Because of Bivol’s Story

Venezuela Investigates Petrodollars in Bulgaria

Nikolay Marchenko

The opposition majority in the National Assembly of Venezuela is investigating Bulgaria’s role in laundering petrodollars through Investbank. Salva Foods 2015 SA plays a key role in sham food deliveries. It is linked to the close to President Nicolas Maduro millionaire Alex Saab Moran, who is being investigated in the United States for money laundering. In Bulgaria, his name is present in several companies associated with notorious attorney Tsvetan Tsanev and the hijacking of the Libyan tanker BADR.

Weird letter to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov

Salva Foods 2015 S.A. appears in a letter from Venezuelan lawmakers to Borisov. It does not make clear exactly what the connection to the petrodollars investigation is. Estefania Melendez, Ambassador of Venezuela in Bulgaria, Northern Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, appointed by President-elect Juan Guaido, provided the three-page letter in Spanish to Bivol.

Bivol was unsuccessful in obtaining from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) either a rebuttal or a confirmation that such a letter has been sent, delivered and received by Boyko Borisov.

Venezuelan lawmakers inform the Bulgarian Prime Minister that an investigation into Salva Foods 2015 S.A. food imports is unnecessary, suggesting that the Prime Minister has been aware of the case.

The origin and the reason for this letter stem from the investigation into funneled petrodollars from Venezuela -a little known in Bulgaria scandal. We remind that this scandal linked to the millions of Venezuelan petrodollars sent to Bulgaria started with a former US Ambassador in Sofia, who announced the funneling during a public meeting with Borisov, Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov and representatives of the Bulgarian intelligence community.

Bivol revealed in the aftermath that attorney Tsvetan Tsanev opened the account at Investbank, through which the millions had been sent. In the past Tsanev had been part of a group of “European investors” negotiating with a Cosa Nostra boss to acquire a stake in a diamond concession in South Africa, as revealed by an investigation by Bivol from 2015. Bivol, as a partner of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), participated in a large-scale international investigation by IRPI/ANCIR into the diamond business of the Italian Mafia in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Tsanev has been linked to other scandals such as the hijacking of the BADR tanker.

The investigative media of fugitive to Colombia Venezuelan journalists Armando Info (part of the Global Investigative Journalism Network – GIJN) wrote in detail about Bivol’s investigation into Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company (PDVSA) and Investbank. The media also mentioned Bulgaria in its report “Should reputation be whitewashed? Lawmakers are hired for this purpose.”

Bivol turned to Venezuelan investigative journalist Roberto Deniz from Armando Info to interpret the text of this letter to Borisov. According to him, the companies mentioned by the lawmakers in the letter are related to Alex Saab and are part of the food distribution schemes of the government of Nicholas Maduro.

It has emerged that after the scandal with the Venezuelan millions funneled to Bulgaria through attorney Tsvetan Tsanev and Investbank, a parliamentary inquiry has been launched in Venezuela, largely based on Bivol’s findings from the “Venezuelan Laundromat”.

Businessman Alex Saab Moran turns out to be a key figure in the scheme in which his food import company Salva Foods has been used to launder millions with documents for purchases of food that has never been delivered.

“El Ombre” of Maduro

Opposition Venezuelan media see Colombian businessman Alex Saab Moran as “Maduro’s man”. A press release by the US Treasury Department, dated July 25, 2019, mentions him as a “profiteer orchestrating a vast corruption network that has enabled former President Nicolas Maduro (Maduro) and his regime to significantly profit from food imports and distribution in Venezuela.”

According to the press release, “Saab has personally profited from overvalued contracts, including the Government’s food subsidy program titled the Local Committees for Supply and Production, or Los Comités Locales de Abastecimiento y Producción, commonly known as CLAP.”

According to Bloomberg, Alex Saab and his partners have inflicted damages on Venezuela for at least USD 362 million for food that has never been delivered.

According to a Bivol source who requested anonymity, attorney Tsvetan Tsanev is considered one of the European business associates of Alex Nain Saab Moran. It is believed that he is the person who has organized a visit to Sofia of two of Venezuelan lawmakers to request information on the money blocked in Bulgaria. Subsequently, these lawmakers have passed into Maduro’s camp.

The Bulgarian “Moran” Trail

Bivol’s investigations into the hijacking of the tanker BADR mentions the Bulgarian company Moran Trade and its manager Assen Evgeniev Kavdansky. According to the Commercial Register, until June 2018, the parent company of Moran Trade had been registered in an offshore jurisdiction – Moran Trade and Investment Inc., British Virgin Islands.

Ventsislav Andonov Krastev with a share of BGN 5,000, which he transferred to Kavdansky on June 18, 2018, is the company’s next owner. The owner of the CSKA football club and the waste management company “Titan” Dimitar Yosifov Borisov is a recent partner in the company. He had been its manager between 2009 and 2014.

As Bivol revealed, the Swiss company Tectona Trading with shares of bearer represented by Andrea Caravelli and the offshore from the British Virgin Island Moran Trade & Investment stood with equal shares behind Bulgargeomin Ltd at its establishment on April 4, 2013, under the name Consortium BGM. Their Bulgarian avatars are Tectona with a capital of BGN 200; Globe West Group 1 with the same capital, later renamed Moran West and Moran Trade with a capital of BGN 5,000. These three companies have concluded a contract for an association, with Tectona holding 50%, and Global West Group and Moran Trade jointly owning the other 50%.

Assen Kavdansky is the usual strawman for these companies. There is a recent European arrest warrant for him filed by Greece for helping Greek businessman Georgios Lappas to forge a mortgage for the BADR tanker.

As Bivol wrote in February 2019, attorney Tsvetan Tsanev, who holds the account at Investbank used to funnel tens of millions for PDVSA, has had in the past close business relations with individuals from the so-called “Bankya Circle” over oil business with Russia.

Tsanev is also identified as a former Communist State Security Services agent in amphetamines traffic case. He is involved in shady deals with Cosa Nostra boss Antonino Vitale in the bloody diamonds business in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

General Lyuben Gotsev, former chief of Communist Secret Services, banker Petya Slavova, owner of Investbank and Nedyalko Nedyalkov, current deputy-chief of SANS

One of these individuals is Dimitar Sabev, whose relative Nedyalko Nedyalkov is a Deputy Head of Bulgaria’s National Security Agency (DANS) – the institution tasked with detecting cases of money laundering. A large shareholder in Investbank from Oman is also closely related to Tsvetan Tsanev’s family business.

Mysterious guests from South America

Moreover, the letter to Borisov is not the end of the story. In April 2019, two Venezuelan lawmakers arrived in Sofia secretly and met with an MFA official from its “Americas” department. On April 12, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva confirmed this in writing to a question from an opposition Bulgarian lawmaker. The letter is available to Bivol. According to the MFA press office, Ekaterina Zaharieva had not been present at the meeting.

According to Zaharieva, the reason for the visit of the Venezuelan lawmakers had been an investigation into “corrupt practices identified by foreign companies operating in Venezuela that harm the interests of the Venezuelan population.”

Her letter clarifies that the two Venezuelan lawmakers – Luis Parra and Conrado Perez – have requested the meeting, while their visit to Bulgaria has been part of their European tour. Previously, they have had meetings in France and Liechtenstein, and after April 12, 2018, they had been scheduled to hold talks in Spain and Portugal.

The two Venezuelan lawmakers have informed that “the fight for freedom and the restoration of democratic order continue, and active steps have been taken to tackle corruption and have expressed their desire to establish a mechanism for cooperation in the fight against corruption.”

According to Zaharieva, the Venezuelan National Assembly had set up a special subcommittee on financial control and is currently investigating phantom companies through which part of the humanitarian aid and controlled food markets in Venezuela should be distributed.

“Luis Parra expressed concern that due to current corruption schemes, the aid and food never reached the population… According to the two lawmakers, there is no longer a rule of law Venezuela, the country is in total collapse and the “government terrorism” by the regime in the rich in natural resources and energy country had led to starvation and extreme poverty,” says Ekaterina Zaharieva in her letter.

The Bulgarian side has reiterated that the government has expressed support for interim President Juan Guaido. Zaharieva concludes that the meeting has been held “in full compliance with diplomatic and administrative requirements”.

The concern and support, however, are limited to a “Declaration on the Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”, published on the MFA site on August 16, 2019, urging Nicolas Maduro to not breach the legitimacy of the Guaido-led Parliament.

It does not at all mention the funneling of petrodollars to Bulgaria and a likely investigation.

Venezuela is investigating the secret lawmakers’ tour

Armando Info describes a secret visit in April 2019 of lawmakers Luis Parra, Conrado Perez and their colleagues Richard Arteaga and Carlos Herrera to Madrid and Paris with “Air France” tickets purchased at a travel agency in Bogota.

According to the publication, there had been no public information by the National Assembly about any of these tours. Sources close to the lawmakers add that the latter should not have traveled to Bulgaria, Portugal and Liechtenstein at that time because some of these jurisdictions had been investigating the financial flows of a number of Colombian businessmen and their companies.

Meanwhile, on December 4, 2019, a month before Nicolas Maduro’s coup against the opposition in Parliament (National Assembly), the site of Venezuela’s President-elect Juan Guaido informed that he is launching an official inquiry into the trips of the four lawmakers across Europe, including their trip to Bulgaria.

Edgar Zambrano, National Assembly deputy for the Lara state and until January 5, 2020, First Vice President of the Assembly has said that his country would require the cooperation of diplomats in the embassies of Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, Bulgaria and Colombia to obtain official confirmation of the available information.

According to Armando Info, the trip is a very important topic. The official motive had been to report on the corrupt practices of the regime’s government, but the real reason had been acting in favor of Alex Saab, says Roberto Deniz.

Meetings of Venezuelan lawmakers with the authorities in Sofia can possibly be in the core of their betrayal of the opposition majority and their joining of Nicolas Maduro’s camp in the spring.

One logical thought is that the regime has likely appointed Luis Parra for President of the National thanks to his secret European tour, heading a delegation of “oppositionists”.

Estefania Melendez told Bivol she had informed her opposition government about Bivol’s investigation into Venezuela’s money in Bulgaria.

According to her, Luis Parra is part of the corruption scheme, along with a number of other lawmakers who have been previously part of Guaido’s party.

“Together, they tried to stage a coup in the National Assembly against President Guaido. They pretend to be the “real opposition”, but in fact, they work for the interests of the regime,” she says

She explained that these lawmakers had pretended that the goal of the trip had been to discuss additional investigations into money laundering and corruption with local financial intelligence services.

“However, it appears that during these trips, they had actually produced documents intended to exonerate corrupt companies associated with Nicolas Maduro, despite evidence of their links to money laundering, and despite sanctions by the US Treasury.”

Regarding the visit of Louis Parra and his colleagues to Bulgaria in April 2019, the diplomat assured that it had not been coordinated with the opposition.

On the other hand, Orietta Caponi, Nicolas Maduro’s Ambassador in Sofia, claims that she has heard about the visits of Venezuelan lawmakers for the first time from Bivol.

“I want to say absolutely officially that I now learn from you about such a visit. Neither the Venezuelan government nor the Bulgarian MFA have informed me that such a meeting has taken place,” she told Bivol.

The explanation is that the visitors had been “oppositionists”, however, it is still strange given that Luis Parra was already Chairman of a parliamentary committee, not just a Member of Parliament, thus it would have been appropriate not only to inform the respective Ambassador but also to have her accompany such a delegation at official meetings. The Embassy did not respond to our request to comment on Caracas’s position regarding Bivol’s investigation into the “Venezuelan Laundromat”.

Traitor lawmakers sanctioned by the United States

On January 5, 2020, Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party swore in its own candidate, the very same Luis Parra, as new head of National Assembly as troops prevented opposition lawmakers from entering to reelect opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The Socialist’s Party National Assembly of Venezuela is recognized only by Cuba and the Russian Federation.
On January 13, 2020, the United States Treasury Department sanctioned (Treasury Targets Officials Involved in Illegitimate Attempted Takeover of the Venezuelan National Assembly) Parra and other seven individuals, “who, at the bidding of Maduro, attempted to block the democratic process in Venezuela,” according to Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin. The sanctioned have their assets in the United States frozen and are not allowed to do business with US financial markets nor with US citizens.

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