Following the February 23 decision of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and the one of the Council of Ministers from February 24 to reopen the debate on the plan for expanding the ski zone in the Bulgarian winter resort of Bansko, the editor-in-chief of Bivol Atanas Chobanov held a conversation with the Minister of Environment and Waters Ivelina Vasileva. We undertook this initiative, because our media has been working on the issue of ownership in the country’s winter resorts since 2012 and we have the experience and the data that can help explore the real ownership and investment opportunities of the persons standing behind offshore companies that are shareholders in the concessionaire of Bansko YULEN – the so-called due diligence.
On February 24, the Council of Ministers decided not to discuss the amendment to the concession contract for the Bansko Ski Zone on which political forces reached an agreement. According to the text, the current concessionaire YULEN will not be liable for violations and for the seized areas outside the ones in the concession agreement in exchange of a twofold increase of the concession fee. In addition, it will receive 10 times more land in the park to develop a ski resort. The Coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria” and the right-wing party Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB) declared opposition to such decision, insisting YULEN to bear responsibility and the concession contract be terminated.
But the Prime Minister personally ordered not to examine the issue and passed the ball back to Ivelina Vasileva:
“She made another attempt, bringing them all together, to find a reasonable balance and decision. And if does not happen, I cannot accept, and I assume you can’t either (so I open it to the Council of Ministers) that we shall be linked to – that it would almost look like we are helping yet another oligarch.”
WHO could this oligarch be?
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Previous research of Bivol, based on documents from the Cyprus commercial registry, shows that the majority owner of YULEN – Georgios Georgiou – is the person who is connected with the owners and majority shareholders of First Investment Bank (FIB) – Tseko Minev and Ivaylo Mutafchiev. Tseko Minev is also Head of the Bulgarian Ski Federation and advocate for expanding the Bansko ski resort. Shortly before the collapse of Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), controversial lawmaker Delyan Peevski moved precisely in FIB his accounts and the loans of companies that are associated with him. Once the CCB closed in 2014, FIB received State aid in the amount of 1 billion levs to prevent its bankruptcy. The State aid has not yet been returned.
We proposed to Ms. Vasileva and she agreed that it is appropriate that Georgios Georgiou, as a majority shareholder of the concessionaire YULEN, be invited to attend the upcoming discussions and present his vision for the resort in order to have maximum transparency.
Georgios Georgiou, who is a Cypriot citizen, is one of the most powerful investors in the Bulgarian economy. In addition to YULEN, he owns Vitosha Ski, the closed steel mill Kremikovtsi, the zinc mill in the city of Kardzhali, road construction companies, factories and real estate worth more than 1 billion levs, showed an extensive investigation of Bivol (see here).
At the same time, Mr Georgiou is an extremely modest and discreet person. It suffices to say that he lives in a modest basement in Nicosia (see header image) without bragging and demonstrating in any way his huge possibilities of a businessman. At the end of last year, Bivol made great efforts to track him down and interview him. So far, we are the only Bulgarian media that has met with Georgiou and his partner Evdokia Maklamuzi. We committed to assist the Ministry of Environment with information about his whereabouts so that he is sent an official invitation.
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