369. Telegram From the Embassy in Bulgaria to the Department of State1



  • Speculating on the Bulgarian Connection in the Agca Case.
Many of the allegations or suspicions concerning Bulgarian involvement in the Scricciolo, Dozier,2 Arsan and other cases involving smuggling and the like are believable if unproven. While no great admirers of the Bulgarians, we find much of what they are accused of in the Agca case difficult to believe of the Bulgarians (even less the KGB) because it would have been so stupid. So we have tried to find other possible explanations for Bulgarian footprints in St. Peter’s Square. Clearly it is too early to draw any conclusions, especially since the case is before the Italian courts. But we thought it worthwhile to share our speculations in hopes that they might open new lines of inquiry.

Turkish Mafia Out of Control?

One possible theory is that Bulgaria’s apparent policy of providing sanctuary and limited support for underworld figures may have simply gotten away from them. Shadowy figures such as Celenk3 evidently have lots of irons in the fire, not all of them known to the Bulgarian state security. Some of them may have provided Agca with support (with or without knowledge of his intended attempt on the Pope) without bringing the Bulgarians in. Certainly enough forged [Page 1185] passports and “black” money are available in Sofia to make such a scenario feasible. And the local security forces may follow an intentional policy of not inquiring too deeply into the activities of the people whose presence they tolerate here. Under such a scenario, the local “Mafia” could have supplied Agca with ways of contacting Bulgarians in Rome, counting on Bulgarian cooperation in an emergency (perhaps on the basis of past experience).

Indiscriminate Destablilization

A related theory is that the Bulgarians saw Agca as a potential asset in their efforts to destabilize the West and sent him on his way to Italy without ever realizing what he was really up to. It is hard to imagine, however, that they would have set up contacts for Agca with their Embassy or with Antonov under such circumstances. Conceivably, Agca could have received this information from people in Sofia’s shadowy underworld who had had dealings with Bulgarians in Rome themselves. In several weeks at Sofia’s Vitosha Hotel he could have hardly avoided contact with these characters.

Other Tasks for Agca?

It is also possible that Agca was sent to Rome by the Bulgarians and/or the Turkish mafia on other business—such as arms or drug smuggling—and provided with Bulgarian contacts to facilitate this activity. He would not have revealed his interest to assassinate the Pope to any of these contacts, realizing that they would have nothing to do with such a scheme.

A Final Caution

None of the above alternatives would excuse the Bulgarians for whatever connection they—or their proteges—may have had with Agca. But it is equally clear that one cannot draw any conclusions concerning these connections on the basis of information available to us now. We may never be able to.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D820653–0297. Confidential; Priority; Limdis. Sent for information to Ankara, Rome, and Vienna.
  2. James Dozier was kidnapped by the Italian Red Brigades in December 1981.
  3. Bekir Celenk, a Turk.