was noted that he has issued fake diploma and academic certificates from several other educational institutions - New Bulgarian University, University of Rousse “Angel Kanchev”, Technical University, Gabrovo and UNSS plus several secondary schools. He issued diploma for veterinary specialists. The investigation against Volodja Georgiev ended in October 2005 with a deal. The County court in Svishtov announced that deal was made between the county prosecutor’s office and Georgiev’s lawyers. The defended pleaded guilty and accepted the verdict of two years imprisonment or five years suspended imprisonment. The state has seized computer configuration with laser printer and the evidence was destroyed.
Another party activist was imprisoned in November 2003 in Rousse – Julijan Spasov – former head of Rousse’s County Youth Section of the Union of Democratic Forces. He was accused of using the fake diploma of a lawyer. He found a job as an attorney. During the search stolen documents from Rousse’s prosecutor’s office were found in his apartment.
One should not neglect the political moment. In April 2005 the County court in Burgas has defended the former rector of local university “Prof. Dr. Asen Zlatarov” docent Nikolaj Ralev accused of issuing fake diploma to prominent persons from the politics and business. The prosecutor’s office insisted on three year prison sentence or five years suspended imprisonment, but Sabco Sabev did not agree. The case was scandalous.
Among those that received fake diploma are the names of former health minister Ilko Semerdziev, head of the parliamentary commission on social affairs, Hasan Ademov, former deputy defense minister Mehmed Xhafer and other famous persons. According to the prosecution, the three of them obtained diploma in illegal way after attending only 2-3-month courses. They were enrolled in a course for post-graduate qualification, and have entered as master candidate students without taking the entrance exam. Total of 50 persons were awarded with the title master with short procedure and without taking the entrance exam.
Great corruption scandal emerged at Moscow State University for Culture and Art based in Rousse in 2004. The rector of this educational institution Tatjana Kiseljova was accused of mediating the sale of 130 fake diploma for lawyers from 2001 to 2004 in amount of 550,000 US$. According to the information on the web-site “Gazeta.ru” the bribe varies according to the prestige of specialty and the complexity of performance. For the first year one should pay 34,000 $, for economy 20,000$ and for humanitarian studies between 10,000 and 20,000$.
In Rousse the most famous forger is Jordan Nikolov, a k a Karate expert. His first printing house for fabricating banknotes and documents was discovered on August 18, 1997. Twelve persons were detained, but only three were accused. The karate expert was convicted to 6 years imprisonment, with a strict regime in the beginning, and his sons Iskren and Juli got suspended punishments as accomplices.
Two years afterwards another printing house of the karate expert was discovered.
Another famous city for producing tones of diploma is Burgas. In 2004 the printing house of Radostin Radev was discovered. The criminal scheme involved his friend Elena Ferdinanova, Aleksandar Hristov, yearlong officer in the Civil Aviation Administration in Burgas, Mihail Teoharov and former cop Martin Dinkov. The indictment is they have produced 267,000 fake dollars in the period May 2003 and February 2004. During the operation in “Radio Print” the policemen seized graphic press, scanner, printer, laminators, offset machine, hand paper cutter, hand binding machine, photocopying equipment, computer and aluminum matrix with the label of US Federal Reserves. The offset included pre-press materials for printing fake banknotes of 100 dollars. Ten other prepared materials were discovered for diploma for secondary and higher education, stamps from state institutions, tourist licenses, driving licenses and other forms for documents.
The largest international scandal so far, happened in 2002 when experts from the Macedonian Ministry of Education presented to their Bulgarian colleagues more than 80 false diploma. They were all issued by the Bulgarian Universities. Most fake documents were discovered at “Ss. Kiril and Metodij” University in Skopje. The representatives of the Macedonian Education Ministry came to get information about the verification requests and to get samples from the legal stamps and signatures of the relevant education institutions. Most of the fake documents were issued on behalf of the University for National and World Economy. The investigation of “Politika” only showed that this practice is still on.
Recently on the web-site of Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science there is a registry for verified diploma for completed higher education abroad and registry of current students and of those who have ended their studies as well as PhD candidates. The first register now includes data on verification of documents for higher education after January 1, 2006. This means that if you buy diploma with an older date, there is no mechanism to discover this. The second registry included current data for the winter semester in 2005.
The registries were supposed to become functional at the end of 2004, beginning of 2005, according to the director of Information Service and Technologies, Dimitar Cvetkov. The idea is the employers to check on the internet whether the prospective candidates have original diploma for completed secondary and higher education. This intention was part of the 2001 World Bank project on modernization of education. The credit from the World Bank was used for other purposes and the system is not functioning. The problem with fake diploma for secondary and higher education is not a priority for the Education Ministry at this moment.
Police officer from Pazardzhik, employed for 5 years ago was fired, after it was established that his diploma for secondary school was forged. The case was given to the Prosecutor’s Office in Plovdiv.
In the same time, border policemen, junior officer Kiril Kirjakov was also sacked from the regional border service in Elhovo. He was accused of presenting document with false contents – diploma on completed secondary education with average performance higher than the actual.
The Prosecutor’s Office in the town of Pleven started investigation against the director of “Vasil Aprilov” school, Plamen Pavlov for issuing false diploma on completed eighth grade with old stamps and forms from the school. He was dismissed.
Fifteen professional soldiers from the elite 61st Brigade in Karlovo from the Rapid Response Unit were discharged for using forged diploma on secondary education. This was discovered after they applied for the Bulgarian company for securing the Rapid Response Unit is Bosnia. The officers suspected the consecutive numbers of diploma presented by the soldiers. The diplomas were forged in illegal printing company in Karlovo and were sold for 80 to 100 Bulgarian lev.
56-year old teacher from Plovdiv, Pavel Georgiev, was accused of illegal issuing of certificate for secondary education with the stamps from the Evening Gymnasium “Hristo Smirnenski” for Electrical Industry and Catering school. He forged the certificates for professional qualification, working cards and official letters confirming the working experience. He authorized the documents by putting stamps that he has created from “Dentaflex” materials. He took up to 200 US$ for the service.
The policemen from the town of Shumen have discovered a group of four persons issuing false diploma for secondary and higher education on behalf of the universities in Shumen and Veliko Trnovo and several secondary schools in Shumen and Veliki Preslav. The channel went all the way to Turkey where some of the falsified documents were sold. The price was between 40 and 200 DM.
43-year old Nacko Markov from Borovan, Vraca, was accused for producing false diploma for secondary education. The investigation started when 31-year old Tosko Todorov from Krusovica village with forged diploma has applied for work in Regional directorate of the Interior Ministry in Vraca.
Secret forgery was discovered in Kaculka village, Krdzali. The 37-year old Akif Mustafa fabricated personal documents and diploma for secondary and higher education. The orders came from Turkey. Most documents were issued for specialty in Bulgarian philology and second specialty in Russian philology. The prices ranged from 500 to 1,500 DM.