Cambridge Analytica with Record Number of Offers for Collaboration from Bulgaria

Atanas Tchobanov

By February 2017, the infamous Cambridge Analytica company had registered four applications for a local representative in Bulgaria. This is the largest number of aspiring employees in the world. Germany and Ukraine follow with three, Austria, Russia, Poland and Portugal – with two each. This emerges from a new leak of documents with information about the Cambridge Analytica operations, released on an anonymous Twitter account.

One file, named Associate Officers Contract Specs (Feb 2017), lists current Associate Officers and Potential Associate Officers applying to work with the company that has developed a successful algorithm for microtargeting in political advertising around the world.

The Bulgarian candidates are Ivo Maev, Bozhidar Kostadinov from Renovat Consulting, Alexander Durchev from ACCG (All Channels) and Miro Yanev from Optimax Digital Ltd. They all have sent a cover letter to Cambridge Analytica, stating their intention to collaborate with it in Bulgaria.

Macedonian Nikola Spasov is the Balkans representative for Cambridge Analytica and the Bulgarian applications from Yanev and Durchev have been directed to him.

Political PR Miro Yanev provides the most detailed information about his intentions for cooperation. He boasts about the work of Optimax Digital to support an underdog candidate for the presidential election, who had scored high in 2016, while for the spring 2017 parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, his firm had represented one of the major parties. Because of this, Yanev is keen to work with Cambridge Analytica.

Optimax Digital does not exist in Bulgaria, but there is a company with this name registered in the United Kingdom, with a 75% stake held by advertising boss Krassimir Gergov. According to Bivol’s sources, Miro Yanev is Miroslav Yanev (in the headline photo on the left), a former producer for the Bulgarian TV channel bTV, whose ties with Gergov were revealed by the Bulgarian Capital weekly. Miroslav Yanev was also the person who bought the opposition TV channel BiT and then closed it.

Alexander Durchev is the founder of one of the largest advertising companies in Bulgaria – All Channels. Information about Bozhidar Kostadinov and a company called Renovat Consultant cannot be found at all online.

Bivol contacted Ivo Maev, who confirmed that he had written to Cambridge Analytica but had not received any feedback.

According to the site Webcafe, in July 2017, Nikola Spasov and Alexander Nix, the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, had visited Bulgaria for negotiations with new clients. It is not known who they had been but with the new leaks, the list of suspects narrows down to Miro Yanev and Alexander Durchev.

All Bulgarian applications had been registered before the eruption of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in early 2018, involving the company’s misuse of data from the Facebook accounts of 87 million people, for political advertising for the purpose of electing Donald Trump as US President and in favor of Brexit.

Cambridge Analytica’s controversial methods were first reported in 2016, but the actual scandal erupted after a former employee of the company, Christopher Wylie, provided details of the real scale of the operation.

The leak of information from an anonymous Twitter account, named HindsightFiles, began on January 1, 2020. So far, it has released internal company files for Cambridge Analytica’s operations in Kenya, Malaysia, Iran, Brazil and a campaign in favor of John Bolton. Links to materials on its work in a total of 65 countries are expected. Currently, there is no information on whether Bulgaria is among them.

Below are the application letters of the Bulgarian candidates to Cambridge Analytica, as recorded in the Associate Officers Contract Specs file (Feb 2017):

1. Bulgaria Ivo Maev Political/Media Advisor to Deputy Chairman Connections / Media RP Political I am a political consultant and media advisor in Bulgarian parliament and a freelance journalist for some British and US media in Bulgaria. I also have more than 20 years as a political and election consultant in Bulgaria for main Bulgarian political parties. This letter is to ask if you intend to develop some optional projects on Bulgarian political and election market and if you need a person who could facilitate your possible local expansion. The political situation in Bulgaria is quite dynamic at the moment and the country is in front of a long cycle of regular and preliminary elections. I believe that will open further possibilities for realization of a unique election and communication technology and good local business opportunities. I strongly believe that your knowledge and experience could be useful for some Bulgarian political parties which already expressed some interest to realize a successful election campaign in a future. At the same time my contacts and knowledge of Bulgarian politics and my local media expertise could help for realization of your project on Bulgarian political market. As I saw in your website you have some contact persons in neighboring Macedonia and Romania but your company still do not have a contact person for Bulgaria. Therefore I decided to write you as a person who could help you for identification of new clients in Bulgaria. If I need to ask some of them for possible projects in Bulgaria please inform me who I may ask for that. If you can see any option for possible cooperation or if you need more information on me and my career please do not hesitate to contact me. I would like to thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

2. Bulgaria Bojidar Kostadinov Renovat Consultant Connections RP Commercial My name is Bojidar Kostadinov and I’m really interested in collaboration with your company. I have experience in political and business sector in Balkans. It will be a pleasure for me to find a way to contribute to your analytical progress based on sectors and topics I can be helpful. I believe there is a lot to come in business and political issues in our area South East Europe, so I’ll be glad to be a part of it by providing services to you, or even by promoting as business development your services.

3. Bulgaria Alexander Dourchev ACCG Passed to Nikola My name is Alexander Dourchev, CEO of All Channels Communication Group (ACCG). I address you in order to express our interest in establishing a partnership between SCL Group and ACCG in Bulgaria. I am very much impressed by your communication approach and I believe it could be also very successful in Bulgaria. ACCG is the leading Bulgarian communication company with more than 15 years of experience in institutional and corporate communications. ACCG employees more than 85 people in 4 integrated operations – PR, ATL, BTL + events management and digital communications. We work for one of the major Bulgarian and international companies in Bulgaria. We would like to present our company in person, to you and your team, and discuss options for collaboration at the Bulgarian market. We would be glad to receive your positive feedback. Please send me your availabilities in order to organize a meeting.

4. Bulgaria Miro Yanev Optimax Digital Ltd Passed to Nikola My name is Miro Yanev and I represent Optimax Digital Ltd., a relatively young specialty digital marketing company. Its high profile team has extensive background in founding and managing of significant Media and IT companies in Central and Eastern Europe. Optimax started off with a very positive experience supporting an underdog candidate who surprised everyone by scoring high in the last presidential elections in Bulgaria. Now we are working on the upcoming parliamentary elections in Bulgaria representing one of the major parties. I am very interested in cooperation with Cambridge Analytica for our current project, as well as in exploring a possible representation of CA for Bulgaria and the Balkan region. The elections in Bulgaria will take place on March 26th, so I will appreciate if we could discuss the possibilities for cooperation as soon as possible.
(Expect further details)

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