In 2012, the Bulgarian Central Bank (Bulgarian National Bank, BNB) attacked Bivol after the site published information about Bulgarian banks practicing money laundering and lending to connected parties. Instead of controlling these processes, BNB let them develop to a near collapse of the banking system.
At least two companies associated with Bulgarian organized crime stated intention to buy CB “Victoria”, whose license was revoked at the same time with the one of the failed private lender Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB).
For now, such intention has been officially declared by “Lev Ins”, associated with the notorious defendant with charges of racketeering and extortion, Alexey Petrov, AKA The Tractor.
“Lev Ins” is the successor of the insurance company “Levski Spartak”, which in turn is the successor of the power group “Apollo and Balkan” of Alexey Petrov. In a confidential report, former US Ambassador in Sofia, James Pardew, / link / specified that Petrov’s group “is thought to have the largest share in Sofia’s escort and intimate services businesses, which are used as fronts for prostitution and trafficking in women for sexual exploitation”. “It is believed that Petrov’s involvement in Taxi S Express, Levski Spartak, and other companies bearing the Spartak name have been disguised as Israeli investment,” writes Pardew. The formal ownership of “Lev Ins” is traced to the Israeli citizen Haim Ovadia and Iva Pavlova, who is close to Petrov. However, Petrov, himself, is not listed either as owner or as manager.
Bivol received earlier confidential information that Central Cooperative Bank (CCB), the bank of the Varna-based group TIM, has also declared intend to purchase the “healthy apple” CB “Victoria”.
After sending a formal inquiry to BNB, whether there were declared intentions regarding the acquisition of the assets of CB “Victoria”, we received a reply. It clarifies that more than one letter of intent to acquire the assets of the bank have been deposited in BNB. However, the central bank declined to provide specific names and explained that there were no specified amounts.
Interestingly, the response of BNB to Bivol differs from the information communicated to the media by “Lev Ins” itself. While BNB denies having received so far a stated intention to acquire 100% ownership of CB “Victoria”, “Lev Ins” reported exactly the opposite. “So far, no bids for the purchase of 100% of CB “Victoria” has been submitted, the written statement, which Bivol received by BNB, literally says. Either BNB or “Lev Ins” is not telling the truth, and we are yet to learn it.
Second “Bad Apple” Wants the Former French Bank?
CCB, together with First Investment Bank (FIB), Investbank, Asset Bank EIBank, Municipal Bank, DZI and the failed KTB, were described in 1996 as “bad apples” in a secret cable by another former US Ambassador – John Beyrle – to the State Department. The secret cable was published in the summer of 2011 by Bivol as an official partner of Wikileaks. / Link /
According to the former head of the Financial Intelligence Agency and current representative of Bulgaria in OLAF, Vasil Kirov, these banks practice money laundering for organized crime and connected lending, which leads to disadvantages for common customers. Of the eight “bad apples”, five have not changed ownership so far: CCB, FIB, Investbank, KTB and Asset Bank.
Three years ago, the information was withheld and marginalized by Bulgarian media and institutions, but was quoted in one of the most prestigious publications – Le Monde. The topic became the largest media taboo in our country. BNB even attempted to start a legal procedure against Bivol, on the request of four of those “bad apples”. The development of the current crisis around the ostentatious collapse of one of the leading “bad apples”, sinking over 4 billion levs, is now proving the truths mentioned in the US diplomatic cable and in our publications.
Namely huge exposures to connected parties – loans granted to dummy companies without collateral – are the reason for the failure of KTB, as the audit of the bank, conducted by three international companies, showed.
CB “Victoria” is the former Crédit Agricole Bulgaria – a small, well-capitalized bank that was bought by KTB just days before the bank of majority shareholder, Tsvetan Vassilev, closed doors. The acquisition came after the approval of the Banking Supervision of BNB and personally of the Chief of Supervision, Tsvetan Gunev, who is facing legal charges. The order of the management of BNB, authorizing the “bad” KTB to acquire the ownership of a healthy bank, is a circumstance with which the State National Security Agency (DANS) and the prosecution should deal in detail. Although the informal information about interest of CCB in CB “Victoria” has not been confirmed so far by BNB, the principal question, which is important for society, remains. And it is: is a repeat of the situation from a few months ago possible and is BNB going to close again its eyes to the possibility of putting the good apples in the banking system in the same basket with the “bad” ones?
It is known that CCB belongs to the notorious TIM group, controlled by Ivo Kamenov and Marin Mitev. TIM has a special place the confidential report of Ambassador James Pardew from 2005 as a mafia group “involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including extortion and racketeering, intimidation, prostitution, gambling, narcotics trafficking, car theft, and trafficking in stolen automobiles”. According to the publications of German investigative journalist Jürgen Roth, over time TIM has become a classic example of” mafia Borghese” – “white collar” organized crime.
SOPA, a civic organization in Varna, has alerted the European Commission about “unauthorized State aid” in favor of TIM, which received without a public tender the ownership of the so-called “Alley One” – part of the coastal area of the city for prices times below the market ones. The previous government of Boyko Borisov even delegated to TIM the functions of the State to advance the project. The good relations between Borisov and TIM, however, go further in the past – in the mid 90’s of the last century, Ivo Kamenov purchased from Borisov and his partner Rumen Nikolov AKA The Pasha, the company for the manufacturing of contraband cigarettes, which was discovered by the Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime (GDBOP), but thanks to a policeman in the Black Sea city of Burgas, close to Borisov, the case was crushed.
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