Convicted rapist wanted by Bulgaria is released from arrest after prosecution blunder

Tenev was released from prison this afternoon, but there is no legal impediment that could stop the Maltese authorities from rearresting the man

A judge has ordered the release of a man, wanted by the Bulgarian authorities in order to serve a three-year prison sentence for rape, criticising the failure to make the necessary travel arrangements for his return within the 10-day period established by law.

47-year-old Żabbar resident Tencho Gospodinov Tenev had been arrested in Malta last May after a Schengen Information System Alert and a European Arrest Warrant for Tenez’s arrest was issued by a Bulgarian prosecutor in July 2020.

Tenez is wanted to serve a three-year prison sentence in his home country, handed down after he was convicted of rape in 2013.

A court of Magistrates had ordered his return to Bulgaria in May, but Tenez had filed an appeal to the order. The appeal was rejected in July, after which the legal 10-day period for the man’s return was triggered. 

But on 4 August, the last day of that period, the AG had filed an urgent application requesting an extension to the 10 day period, stating that the Bulgarian authorities had insufficient human resources to escort the accused and because of difficulties encountered in obtaining permission to catch connecting flights.

The AG had submitted that the law concedes the possibility of granting an extension in cases where the delay in returning the  requested person is the result of factors outside the control of the Maltese authorities.

But the man’s defence counsel, Roberto Montalto and Roberto Spiteri, argued that it was unfair of the Maltese authorities to only inform them of these problems at the last minute. 

They requested Tenev’s release from arrest, in view of the lapse of the ten day period.

In a judgement handed down earlier today by Mr. Justice Aaron Bugeja, the court ordered Tenev’s immediate release from custody, ruling that it had been “entirely the obligation and within the control of the requesting country and Malta” that when requests for the transportation of requested persons are made, the travel arrangements for sending that person back are made in advance to allow the surrender of the requested person to take place within the legal timeframe.

Although Tenev was released from prison this afternoon, legal sources confirmed with this newspaper that despite the court’s order for his release, there was no legal impediment stopping the Maltese authorities from re-arresting the man and starting the proceedings afresh.

READ ALSOMan convicted of rape in Bulgaria, is arrested in Malta