SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Former Olympic weightlifting champion Galabin Boevski, who was serving a nine-year prison sentence in Brazil for international drug trafficking, has surprisingly arrived home in Bulgaria after being granted an early release.
Bulgarian officials, including the justice minister and chief prosecutor, said on Thursday that they were caught by surprise by Boevski's release. Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivaylo Kashkanov said the decision to release Boevski was made by Brazil, which is not obligated to notify Bulgaria.
Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov said Boevski had apparently been released under a Brazilian procedure for expelling foreign convicts and sending them to their home countries. He said Boevski's return did not result from any efforts by the Bulgarian authorities.
Bulgarian national TV aired footage showing Boevski arriving at the Sofia airport on a late Wednesday flight from Paris and greeted by his family. Boevski has so far refused to make any public comments.
In May 2012, Boevski was sentenced by a federal court in Sao Paulo to 9 years, 4 months in prison after trying to board a plane at the city's airport with 7.2 kilograms (16 pounds) of cocaine in his luggage.
Boevski has always denied any wrongdoing. He had told authorities that the cocaine was unknowingly hidden inside a suitcase that he bought in Brazil after his original luggage was damaged. But prosecutors said they didn't believe him, arguing that a drug trafficker would not "abandon" that much cocaine in a suitcase put up for sale.
The 38-year-old Boevski won the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the 69-kilo (152-pound) category. He also won world titles in the category in 1999 and 2001. He was banned for eight years by the International Weightlifting Federation for doping in 2004.