In his blog in the online edition of EurActiv, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Georgi Gotev (also known by the codename “Ivanov” from the time he was an agent of the Bulgarian KGB – the State Security DS) has embarked in defense of Irina Bokova, the Bulgarian nomination to lead the UN. This comes in the wake of a publication of Bivol focusing on her properties in Paris, London and New York.
According to the data that we disclosed in two consecutive publications (see here and here), the four apartments, acquired between 2011 and 2014, cost $ 4.7 million. We calculated the disposable income of Irina Bokova and her husband Kalin Mitrev for the ten years prior to the purchase of the last property. It appears from our estimates that it does not exceed $ 2.7 million.
Georgi Gotev is attacking our investigations with several arguments that boil down to increasing the disposable income of the family in order to match the value of the properties. His calculations include savings from the period before 2004 and some so far undisclosed bonuses and income from the private sector.
This thesis was launched by Bokova, herself, after our first publication about the two apartments in New York. Irina Bokova said on TV that in addition to her salary from UNESCO, she received large bonuses that practically doubled her remuneration.
With this, she hoped to end the debate, but Bivol’s investigation revealed two more properties – in Paris and London.
At this stage, however, even Bokova’s colossal bonuses from UNESCO proved insufficient. Therefore, Gotev is not commenting on her earnings, but has focused on the income of her husband.
Claims against documents
In order to sound more convincingly, former agent “Ivanov” calls his crisis PR “facts checking”. According to Gotev, the facts boil down to three oversights of Bivol:
- We failed to take under consideration that the family has accumulated a lot of money before 2004 when our study back in time stops;
- Kalin Mitrev received substantial bonuses from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD);
- Kalin Mitrev had high income from the time he worked as a consultant in the private sector.
Georgi Gotev is not presenting any document in support of these “facts” that he claims he had “checked”. He obviously hopes that readers will accept as face value his talks with Kalin Mitrev – agent “Simeonov”. In reality, against documents, thoroughly examined by Bivol, we only have allegations retransmitted between DS agents “Ivanov” and “Simeonov”. Nevertheless, we diligently sought documentary confirmation of these allegations. Here’s what we found:
- Patrimony of Bokova and Mitrev before 2004
How much can a family of two senior officials save during their entire career since the late 1970s until 2004? During this period of time, the minimum wage ranged from $ 30 to $ 60 a month, and in 2004 the president received just $ 800 a month!
Under the most optimistic estimates and frugal way of living, the savings of Bokova and Mitrev from wages should amount to $ 200,000.
The family has invested this money in real estate – lots of real estate. Georgi Gotev has indeed noticed one our oversight. In our second publication, we have not included in the calculations of the family income an apartment of 128 square meters in Sofia, sold by Kalin Mitrev in 2014. But we have indicated it in the first publication on the subject. This is not intentional or biased; it was committed only because it turned out that there were really many apartments.
In order to make up for this, we conducted a detailed (and expensive) study in the Property Register. We found out that the family has invested very successfully the savings they had by 2004 – the same ones pointed out by Gotev. Until 2007, Bokova and Mitrev have been buying property in Bulgaria and then sold it with good profit.
There is no data on the purchase price of the family’s most successful investments (an apartment in 2003 and a land plot in 2004 in the Sofia suburb of Simeonovo). We used the average market price for the period – 70,000 levs for the apartment and 20,000 levs for the land plot which has been enlarged a year later for another 15,694 levs. The sale of these two properties ten years later has yielded respectively 433,724 levs and 288,484 levs.
However, where did the money to acquire these properties come from, except from savings? The $ 200,000 savings are not enough. But, as Gotev noted, in 2002 Mitrev began working for EBRD and was already earning a huge for Bulgarian standards salary. We assume that a significant portion of his salary was invested in this diverse real estate. This way the numbers add up.
Ultimately, at the end of 2014, the family was ahead by nearly $ 800,000. This is substantially more than the $ 380,000 that we initially reported. It is even more than Gotev’s “fact” that we have reported only half of the property sales. We stand corrected. And at the same time, we are going to show in black and white that Gotev’s “fact” is not a fact, but a farfetched manipulation.
Bonus: $ 800,000 – $ 380,000 = $ 420,000
- Mitrev’s income from EBRD
According Gotev, this income is estimated by Mitrev, himself, at $ 2.37 million because in addition to a salary, he had received bonuses and retirement benefits. Mitrev has withdrawn part of the latter for the purchases of apartments in famous cities. This amounts to nearly one million more than the sum calculated based on the information obtained from the EBRD.
However, the above is also arguable. Bivol explicitly asked the EBRD about Mitrev’s bonuses and we were informed that there is no such thing. The fact is that the EBRD does not pay bonuses to directors, regardless of what agent “Ivanov” is saying
Gotev also mentioned as a possible source of income the retirement benefits which Mitrev had withdrawn in advance. Bivol asked a source working at the EBRD how much they could be. We calculated that in the best case scenario Mitrev has received retirement benefits in the amount of $ 600,000.
Bonus – $ 600,000
- Mitrev’s consulting business is further mentioned as another possible source of another million dollars. According Gotev, this activity flourished between Sofia and Paris.
There are no entries in official records for Mitrev owning a business in Paris, while his consulting company “Vector Advisory” in Sofia has reported 1,000 levs in net income for four years, according to data from the Trade Register. It is true that Mitrev lists in his CV on LinkedIn his work in a company that deals with oil and gas. This company turned out to be a Cypriot offshore with a Romanian owner and there is no data about its turnover.
Bonus 3 – Z (minimum $ 600)
Savings without spending?
According to Gotev, we have also sinned in reducing by as much as 30% the family wealth by subtracting the expenses for daily needs, leaving only 70% of their income available for real estate investments. We should have accounted for the fact that Bokova and Mitrev lived for free as princess and prince on the back of the State and UNESCO, while our calculations estimate that the family spends € 10,000 a month.
However, what money have Bokova and Mitrev spent on clothing (mostly expensive), on car maintenance, appliances, gifts, repairs and furniture for their apartments?
Moreover, there are costs that cannot be avoided because their many apartments tend to cause fiscal burdens and require significant money for overhead and ongoing maintenance.
A simple calculation shows that the four upscale properties of Bokova and Mitrev generate a cost of nearly $ 50,000 a year. The very first apartment in New York has cost the family budget nearly $ 1,500 a month. Here is a breakdown of the annual cost of these apartments:
211 East 46th Street – Tax $ 12,856; Maintenance $ 6,000
250 East 53rd Street – Tax $ 6,675; Maintenance $ 9.276
Tax $ 5,800; Maintenance $ 3,600
Tax $ 1,000; Maintenance $ 3,600
A total of about $ 48,000 a year now weigh on Bokova and Mitrev’s budget only for taxes and maintenance of these apartments. Moreover, they continue to pay € 7,000 a month for the apartment in Paris. Hopefully, at least they have found tenants.
Such are also the estimates of tax authorities when they verify correlation between revenue and spending. Therefore we do not accept that it was possible for the family to invest more than 70% of their income in property.
The bottom line: $ 1 million to prove not counting other acquisitions
Ultimately, it can be assumed that the missing two million dollars of the family can be reduced to one million dollars. Where did this remaining million come from? If Gotev and Mitrev want to deal with facts and not just hearsay, Mitrev should simply require official information about his income from the EBRD and publish his tax returns for the years when he was in private business. But he is not doing it.
In conclusion, we have two remarks: In all these calculations, we continue to not add and subtract the miraculously repaid mortgage loan of $ 600,000 of Irina Bokova’s son for a property acquisition in New York. Furthermore, the experience from our investigation to date indicates that no one knows when and where more property acquisitions of the family will pop up. The absence of a vacation property in the patrimony of Bokova and Mitrev is particularly striking, at least until now.
PS Georgi Gotev is not an investigative journalist and his errors would be acceptable if he wasn’t loudly calling them “facts” without being able to prove them. Another controversial point is that he uses his name and the tribune of a publication funded by the European institutions to campaign in favor of Irina Bokova. That puts him in a position of blatant conflict of interest, combined with data about his DS agent’s past.
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