Bulgarian Policewoman Who Botched Investigation into Arms Dealer’s Attempted Murder with “Novichok” Swiftly Becomes Prosecutor Together with Her Husband

Екип на Биволъ

In July 2018, three new junior prosecutors, Ivelina Kosseva, Mirela Vassileva and Lachezar Ivanov, took office in the Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora. Ivanov and Vassileva are husband and wife and have been, both, assessed by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) at the same time, which is an extremely rare case in the judiciary practice. Both (on the headline photo) had been investigative police officers at the Sofia Police Directorate (SDVR), while Mirela Vassileva has a special merit – she has led and led to a dead end the initial investigation into the poisoning of arms dealer Emiliyan Gebrev in 2015. At that time, the Chief of the SDVR was Mladen Marinov, the current Minister of the Interior.

From a police officer to a prosecutor

Mirela Boncheva Vassileva is a native of the town Kazanlak, and Lachezar Ivanov is from the city of Rousse. In 2015, they had worked as investigative police officers in Sofia. Vassileva has been in the Investigation of Criminal Offenses Unit of the SDVR and Ivanov – in the Investigation Unit of the 8th Police Precinct in the Bulgarian capital. In 2016, they have both made a simultaneous career move from Sofia to Stara Zagora, where they became investigating police officers at the Regional Police Directorate. It appears that the couple had planned to move to Stara Zagora because in 2014 they bought an apartment there.

And if the synced move from Sofia to Stara Zagora is somehow explainable with the fact that the two are a family, the chance that the subsequent events are a coincidence is equal to winning the lottery five times in a row.

At the beginning of 2016, Vassileva and Ivanov simultaneously applied for the post of junior prosecutor. Previously, they were assessed and admitted to the job competition by a decision of the Committee on Proposals and Assessments of the SJC from March 15, 2016. The competition had been strong with more than 1,000 candidates competing for 30 positions. The couple failed to qualify.

The following year they were again assessed and admitted to the competition by a decision of the Evaluation Committee at the Prosecutor’s College of the SJC from March 7, 2017. They appear in the list of candidates one after the other, under numbers 151 and 152, although the listing is not in alphabetical order.

This time, Vassileva and Ivanov passed the competition successfully. The next obstacle to the prestigious prosecutor’s office post had been the assessment of their moral qualities by the SJC Ethics Committee, whose head was Yassen Todorov, notoriously known from the #Yanevagate recordings as one of the pillars in the loyal circle around Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov.


Yassen Todorov reports on the moral qualities of the police officer couple

It has been precisely Yassen Todorov who has reported on the moral qualities of the young police officer couple. Of course, the opinion of the Ethics Committee, dated July 18, 2017 was positive.

The next day, the Prosecutors’ College at the SJC held a meeting and approved the ranking in the competition, with Vassileva and Ivanov ranked again one after the other, respectively at 4th and 5th place.

This has been followed by the compulsory training at the National Institute of Justice. Upon their successful completion of the training, on June 26, 2018, the SJC proposed the appointment of Mirela Boncheva Vassileva and Lachezar Svetlinov Ivanov, again listed one after the other.


PROTOCOL No 24 OF THE MEETING OF THE COMMITTEE ON ASSESSMENT AND COMPETITION AT THE SJC PROSECUTOR’S COLLEGE, HELD ON JUNE 26, 2018

Nowhere in the documents and decisions of the SJC is mentioned that the two police officers are actually husband and wife, but their miraculous career advancement is a fact as is the one of the then- Chief of the SDVR, Mladen Marinov, who is now Minister of the Interior.

Vassileva has never checked the restaurant where Gebrev has been on the day of the poisoning

Former investigating police officer Mirela Vassileva has a special contribution to the botching of the investigation into Gebrev’s poisoning in 2015. According to Bivol’s own research, since the very beginning of the investigation, she has received information from the businessman on where he has had dinner on April 27, 2015, slightly before feeling the first symptoms of poisoning.

The establishment in questions is the Greek restaurant “Sozopolis” on “Saborna” Street in downtown Sofia (formerly named Kumbare). Gebrev visited the restaurant with some friends and clients from Poland. There he ordered fish, not salad with arugula.

An important detail is that there had been a group of Russian-speaking people at the table next to Gebrev and his company.

As Gebrev told the media, after the dinner he felt itching in the right eye, which became unsupportable around midnight. On the next day, April 28, the eye turned swollen and even more irritated and he put eye drops, but they did not help. He also had a severe headache that refused to subside with painkillers. In the evening, the businessman went to a party with a big company at restaurant “Panorama” at Hotel “Marinela” in Sofia. There he became violently ill and was urgently taken to the Military Medical Academy.

Once there, Gebrev’s condition deteriorated even more. But before falling into a coma, he had managed to give an account of the events to investigating police officer Mirela Vassileva from the SDVR, including telling her about the dinner at the Greek restaurant the night before and about the symptoms that appeared long before he went to the “Panorama” restaurant.

Vassileva, however, has not paid any attention to “Sozopolis” and has focused entirely on “Panorama”, where, as it became clear from the words of Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov, she collected the said arugula from the salads.

Gebrev has been informed by the Prosecutor’s Office about this important “omission” only seven months later. Then, he realized that the investigation had been led in the wrong direction by Mirela Vassileva and protested against its closure. Only after his protest, eight or ninth months after the poisoning, the investigators have visited the “Sozopolis” restaurant, but the security camera footage has no longer been available.

The owner of “Sozopolis”, the well-known and wealthy hotel owner, Stefan Sharlopov, surprisingly passed away last year at the age of 55. His sudden death remains inexplicable for his relatives, who say he had been healthy as a “rock”.

Reconstruction

The timeline of the events we set out here is based on the most plausible premise so far – that Emiliyan Gebrev had been attacked with a nerve agent from the Novichok family that had penetrated the skin. The same happened to former Russian military intelligence officer, who acted as a double agent for the UK’s intelligence services, Segrei Scripal, and his adult daughter Yuliya, who touched the handle of their front door, sprayed earlier with the powerful poison by the agents of the GRU. Years prior to this, in Russia, a Novichok-like substance on a phone handle poisoned and killed banker Kivelidi. His secretary, who had touched the handle before her boss, also died.

What happened at the “Sozopolis” restaurant on April 27? Gebrev had made a reservation in advance, something that had become known to the GRU agents. He had been under surveillance, including a tactical eavesdropping of his phone with an IMSI-catcher device. The businessman arrived at the restaurant at 7 pm and sat at the reserved table with his Polish friends. The Russian agents had been at the table next to them. They had waited for Gebrev to go to the restroom. When that moment came, one of the agents went there ahead of the businessman and sprayed with the poison the inside door handle or the button of the water tank. Gebrev entered after him and touched the contaminated surface. Then, with his right hand he touched his right eye, through which the poison also penetrated. Another GRU agent came to the restroom after Gebrev had left, cleaned everything and deactivated the poison.

Miracles do not happen

Is the sudden and miraculous family career advancement of the former policewoman investigating the Gebrev case random or just a logical next step? From the public information on the work of the SJC and the findings from #Yanevagate, we know that miracles there do not just happen like that, but they can happen if they are carefully planned by the people who “hold the Council”.

Certainly, however, if Mirela Vassileva had ordered the seizure of the video recording of the cameras in and around the Greek restaurant at the beginning of the investigation, there would now be information about who had been the Russian-speaking people on the table next to Gebrev, and whether the GRU agent Denis Sergeev had been among them. According to the investigative site Belingcat and its Russian partner The Insider, Sergeev had been in Sofia the same day under the false identity of Sergey Fedotov. According to the latest available information, Sergeev-Fedotov had tailed Emiliyan Gebrev and had even booked a room in the “Orbita” hotel, where Gebrev’s office is located.

***

If you find this article useful, support our work with a small donation.

Pay a Bivol Tax!

We will highly appreciate if you decide to support us with monthly donations keeping the option Make this donation monthly.

Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.

Donation Total: 5€

Извършвайки плащане Вие се съгласявате с Общите условия, които предварително сте прочели тук.

Биволъ не записва и не съхранява номера на Вашата банкова карта. Плащанията се обработват през системата Stripe. Даренията за Биволъ с банкови карти се управляват от френската неправителствена организация Data for Reporters Journalists and Investigations - DRJI.

This post is also available in: Bulgarian

Вижте също / Read Also