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Tsvetan Vassilev, the Pious – painted as the founder and first warden of Giginski monastery “St St Cosmas and Damian.”

In connection with the recurrent issue with the group Vassilev – Peevski – Barekov and the signal of “Protest Network” before the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office, we republish this investigation of Bivol as it proves beyond doubt the existing links of Tsvetan Vassilev with the financing of the media empire of Irena Krasteva, mother of Delyan Peevski.

We also recall the attempt of four Bulgarian banks, including Tsvetan Vassilev’s Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) to administratively intimidate Bivol through the Central Bank (BNB) because we developed the taboo topic of “banks bad apples.” Our publication was based on the U.S. diplomatic cable in which KTB is listed among Bulgarian banks practicing “money laundering by Bulgarian and foreign criminals and connected lending….which leaves legitimate investors and account-holders holding the bag when bad loans go uncollected.”

We express our solidarity with our colleagues from “Protest Network” – Antoineta Tsoneva, Asen Genov and Nikolay Staykov who stood with their names in the signal against the organized crime group Vassilev – Peevski – Barekov, as we stood with our names with our numerous publications over the years against this hydra suffocating freedom of speech.

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We urge the Prosecutor’s Office to declassify and publish the classified probe from 2009 in sources of funding Irena Krasteva’s media, which will dispel all doubts WHO is subsidizing these media which Delyan Peevski calls “my media” and which, in reality, are tools of influence and propaganda in the service of any government.

Atanas Tchobanov, Assen Yordanov

About the Short Memory of a Banker

On the request of OFFNews dated September 11, 2013, Corporate Commercial Bank, (CCB or KTB in Bulgarian), has sent the following reply:

“CCB has no ownership of bTV or any other media, neither through its company, nor as direct shareholder.

It is difficult to currently verify the validity of this statement as ownership of some media linked to CCB, such as TV7, is “buried” in offshore companies. In the past, however, at the time when Irena Krasteva, (Delyan Peevski’s mother) bought up and virtually monopolized the print press, CCB companies and personally banker Tsvetan Vasilev, directly owned firms from her press group. And some people associated with CCB’s companies are still in the management of these media.

The relationship with media ownership can be tracked through the company Vives Corp., which co-owns the new shopping mall “Strand” in Burgas, built entirely with a loan from CCB, and mortgaged there. Veneta Nikolova is the representative of Vives Corp and member of its board of directors. She is also on the managing board of Strand Burgas Corp, the company managing the mall.

The link between Vives and CCB is hard to deny. The majority shareholder of Vives Co., Alexander Tsvetkov (4500 shares), by the end of 2011 was also the owner and manager of the company KEMIRA Ltd. KEMIRA is currently owned by HEDGE INVESTMENTS BULGARIA. Biser Lazov and CCB, together with an offshore company EFV INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL, represented by Veneta Nikolova, are shareholders in HEDGE INVESTMENTS BULGARIA. The minority shareholder of Vives Co., Biser Lazov (500 shares) is on the board of directors of BROMAK FINANCE, which is owned by BROMAC Ltd. The latter company is solely owned by banker Tsvetan Vassilev and through BROMAC Ltd he holds the controlling stake in CCB. Vives Corp, itself, holds 69218 shares of the CCB capital.

Look, Irena Krasteva!

Irena Krasteva, the mother of the infamous Delyan Peevski, bought the newspapers Monitor, Telegraph, and Politika (Politics) in late July 2007 through NEW BULGARIAN MEDIA GROUP HOLDING Ltd, registered on July 4, 2007. On August 27, 2007, the company was transformed into Corp, and its shares were recorded by the BALKAN MEDIA COMPANY, owned by Irena Krasteva and Vives Corp – 50% each.

By the end of 2007, Vives Corp had as a sole owner Veneta Nikolova. She also became then member of the board of NEW BULGARIAN MEDIA GROUP HOLDING, where she remained until October 16, 2008.

At the end of December 2008, the shares of Vives Corp in NEW BULGARIAN MEDIA GROUP HOLDING were already owned by TECHNOLOGY CENTER – Institute of Microelectronics (TC-IME). At this point, the company held 24% stake of the CCB capital, according to the Bulgarian trade registry.

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*The shareholders record of NEW BULGARIAN MEDIA GROUP HOLDING where the shares owned by Vives and TC-IME are listed.

This is the interesting part, as Mediapool wrote in its investigative report, because BROMAC Ltd of Tsvetan Vassilev (with 49% stake) and KEN TRADE (with 51%) own TC-IME, while KEN TRADE is also owned by BROMAC.

In 2009, on the request of Member of the Parliament, Milko Dimitrov, the Prosecutor’s Office had to probe the sources of financing of the former director of the State Lottery, which had allowed her to purchase this many media. It emerged that Irena Krasteva has been granted a loan precisely from CCB.

51.11% of the shares in any of the companies covered by purchase were listed as guarantee for the loan.

Undercover

Between 2007 and 2009, Tsvetan Vassilev and Irena Kristeva did not keep their common interests secret. Both were very publicly on the board of United BULGARIAN NEWSPAPERS Corp., established for the privatization of the Publishing and Printing Complex, (IPK) Rodina. A few days before the general elections in July 2009, the banker-media mogul has decided to hide *. On June 19, 2009, he left the board the UNITED BULGARIAN NEWSPAPER Corp., and was replaced by… TC-IME.

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In order to provide a full cover at the time of the events mentioned above, the shares of BROMAC Ltd in TC-IME have been transferred to the offshore company EFV INTERNATIONAL FINACIAL, represented by Veneta Nikolova.

Meanwhile, Krasteva had already become the sole owner of NEW BULGARIAN MEDIA GROUP HOLDING. On March 13, 2009, the Holding bought out all shares of TC-IME in the media empire and her connection with Vassilev was broken. At the end of March 2009, Krasteva in turn demonstrated “shyness” and left her position as managing director of TV7 Ltd, as well as her position in TV7′s owner CROWN MEDIA Ltd. Krasteva entered the board of the TV channel a year earlier, after the Cypriot offshore company CROWN MEDIA changed ownership.

“The hiding” of Tsvetan Vassilev and the withdrawal of Irena Krasteva coincided with the time of the election campaign, when Krasteva’s media hysterically supported the government of the Three-Way Coalition. On election night, the editorial policy was sharply changed and Krasteva’s newspapers woke up plastered with servile praise of the winner – Boyko Borisov. This lasted during the entire term in office of Borisov’s cabinet of his Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, until the early general elections in May 2013, when Krasteva’s media once again abruptly flipped their attitude.

“The Cloned Tsvetan Vassilev”

Tsvetan Vassilev’s memory obviously serves him well. In October 2011, he gave an interview in English for Leaders Magazine, where he did not deny CCB’s investments in media and complained from the negative effect of the economic crisis and from the “social and political sensitivity” of such investments. Also he recognizes he’s governing media.

Three months later, in an interview with TV host Rosen Petrov for his show “Let them Talk,” in December 2011, Vassilev did not remember ever making investments in Krasteva’s media.

“Another, bigger issue, is trading influence. Why did a banker decide to invest in media; actually are you investing in media or are these rumors?

These investments are rather rumors.

Huge rumors on top of it.

There is no way I have invested in Ms Krasteva’s media, because I should have cloned her or cloned myself. I only have interests in TV7, because there I represent the interests of several investors. It is another issue that Ms Krasteva’s media in reality, as media friendly to me, help me and defend my positions.”

However, documents indicate otherwise. Despite the offshore dive and the sweeping of evidence under the rug, at one point in the existence of Irena Krasteva’s media empire, documents show that banker Tsvetan Vassilev, through his companies BROMAC, KEN and TC TRADE and TC-IME owned 50% of her publishing group NEW BULGARIAN MEDIA GROUP HOLDING. This happened at the end of December 2008 and that’s when someone took out some 5.8 million levs and attempted to raise the capital of the company as was the decision of the shareholders. The attempt seemingly misfired because it is not recorded in the Registry Agency.

In addition, the prosecutor’s probe revealed that in 2007-2008, CCB has granted loans to Krasteva and companies linked to her to purchase media. It remains unclear how these loans have been paid off in a short time by the not very profitable newspapers of the press group.

By the way, Vassilev’s positions are currently defended as well and not only on some abstract friendly grounds, but by concrete individuals linked to him. In addition to national newspapers, Krasteva also bought up the biggest regional ones – Maritsa in Plovdiv, Struma in Blagoevgrad, Tchernomorski Far (Black Sea Lighthouse) and Factor in Burgas and Borba (Fight) in Veliko Tarnovo.

Veneta Nikolova, representative of STRAND, Vives, and the offshore EFV INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL, pops up again in Borba. It also turns out that she currently manages Publishing House Borba, which is half-owned by NEW BULGARIAN MEDIA GROUP HOLDING.

CCB: “Bad Apple” Sugarcoated with State Money

In 2004, the TC- IME company was involved in a scandal with the acquisition of lands of “Sofia Railway Factory” for 9.1 million levs or 18 euros per square meter. Three years later, on May 17, 2007, the land was resold at a profit of 978 euros per square meter to the Spanish company URBAS. A more detailed report about TC-IME can be read in an investigation of the Bulgarian 24 Hours daily.

The scandal with this deal is quoted in an US diplomatic cable about Bulgarian “Bad Apple” banks, where CCB is listed among banks practicing “money laundering by Bulgarian and foreign criminals and connected lending,which leaves legitimate investors and account-holders holding the bag when bad loans go uncollected.

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In addition to CCB, the cable cites First Investment Bank (FIB) of Tseko Minev, International Asset Bank – the bank of SIC, Economic and Investment Bank of Tsvetelina Borislavova, Investbank of Petya Slavova, DZI Bank of the murdered Emil Kyulev, Central Cooperative Bank, a.k.a. “The bank of Varna group TIM,” and Sofia Municipal bank of Hristo Kovachki.

FIB, CCB, Central Cooperative Bank, and Investbank reacted nervously and attempted to exert financial and legal pressure on Bivol through the Central Bank, BNB. This attempt was strongly condemned by the international legal rights organization “Reporters Without Borders.”

Bivol’s staff have our full support,” Reporters Without Borders said. “At a time when Europe is undergoing an unprecedented financial crisis, it is imperative for banks to behave transparently. Investigative coverage of suspected corrupt practices within the banking sector is more than ever before in the public interest, and at the international as well as national level.” – RSF stated.

 

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BNB failed to respond to repeated invitations from Bivol to provide the text of the “Bad Apples” claim so that it can prepare its defense. Ultimately, the case was left hanging as an example of institutional pressure and intimidation of media in Bulgaria, which for years now ranks last among the EU countries by freedom of speech.

FIB, CCB, Central Cooperative Bank, and Investbank are also the “darlings” of those in power. Both during the terms of the Three-Way Coalition and of GERB, the government “pumped” them with the money of State-owned enterprises. In the spring of 2010, the publishers of Trud (Labor) and 24 Hours dailies requested information from the Ministry of Economy and Energy, from which it became clear that CCB holds 54% of the money of State-owned companies. This was followed by threats of former GERB Finance Minister Simeon Djankov of introducing strict rules for the allocation of State money, but they remained just words. Moreover, State investments in CCB continued to grow and reached an absolute peak. In the fall of 2010, Sega (Now) daily obtained information under the Law for Access of Public Information, from which it emerged that as of March 31, 2010, 70% of the money of State-owned companies under the authority of the Ministry of Economy and Energy were exactly in CCB.

In return, all media associated with CCB acted in an extremely servile manner towards the government of GERB and personally towards Boyko Borisov. And vice versa: the attempt of the caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Marin Raikov to instate order and reduce the concentration of public money in several banks was met with hostility from Krasteva’s media, which attacked frontally President Rosen Plevneliev, who appointed the caretaker government.

The vicious cycle “State money – media – political influence – State money Prim,” promulgated by CCB with the complicity of the State did not go unnoticed in Europe. At a hearing in the European Parliament in June 2012, the director of “Reporters Without Borders” Olivier Basil clearly outlined these relationships as a factor distorting the free media market and limiting press freedom.

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