Bulgarian Politician’s Infamous Black Sea Seraglio Now Features 230-meter Breakwater

A new, 230-meter breakwater popped-up between February 2018 and November 2019 in front of the Black Sea seraglio of Ahmed Dogan, the Honorary Lifetime Chairman of the party largely representing Bulgarian Muslims, Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), who has also privatized parts of the coast. The breakwater can be seen on satellite images analyzed by Bivol. The institution that must coordinate this construction in an area, which is exclusive State property, is the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works (MRDPW). The Ministry is yet to say who and how built the impressive facility.

A reference in the Cadaster shows that the new breakwater has been given a separate cadastral number 07079.831.346 for a land property with an area of 5,838 square meters. It has been legalized in early 2020 with an order of the Cadaster Agency in the Black Sea city of Burgas, 18-2034-24.02.2020 /24.02.2020. However, there is no trace of this order in the public register of the Cadaster, which does not indicate who owns the site either.
The already built breakwater is present in the cadastral register only as a sketched sea project. According to the Cadaster Act, a site cannot be approved for commissioning without being photographed and marked on the cadastral map.

The latest satellite images reveal another curious fact – several buildings to the right of the road leading to the seraglio. They are not entered in the Cadaster at all. Their purpose is not known and it is unclear whether they have regular construction documents. Their construction can be dated to before the breakwater, probably around mid-2019.

The luxury residence’s listing in the Cadaster is equally intriguing – two boat hangars and a one-level administrative building. There is no information whatsoever in the registers about Dogan’s multi-story luxury palace.

Bivol sent inquiries to all institutions competent about the ownership of the breakwater and its management, the MRDPW, the District Administration and the Municipality of Burgas. Bivol requested to be provided with data and documents for ownership, the investment proposal, the construction permit, information on contractors and construction supervision, as well as decrees for approval of the site. So far, we have not received any response.

Has Dogan privatized the State-owned port?

In a series of investigations by Bivol from 2014 to 2016 (see here), we revealed how basic rules and legal provisions had been violated to acquire land that is public property and build a luxury palace in the most strategic place in the Burgas Bay – Cape Chukalyata in Rosenets Park.

The story started with the “bestowment” of all properties of the former oil refinery, Neftochim, build by the Communist regime (including the land on which the seraglio stands today, together with about 300 decares of coastal land in Rosenets Park) by the government of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov to the Russian oil giant Lukoil. Because of its exceptional strategic location, Cape Chukalyata was used during the socialist era as a marina for Neftochim and a border post for radar and visual surveillance. After the privatization of the refinery’s property, the plots in Rosenets Park were transferred to a company linked to the former Director of Lukoil Bulgaria Valentin Zlatev, which in turn resold them. In the end, the former yacht club of Neftochim, together with the adjacent base, became the property of one of Dogan’s companies Hermes Solar. The seraglio is listed on paper as a “Water Sports Base”, build with a loan from the failed private lender Corporate Commercial Bank, CCB, loan of about BGN 20 million, granted for a project to build a photovoltaic panel factory. There is no factory and the bank has been cheated. Later, CCB collapsed and the loan was transferred to First Investment Bank, (FIB or Fibank) and the money was spent on seizing part of the Bulgarian coast and the construction of a huge luxury palace.

As early as its construction stage, it was obvious that the works were done in violation of the Black Sea Coast Act norms for building height along the coast. The building itself was designed by one of the people responsible the most for the scandalous overbuilding of the coast, architect Kalin Tiholov, also known as the architect of DPS. According to Tiholov, the 18-meter high tower in the middle of the palace is an “architectural element”, and although it is a livable part of the building and not an “element”, the Municipality of Burgas has legalized it, trampling several laws in the process.

After building the seraglio, Dogan took steps in 2016 to acquire the port, which is home to his yacht “Hermes” with registration number VN 7264, filmed on camera by Bivol. Until then, the quay was State-owned and managed by the Regional Governor of Burgas Valcho Cholakov, appointed by the ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB.

Bivol was able to obtain under the Access to Public Information Act, APIA, correspondence between Cholakov and Hermes Solar. It shows that the Regional Governor has not objected to a requested change in the cadastral map. In the same correspondence, Hermes Solar expresses an unequivocal intention to privatize the property. What has happened since then with the port, who currently owns and who has built the impressive breakwater is a mystery.

Burgas municipality votes tirelessly to ensure Dogan’s untouchability

About three weeks ago, the Municipality of Burgas did everything possible to turn the public property on which the palace stands into private to ensure the inaccessibility of the coastal zone by citizens. This is a direct violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, lawyers are adamant.

The shameful legalization took place at a session of the Municipal Council in Burgas on April 27, 2020. A day earlier, the Mayor of Burgas Dimitar Nikolov (Deputy Chairman of GERB) submitted a 47-page proposal requesting a change in the street network in part of Rosenets Park. There was not enough time for the councilors to become acquainted in-depth with the documentation to enable them to act in compliance with the law and make the most appropriate decision in favor of public interest.

The proposal of Mayor Nikolov includes the transformation of streets leading to the seraglio into private municipal property from their current status of public municipal property and the transfer through swaps of ideal parts of them to two companies Hermes Solar and Straightline, linked to Dogan.

The proposal was adopted by the Municipal Council in violation of the Municipal Property Act (MPA) and the Ordinance on the procedure for acquisition, management and disposal of municipal property of the municipality of Burgas, according to which municipal property can be transformed from public to private with the votes of two thirds of the councilors. The proposal has not been discussed in the committees of the local parliament either. In the first vote, the “FOR” votes were not enough and the proposal did not pass. A fierce argument erupted in the meeting room and lobbying negotiations to revote and pass the proposal took place during the 15-minute break following the dispute.

Even in the midst of the coronavirus state of emergency and lockdown, the two companies, Hermes Solar and Straightline, have continued to transfer fictitiously to each other ownership of various plots and sites on Cape Chukalyata.

The Mayor’s proposal, of course, does not mention the fact that municipal roads will be sold to these two companies, increasing the distance between the seraglio and unwanted guests passing nearby. Thus, access to the beach becomes impossible for ordinary citizens because it is blocked by private property. A preliminary contract for the sale has been prepared.

In addition to giving the only municipal road to Dogan, the proposal also includes a plan to build a municipal road to ensure the security of Lukoil’s private refinery located near the seraglio, most likely for added comfort for the Russian base’s armed guards.

After the 15-minute break, there was a second vote on the proposal in blatant violation of the law and the rules that makes illegal this second attempt approval with 40 votes “FOR”. Municipal councilors changing their opinion and making a U-turn during the short break seem beyond strange as well.

This illegal decision of the Municipal Council of Burgas legitimizes a series of other corrupt practices linked to Ahmed Dogan’s summer palace and the Lukoil oil depot in Rosenets Park, a Russian enclave on Bulgarian territory, all investigated by Bivol over the years.

A few days ago, a fire broke out in the seraglio and the lawlessness was demonstrated full swing when Dogan’s private guards barred journalists from accessing the coast to report on the incident. The guards stood their ground that the road was already private property, despite the fact that the illegal decision of the Municipal Council to bestow the road to Dogan has not even come into force and it will take at least a month to do so.

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