“Global financial institutions”, not represented in Bulgaria, are in an advanced stage of negotiations with Inercom to finance the takeover of the Bulgarian assets of the Czech electric power utility CEZ,” Nayden Raychinov from the “Bratanov and Spassov” law office, the legal counsel in the deal, tells Bivol.

He was adamant that no “Bulgarian or regional banks” would be involved in the financing of this deal. According to previous reports, Bulgarian banks First Investment Bank (FIB, EUR 80 million), the Bulgarian Development Bank (BDB, EUR 75 million) and UniCredit Bulbank (EUR 180 million) have announced an intention to lend to Inercom. This information came from of a Czech official and was given to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who logged it in the National Assembly’s (Parliament) record keeping office.

At the end of February 2018, Capital daily published said information showing that the deal would also include companies linked to Russian billionaire Paata Gamgoneishvili that hold EUR 100 million in Sberbank of Russia, USD 50 million in the Swiss Julius Bar and CHF 27 million in Vontobel.

Banks like in “Hollywood movies”

“Negotiations are in an advanced stage. The banks have conducted due diligence on our client, on Inercom, KYC (Know Your Client); it passed anti-money laundering checks; it has undergone financial analysis; the deal has been reviewed, along with everything related to Inercom,” says Nayden Raychinov. “I think this is a good sign that there are normal people at the table,” he sums up.

Raychinov refused to name the specific banks, citing confidentiality of trade relations, but described them as “big banks, such as you have seen in Hollywood movies”. With the same argument, the one of trade secret, he declined to answer the question whether private individuals are involved in financing the deal.

The CEZ Bulgaria’s assets deal with Inercom, the company of the previously unknown Ginka Varbakova, has caused political turmoil and is being monitored by the European Commission. Inercom says that everything with its energy business is clean, while Ginka Varbakova, herself, stated that she was not representing “oSHfore” interests. Suspicions about the business reputation of the lady from the southern city of Pazardzhik and of political cover-up have been piling up over time and many of the questions remain unanswered to date.

Suspicion of scams and political cover-up

It is unclear whether the large banks’ due diligence has taken into account abundant evidence of past dubious connections and deals of the owner. For example, Bivol revealed Varbakova’s ties with people from the inner circle of Prime Minister Borisov (see here and here), as well as an affair with a fake bank guarantee for EUR 200 million (see here and here), which Varbakova has presented years ago to the Energy and Water Regulation Commission (KEVR) to obtain an electric power trader license.

This week, the Anti-Corruption Fund further revealed that the “Real States” company, represented by Ginka Varbakova, owes BGN 1 million to the Pazardzhik municipality for a failed solar park project. The Fund filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Currently, the deal between Inercom and CEZ is blocked by a decision of the Commission for the Protection of Competition, which is being appealed in court. The hearing in the case is scheduled for April 2019. Under the terms of the contract, Inercom must pay CEZ before this deadline but the position of the Czech side and whether it will wait for the court’s decision is not yet known.

As the site Mediapool wrote earlier, a General Assembly of the shareholders of CEZ Electro Bulgaria and CEZ Distribution Bulgaria will be held on November 27. The majority shareholder CEZ will recommend new members of the Supervisory Board, provided that Inercom acquires 67% of its shares in the two companies. The other more significant shareholders include retirement funds linked to the TIM group.

The participation of TIM, whose boss Ivo Kamenov openly demonstrates connections with Yury Trutnev, a Russian politician and confidant of President Vladimir Putin, caused concerns in the Czech Republic five years ago. Czech media recalled a leaked diplomatic cable written by the US Embassy in Sofia, according to which “TIM is involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including extortion and racketeering, intimidation, prostitution, gambling, narcotics trafficking, car theft, and trafficking in stolen automobiles.”

CEZ, however, was unable to get rid of TIM’s minority share, which seems to be influencing the new management as well. Bivol’s investigation established that two of the nominated managers – Iliyan Scarlatov and Vesselin Zahariev – are linked to the Varna-based group.

Georgi Spasov and Nayden Raychinov from the “Bratanov and Spassov” law office have also been nominated as members of the Supervisory Board of CEZ Distribution Bulgaria. In the past, Raychinov has represented the company Kennytel Project LPP linked to a lawmaker from the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party. The owners of this company are two offshores – the Panama registered BESTWIDE ENTERPRISE, S.A. and the Belize registered DELAIT SECRETARIES LIMITED, both linked to financial scandals over billions exported illegally from Russia and Moldova. Mr. Raychinov, himself, told Bivol that his client from the offshore had nothing to do with financing the Inercom deal with CEZ.

Expect a detailed analysis of the future CEZ management by Bivol.

To be continued…

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