Bulgaria’s EU Commissioner to Step Up Cooperation with Phantom NGO Owned by Tax Dodger

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“Following the High-Tech Conference Innowave Summit 2018, which we held in October in Varna, I will meet with the Chairman of the Bulgarian Business Forums to discuss further opportunities for strengthening our cooperation,” the Bulgarian European Commissioner Maria Gabriel, who is in Sofia since Wednesday, announced on her Facebook page.

The Chairman of the Bulgarian Business Forums (BBF) is Dimitar Vassilev Ivanov. The association is the official organizer of the Innowave Summit 2018 conference held in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna on October 19-20 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).

Phantom company with debts to the National Revenue Agency (NRA)

The BBF, whose full name is “A non-profit public benefit – Bulgarian Business Forums”, has been in existence since 2014. Until August 2018, it had a phantom existence and not a single employee. In August 2018, in connection with the preparation of the conference, only Dimitar Ivanov was hired as an employee.

Ivanov (on the leading photo on the left) is a former owner of the web service company “Webest“, which changed its owner and manager a year ago. The new manager and sole proprietor of the company is Mihail Ivanov Marzakov.

A check by Bivol showed that a lawsuit had been filed by the NRA (number 160085944/2016) for a debt of BGN 42,900 against “Webest” before it was renamed and changed ownership.

The scheme of transferring firms with debts to affiliates is nothing new. A few months ago, Bivol revealed how the lawmaker Gamishev from the ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) has managed to cheat the Treasury by evading taxes in the amount of BGN 200,000 by transferring the debtor company to a “professional” strawman. After the scandal, the MP resigned.

Government partnership for BGN 40,000 without public procurement

Despite the high-profile institutional support, the high-tech conference Innowave Summit 2018 is a private event with sponsors called “partners”. They are branded as Platinum, Golden, Silver and Bronze. Among the platinum partners one can find the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promoting Agency (BSMEPA), which has paid without a public procurement procedure BGN 40,000 to a non-profit public benefit – Bulgarian Business Forums.

The agreement for BGN 40,000 between BSMEPA and BBF has been concluded without a tender and competition 

Bivol possesses the agreement/contract with number OA-4-44, which was concluded between BSMEPA and BBF on October 19, 2018, on the opening day of the conference.

It is unclear how much the European Commission has paid to become Platinum Partner as well and whether the procurement procedure has been followed.

The sponsors are public; the profits – private

However, the revenues from the sale of tickets for attending the conference with the big shot presence of Maria Gabriel has not come back to BSMEPA but has ended into private pockets. The ticket price for the event ranges between EUR 39 to EUR 299. According to the organizers of the conference, there were over 2,000 participants.

Although many of the participants did not pay and were invited, the collected ticket revenues exceed EUR 20,000, according to sources of Bivol. Participants in the event shared with us that they had paid through PayPal to the account of … the company “Webest”, the same that was transferred to the destitute Marzakov and has debts to the NRA.

Part of the tickets has also been paid to the account of the company “BBF Angelski club” (Angel Club). This company is owned by Dimitar Ivanov and is a co-owner in the company “Innowave” Ltd., together with “HotelTV” Ltd. of Niko Tuparev and “360 Solutions” Ltd. of Dimitar Georgiev.

By the time of the publication of this article, we did not receive an answer to the question to the organizers about how the revenues had been accounted for and whether they had been deposited in the bank accounts of BBF or other entities.

Prior to the Innowave Summit, BSMEPA has also signed another contract with BBF to finance the “Specialized International Conference on E-Transport and Mobility for the Information and Communication Technologies Sector”. For this conference, the Agency has paid BGN 12,000 under the European project “Creating Conditions for Sustainable Development and Successful Integration of Bulgarian Enterprises on European and International Markets by Providing Support for Participation in International Trade Fairs and Conferences”.

Photo by Banker


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