Bulgarian Startup Associations Bans Commies, Tax Dodgers

by Екип на Биволъ

On February 22, 2019, at its general meeting, BESCO – the Bulgarian Startup Association – adopted a “Code of Honor”, announced lustration (limiting the participation of former communists, and especially agents,  informants or collaborators of the former Communist regime’s secret service, the State Security, DS, and of repressive bodies in the civil service, such as holding leading posts in the State and municipal administration – editor’s note) and removed from its Board of Directors Dimitar Vassilev Ivanov, exposed by Bivol in tax evasion, using public funds without a public tender and privatizing profits from a hi-tech conference.

The announcement is posted on the Association’s website.

As Bivol wrote in November 2018, the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promoting Agency (BSMEPA), had paid without a public procurement procedure BGN 40,000 to the non-profit public benefit – Bulgarian Business Forums – for the Innowave Summit 2018 conference, held on October 19-20 in the Black Sea city of Varna in partnership with the Municipality of Varna and with the support of the Ministry of Economy of Bulgaria, the European Startup Network and Startup Europe (an initiative of the European Commission).

The conference was promoted further through the “big shot” presence of Mariya Gabriel, Bulgarian European Commissioner for New Technologies, who also held then an official meeting with the organizer – Dimitar Vassilev.

“Following the Innowave Summit 2018 High-Tech Conference, which we held in October in Varna, I will meet with the Chairman of the Bulgarian Business Forums Association to discuss further opportunities for strengthening our cooperation,” announced Gabriel on Facebook.


Dimitar Ivanov (left) on Innowave’s stage

Tickets for the event were priced from EUR 39 to EUR 299. According to the organizer, over 3,000 people were present. Ticket revenues, however, have not come back to BSMEPA but have ended into private pockets through a company that is a tax debtor.

Participants in the event shared with Bivol that they had paid through PayPal to various accounts, one of which was of the company “Webest”. Bivol’s investigation showed that a lawsuit had been filed by the National Revenue Agency (NRA) for a debt of BGN 42,900 against “Webest”, which with interest swelled to BGN 42,900. Because of these debts, the company was transferred from its former owner Dimitar Vassilev to a destitute Bulgarian.


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Another part of the tickets has been paid to the account of the company “BBF Angelski club” (Angel Club). This company is also owned by Dimitar Ivanov.

Startup Lustration

The Bulgarian Startup Association is the first employer organization to introduce full lustration for people affiliated with the former State Security.

“You are probably asking yourselves – where can one find these old cops and spies at the startups, well, we know about at least a few such cases and it was very important to declare this distinction as a message. The organization will grow, it will pass this year the threshold of 1,000 members, and it was very important early on to set the right moral foundation,” BESCO says.

The organization also voices concern about entrepreneurs that are not paying employee benefits and/or are involved in tax evasion and scams with European Union financing and public procurement. Thus, without naming the specific case with Dimitar Vassilev, BESCO is distancing itself from him.

“The fact that someone is a startup entrepreneur does not in any case suddenly put them on the Light Side of Force,” BESCO further says in a nod to Star Wars.

The adopted “Code of Honor” should protect the Startup Association from companies that are engaged in:

  • Corrupt practices
  • Deliberately breaking the law
  • Lies and manipulation of facts about the company
  • Tarnishing the prestige of other entrepreneurs
  • Being a bad example to society because of discriminatory behavior, xenophobia and a clear violation of the common understanding of democratic values

The requirements for the BESCO governing bodies are even higher:

  • In them there is no place for people actively engaged in politics
  • If someone is a member of a political party, they must state it publicly
  • Lots of publicity and restrictiveness in the direction of public funding
  • Members of the Board will have to sign a declaration of lack of economic connectivity

A dedicated Control Board will monitor the implementation of the BESCO “Code of Honor”.

Headline photo: BESCO General Assembly. Photo BESCO

Update:

On March 18, 2019, Bivol received a right of reply from Dimitar Vassilev Ivanov. In it he insists that a number of facts in the above article do not correspond to the truth, therefore is has been obviously “ordered” by certain stakeholders with the aim of damaging his and European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel’s standing and authority in the new technologies sector. Vassilev further rejects statements that he has been ousted from the Board of Directors and points to the fact that he and another member do not reside in the capital Sofia as the reason for their departure, though he continues to be a founder and a member of BESCO.

The businessman notes that after the General Assembly in question, a large number of members of the organization have expressed dissatisfaction with the decisions taken under pressure. Regarding the lustration, Vassilev quotes an email sent to him by the Executive Director and a member of BESCO’s Board Dobromir Ivanov: “The whole subject of lustration concerns the Honor Code (Startup Bushido), which was adopted and no references had been made to you…”

He also firmly dismisses the claims that he owes taxes, citing the public register of the National Revenue Agency (NRA) of debtors with liabilities over BGN 5,000 and the public but unofficial register maintained by Bivol, which clearly show that the cited company “Webest” has no obligations to the NRA.

On the digital conference in Varna, Vassilev writes that this is a “republishing” of slanders about the Innowave Summit that provides a clear sign that there are lobbies trying to harm one of Varna’s most powerful achievements and move it to other cities as the event “is a phenomenon that has been one of the largest events in Bulgaria and one of the most significant high-tech conferences in the Balkans over the past two years”.

The full text of Vassilev’s letter in Bulgarian can be found here.

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This post is also available in: Bulgarian