SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo barred a Bulgarian judge from entering the United States because of the foreign jurist’s alleged involvement in “significant corruption.”
Pompeo said the wife and daughter of Specialized Criminal Court Judge Andon Mitalov also won’t be allowed into the U.S.
“In his official capacity, Mitalov was involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and severely compromised the independence of democratic institutions in Bulgaria,” Pompeo said in a written statement Wednesday.
The statement did not give any details of the judge’s allegedly corrupt acts.
Mitalov issued a court order in November that allowed the head of a pro-Russia organization in Bulgaria to travel to Moscow to receive a state honor from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Nikolay Malinov, chairman of the National Russophile Movement, was on bail awaiting trial for espionage and prohibited from leaving Bulgaria at the time.
Malinov is charged in Bulgaria with spying for Russia. He is accused of supplying information to help Moscow try to turn the Balkan country away from its pro-Western orientation. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
The State Department’s action was the first involving Bulgaria and “reaffirms the U.S. commitment to combating corruption in Bulgaria and globally,” the statement said.
Bulgaria, Moscow’s closest ally during the Cold War, is now a member of NATO and the European Union. The country maintains close economic and cultural ties with Russia and is still almost entirely dependent on Russian energy supplies.