SOFIA, Bulgaria – Three masked gunmen on Tuesday kidnapped the 12-year-old daughter of a Bulgarian mobster, an abduction that could be linked to drug trafficking charges he now faces in Italy.
Evelin Banev's daughter Lara was getting into a car outside their home in a suburb of the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, when the kidnappers pulled up in an SUV, police said. The abductors shot the driver twice and took the child. The driver is expected to survive.
"All roads into and out of Sofia have been blocked," police said in a statement. "All operational and search measures are being taken to establish the location of the child."
Banev was sentenced last month by a court in Sofia to seven-and-a-half years in prison on charges of heading an organized crime gang and money laundering. He is now being held by Italian authorities, who plan to try the 48-year-old on allegations he was involved in trafficking cocaine from Latin America to Europe between 2004 and 2007.
Kalin Mihov, a former head of the anti-drug police department, said it's possible the 12-year-old was kidnapped to warn Banev to keep silent at the upcoming trial.
Such high-profile abductions are rare in Bulgaria, an Eastern European nation of 7.3 million. In 2009, police arrested 25 people said to be involved in kidnapping at least 16 wealthy Bulgarians for ransom. Four of the accused were sentenced last year to prison terms.