Bulgarian Donates EUR 75,000 to Austrian Wannabe MEP

Nikolay Marchenko

Vienna-based entrepreneur Stoyan Staykov (on the headline picture in the box) is the Bulgarian businessman involved in the huge “Strache” scandal in Austria. Staykov has provided a loan of EUR 75,000 to Barbara Kappel, who according to Austrian media, has had to pay former Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache the sum of EUR 100,000 to make the 2019 European Parliament (EP) election ballot.

Vice-Chancellor Strache resigned after hidden-camera footage was released showing him suggesting he could offer business contracts in exchange for political support from a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch. Just days ago, on December 13, 2019, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party ousted him.

Bivol contacted Stoyan Staykov, who confirmed that he had given Kappel a personal loan of EUR 75,000. He denied the money was for the infamous Strache and dismissed any doubts that there had been anything wrong with him providing the amount. He added that there is an ongoing prosecutor’s probe in Austria, requested personally by him.

The Bulgarian moneybag

“At the end of November 2019, the newspaper Kurier reported that Barbara Kappel had received EUR 55,000 from an entrepreneur and had delivered the money to the party’s headquarters. The Der Standard investigation has led to a Bulgarian businessman who has often communicated with Kappel. According to the publication, Kappel has told the businessman: “H.C. wants the money so that I can return to the European Parliament”.

The name of the mysterious Bulgarian businessman is not mentioned, but he is referred to by the Austrian newspapers Der Standard, Kurier and Die Presse as Herr S. (Mr S). Bivol established that this is the residing in Vienna entrepreneur, Stoyan Staykov Staykov, a person close to the former Deputy Chairman of the ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

The MEP and the Freedom party rejected allegations of mandate trading.

“At no point have I tried to buy a mandate in the EP, neither the party nor the former party leader have addressed me with such a request,” Barbara Kappel told Mittagsjournal.

Austrian Freedom Party MEP, Harald Vilimsky, told ORF TV that the claim of selling a mandate to Barbara Kappel was “incomprehensible and illogical”. According to him, it had been already clear that “because of her differences” with the party’s course, she would not have been included in the ballot for the 2019 EP election.

“The claim that the Freedom Party or our parliamentary faction have requested or received money for a term in the EP is a bold lie that will have legal consequences,” said Christian Hafenecker, Secretary-General of the Freedom Party, quoted by Die Presse.

Stoyan Staykov: Ask the woman about the loan; it was not for EUR 50,000 but for EUR 75,000

Bivol called Stoyan Staykov on the phone and he confirmed before our media the information from the Austrian newspapers on his relations with the former MEP.

In his opinion, however, the total amount of the loans had not been stated correctly: “The total amount is EUR 75,000”.

He assured that he had known Barbara Kappel for at least 15-20 years, long before her taking office or becoming a MEP. In the headline photo, he is with Kappel and Tsvetan Tsvetanov at a security forum in the United States.

According to him, Kappel had requested the loan because she and two friends and colleagues had been raising funds. “The woman asked as a personal favor. Call her and ask her what she needed this money for,” he said.

Staykov insisted that he had not done anything illegal and was confident that the ongoing prosecution probe would prove it. “Everyone may need money, though of course there are nuances.”

However, he refused to say with what motive and for what purposes Barbara Kappel had asked for the loan. The businessman claims that he actually has personally asked the Austrian Prosecutor’s Office to carry out the investigation.

“At the moment a prosecutor’s probe is underway and I can tell you that I, myself, have requested it,” Stoyan Staykov said.

Lack of “Trust”

Stoyan Staykov Staykov is listed in the Commercial Register in Bulgaria as a manager, director or board member in seven different companies: RZ Metal, Nordic Alliance Asset Management, CITS, Garant Consult AD, Tower Sofia, Silk Tech Industries and Regent Capital.

In 2007, the then Head of the Financial Supervision Commission, Ralitsa Agayn, signed a short decision to delete the insurance broker Safe Invest BG Ltd, whose managers were Stayko Staykov Staykov and Alexander Schwendemann. Bivol is in possession of the two-page decision.

Before Bivol, Stoyan Staykov explained that he had only been listed as a manager at the request of his friend and “former policeman from Austria” Alexander Schwedemann.

“I only helped him to register, but then we split up and I had no interest in participating in this business,” Staykov said. According to him, after 2007 – 2009 he has had no business interest in companies in Bulgaria, except as a manager in an international construction company.

However, in 2013, the Bulgarian newspapers Capital and Banker linked Stoyan Staykov to a large-scale transaction in the insurance sector. At the time, the US Bloomberg BusinessWeek rated the attempt to acquire the Retirement Insurance Company Doverie (Trust) as “non-transparent”.

The suspicion was that the potential buyers of Doverie, the UK-based United Capital PLC and Regent Capital, were to Stoyan Staykov. Regent Capital is registered in a new apartment and office building on 54 “Iskar Street” in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

The ownership of Regent Capital is complex and involves two offshore companies – Liechtenstein’s Terra Incognita Foundation and Seychelles’ Posh Enterprises LLS. According to Capital, the main representative of the shareholders and one of the managers is Rumen Nanov, the former CEO of Agribusiness Bank, the first bank to collapse during the so-called “Transition Period” after the fall of the Communist Regime. The other members of Regent Capital’s management are Bulgarians and Austrians, who are also affiliated with United Capital.

“In Regent Capital, I have only 0.06% of the shares, which is absolutely insignificant,” Stoyan Staykov told Bivol.

However, according to the Commercial Register, Stoyan Staykov Staykov is still a partner in the Czech REGENT CAPITAL A.S. with Bulgarians Kiril Hristov Dimitrov, Rumen Yordanov Nanov and Vladimir Petrov Nochev.

United Capital, on the other hand, is managed by the former lawmaker, Dimitar Lambovski, who in the 1990s was in the management of First Eastern International Bank affiliated with SIC, one of the two alleged most powerful crime group at the time. He is also in the management of another company from the group, the Bulgarian “RZ metal” Ltd.

Prior to the summer of 2013, the Panamanian offshore Claton Group S.A and Nord Investment Inc. had owned United Capital shares. Hong Kong-based offshore Asia Trade Management Ltd., affiliated with Russian banker Sergei Mastyugin, had then acquired them in partnership with Regent Capital and the unidentified Regent Pacific Foundation.

Regent Capital shares joint directors with United Capital such as Gunter Rohr and Kamelia Zdravkova, who, according to the Registry Office of England and Wales, is also in the management of the Essex-based United Capital PLC. Gunter Rohr is a manager at St. Gabriel Resort, Kamelia Zdravkova is in its management as well.

She is on the board of directors of 26 Bulgarian companies, behind most of which are offshore companies from Switzerland and the United States, as well as companies from Austria and Germany. These include Sil-Tech Industries, CITS, White Mountain Golf Club, as well as 21 photovoltaic companies under the name Solarland. There is an unrealized project for the construction of a Solarland photovoltaic park under the legal name Solar Hold. The sole owner of the company capital is again Regent Capital.

According to another investigation by Reuters, UK-registered United Capital PLC has had only GBP 14 in its account. After that, LJ Capital has appeared as a new shareholder, while the famous US lawyer Deborah Sturman has arrived in Sofia with the purpose to convince the public of the legality of the potential transaction.

At the same time, the newspaper Banker turned to the British Company House, an analogue of the Bulgarian Registry Agency. It then became clear that in just days, on August 7, 2013, the balance in the United Capital account had jumped to GBP 9.2 million from the previous GBP 14. However, after less than a year, as of May 31, 2014, only GBP 5 had remained in the account.

The vanished into thin air EUR 630 million of Russian taxpayers

According to Capital, the most likely financier of the attempt to acquire Doverie through United Capital is Russia’s Investbank Joint Stock Commercial Bank, where Sergei Mastyugin is the largest shareholder with about 20% of the capital. According to Russian Kommersant daily, Mastyugin as the bank’s majority controlling shareholder and has been in prison since 2016. The Russian banker has been convicted for the syphoning and the bankruptcy of Investbank – deposits of more than RUR 44.5 billion or EUR 629.7 million have disappeared in 2013-2014.

According to Banker, Investbank had been also trying to buy the Austrian insurance giant Vienna Insurance Group (VIG) through United Capital PLC, which coincidentally again is headed by Austrian Gunter Rohr, partner of Stoyan Staykov and Sergey Mastyugin in a number of companies.

Another coincidence. In the Sofia “Ivan Vazov” district, on 12 “Emil Bersinski” Str., there is a glass office building named “Enterprise”. It has offices of companies affiliated with the Bulgarian Regent Capital. Moreover, in 2013, the Bulgarian branch of Investbank had to be located in the building.

Stoyan Staykov confirms this but insists that the Russian bank has not bought this building. “They had not been paying the rent for two-three months, so they were asked to leave, I do not remember the name of their representative for Bulgaria,” the businessman says.

Part of the money, according to Capital and Lenta Ural, could have gone towards buying the largest retirement fund in Bulgaria with assets of more than BGN 2 billion for the “second pension” of at least 1.25 million Bulgarians.

Bivol received a document in Russian, dated March 3, 2017. This is a reference from the State Corporation Deposit Insurance Agency of the Russian Federation (ACS). It is about the repayment of 2,161 depositors’ claims for RUB 70.3 million or about EUR 1 million.

At the same time, Kommersant is writing about at least RUB 8.1 billion (about EUR 115 million) that had been syphoned from the bank, according to the court case against Sergei Mastyugin.

Before Bivol, Stoyan Staykov denies having anything to do with the bankruptcy of Investbank, adding that the publications of the Russian Lenta Ural that part of Sergei Mastyugin’s money has gone to his companies in the United States and Bulgaria have been rigged. According to him, the people who have ordered these publications are already facing legal action in the Russian Federation and Austria.

However, he admitted to Bivol that he knows personally the banker- prisoner Sergei Mastyugin.
“I have nothing to do with Investbank or its bankruptcy. I know Mr. Mastyugin, I have introduced him to certain businessmen, but that does not mean having a joint business. No company or project in which I am involved has borrowed from Investbank.”

Meanwhile, on October 3, 2016, the ownership of health insurer “Planet” changed and it was renamed “Euroamerican”. The previous sole proprietor sold his 5 million shares to 11 individuals with less than 10% each.

Among the new shareholders is again the European-American Capital Group, as well as Logistics Terminal Svilengrad, affiliated with Regent Capital. The project for a terminal in the industrial zone of Bulgaria’Svilengrad was to be completed in 2012.

Previously, Stoyan Staykov had been among the owners of Planet. “I only owned 9% of the shares and sold them, I have nothing to do with the new owners,” he assured Bivol.

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