The Commission does not consider the details of a EUR 200 billion fraud scheme to be of public interest

Bulgarian Energy Watchdog Asks CEZ Buyer Whether to Expose Her

Bulgaria’s Energy and Water Regulation Commission (KEVR) has asked Ginka Varbakova, the buyer of the Bulgarian assets of Czech electric power utility (CEZ) and her mother Teodora Paytakova whether it should make public, under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA), a fake EUR 200 million guarantee issued by Italian fraudsters. According to KEVR, this information is not of overriding public interest.

This emerges from a letter in response to Bivol’s request under the APIA to obtain access to the documents for the issuance of a license for electric power production to “Real States”, a company owned by Teodora Paytakova, represented by Ginka Varbakova.

The letter with which the KEVR asks the Varbakovi family whether to provide documents damning to them

An investigation by Bivol established that the loans and guarantees provided by “Real States” to obtain a license for electricity production from a photovoltaic park near the Bulgarian city of Pazardzhik are of highly dubious origin. The company claims to have received a first-rate bank guarantee from the British firm DEANFIELD SOLUTIONS for EUR 200 million. DEANFIELD proved to be a shell firm of Italian fraudsters, one of whom had been wanted by the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office.

In addition, Ginka Varbakova has claimed before KEVR that she would take a loan of EUR 14 million from the Austrian company “Petrolinks Handels GmbH” for the construction of the solar park. This company is associated with “Bulmarket-DM”, the company whose tanks exploded near the village of Hitrino causing fatalities and material damage, and with the nephew of Petko Sertov, a former Head of Bulgaria’s National Security Agency (DANS). The accounting reports of Petrolinks Handels do not show such financial possibilities.

Bivol requested from KEVR access to documents related to DEANFIELD SOLUTIONS and Petrolinks Handels, which are described in KEVR’s public decision to grant a license. Our initial journalistic inquiry was met with a refusal, and then we filed a request under the APIA.

Instead of a response, a letter was received from KEVR, in which the Commission asks permission from the Varbakovi family to allow access to this information. The letter, signed by Vladko Vladimirov, a member of KEVR, refers to a section of the APIA that requires third parties to be consulted if the information relates to them.

However, the protection of trade secrets of third parties and the request for consent only apply in the absence of overriding public interest. Article 31 paragraph 5 of the APIA explicitly states that “the consent of the third party is not necessary in the cases where they are an entity with commitments and the information related thereto is public information within the meaning of this law and when there is an overriding public interest in its disclosure“.

It is unclear why KEVR has not asked the same from the fictitious British bank DEANFIELD, as well as Petrolinks Handels, which has already changed its name. They should also grant their consent according to the Commission’s interpretation of the APIA.

However, the wording of the letter makes it clear that the Commission, run by the former lawmaker from the right-wing party, Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB) Ivan Ivanov, takes Ginka’s side against society. Moreover, in the presence of public information and strong evidence that “Real States” has obtained a license based on a fake bank guarantee, KEVP should have referred the matter to the prosecution, which has not been done to date.

What is the firm that has issued a guarantee for EUR 200 million to Ginka Varbakova?

DEANFIELD SOLUTIONS is a mailbox, shell company registered in the United Kingdom. It had been closed due to insolvency in 2013. But the liquidation procedures, and especially the collection of unpaid by the last director, Sergio Pecoraro, taxes, have lasted for years, according to data from the British Trade Register.

It seems that Pecoraro continues to use DEANFIELD’s name to present himself as an investment broker and attract investors through fraud. A stung American from Kansas has even registered a special website to warn people not to send money to Pecoraro and his company.

One of DEANFIELD’s previous directors is Roberto Pontiggia, an Italian with a Swiss address. He is an international fraudster wanted by the Bulgarian authorities with a European arrest warrant issued on June 12, 2017.

In August 2017, the Italians arrested Pontiggia, but the Genoa court denied the request for extradition to Bulgaria. The reason is that the Italian authorities are also prosecuting Pontiggia on tax evasion charges. At the end of 2017, he was sentenced to three years in prison and a confiscation of EUR 2 million.

 

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