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In the bTV show “This Saturday” on November 23, Minister Ivan Danov defended architect Kalin Tiholov for “Dunes Gate” and again developed the thesis that he, himself, never drained the French welfare system. These statements contradict publicly known facts.

“All of you who are talking about “Dunes Gate” should read the Urban Development Act. Art. 123, I think, regulates development plans. In “Dunes Gate” the issue revolves around changing a detailed urban plan, which is a long procedure. The mayor assigns it; the municipal council approves it; the ministry of environment approves it; the ministry of culture too, and then the architect gets the job, and starts working. He/she works under a public order,” this is how Danov defended his colleague Tiholov, implying he simply received an assignment and had no fault whatsoever.

Documents, published by Bivol in the midst of “Dunes Gate,” however reveal that Tiholov was precisely the one to make proposals to the Municipal Council to change the Urban Plan, not the mayor. Tiholov had a personal interest – he owns one of the dunes plots and wants to build on it.

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Bank card transactions show that Danov has withdrawn in Bulgaria the illegally received unemployment benefits in France.

The Minister commented on the accusations he has been draining the French social system, reiterating his defense thesis from a month ago: “An investigation is being conducted, I requested it, and I expect results in December,” said Danov quoted by Mediapool.”… If there was a way, I would return the money. Actually, I have a document that they do not want it back.”

This is not the first time when Danov mentions this document without showing it. A few weeks ago, in the “Face to Face” show on bTV, he also claimed to have a document from the French social services, which cleared him, “So … these benefits, or assistance, they are not welfare, they are social benefits. I’ve filed documents; I got an official document from the employment services, which proves that there was no violation; such violation was not ascertained, and I, actually, never used this money.”

Asked for comments by Bivol, the press service of the French Employment Services (Pôle Emploi) at the time denied that Minister Danov has officially turned to them to obtain such document. “If he has taken such document, it did not come from us,” said by phone Anne-Solene Roudel from the media relations department.

A month ago, the French weekly “Express” reported that, according to the Paris Prosecutor’s Office, there was no probe launched on a signal coming from Ivan Danov.

If, however, the prosecution has begun any action, it can easily establish the following facts, already published in Bivol and Express:

– In September 2004, architect Ivan Danov personally went to the Employment Services in Paris and listed himself as unemployed. He filled a declaration that he was effectively seeking work and lived permanently in France. Without this explicit expression of will, which must be repeated every month, the French Employment Services do not grant even one euro in unemployment assistance. On another TV show, Danov explained that after he ended working for the French architectural bureau, assistance flowed almost automatically to his bank account without his knowledge and intervention. This is ridiculous and 100% impossible, confirmed a spokesman for the French Employment Services before Bivol.

– After receiving a letter of assurance that he was registered as unemployed and was assigned to receive welfare, Ivan Danov flew (on September 29, 2004 ) to Bulgaria , where he began teaching at the University for Architecture in Sofia. Even then, he was already in violation because under the law, he had effectively started work and was required to disclose this fact to the Employment Services. In addition, Ivan Danov was absent for more than a month from France, which is also a cause for loss of assistance. To top it all, architect Danov registered an architectural office and worked on a multi-million investment project, which he hardly did pro bono, while he was expecting to land a job in France. Naturally, none of these circumstances was declared before the French Employment Services.

– In order to not lose the assistance, Ivan Danov submitted a false declaration online every month ascertaining that he was seeking work and lived in France. He is criminally liable for filing a declaration with false information with a government body.

– Danov traveled to France several times because of job interviews. According to Bivol’s investigation, he flew to Paris in November 2004 (returned home to Bulgaria on November 6). In the spring of 2005, he made trips to Paris twice: in March and April, for a few days. He resided in France only for 17 days during the total period when he was receiving unemployment benefits.

While receiving French social benefits in his account in BNP bank, and sometime after the benefits stopped, Danov has been withdrawing money from the same account in Bulgaria, an investigation of Bivol conclusively proved.

On February 28, 2005, he has withdrawn 1313 levs (696.16 euros), at a UBB bank branch in Sofia, from a POS terminal with a Visa card and from his French account. On August 9, again from a branch of UBB at Universiada Hall in Sofia, he withdrew 1515 levs (801.82 euros). In addition to this pocket money, Danov paid for miscellaneous expenses such as gasoline. On August 5, 2005, he bought gasoline at Shell Sofia for 102.93 levs (54.96 euros), and on August 25, filled his tank at OMV Varna for the price of 105.10 levs (56.23 euros).

The bank card, which Danov used for these transactions, expired in September 2005. Thereafter he stopped spending from his French account, where, until May-June 2005, unemployment benefits piled – about 1800 euros a month. Again, it should be emphasized that this money was received by the current Minister completely illegally on the basis of false declarations before French authorities.

The French Penal Code provides five years in prison and a 37 500 euros fine for such offense. The case law, however, is more merciful. A year ago, a family of African origin, which has cheated social services like Danov, received a suspended sentence of five years and eight months and was mandated to reimburse the unlawfully received 28, 912.65 euros. Fortunately for the Bulgarian Minister, he cannot be sentenced to prison due to prescription. The French Employment Services, however, may sentence him to return the money received while he was living in Bulgaria, plus interest and a serious fine. The prescription for these offenses is 10 years.

French “dreams” for construction in Rila or why the French silence is golden

It is a fact that until now the French Employment Services have not bothered to look for Danov’s money and to refer him to the prosecutor for fraud. Before the weekly “Express,” an official from the Employment Services (on condition of anonymity) judged the affair as “very awkward” because of the precedent with an acting Minister of a European Union Member State. However, that’s not all: “Even if the Minister in question wanted to return the amount he received improperly, the Employment Service will not be able to take it until the fraud is not recognized by our authorities,” said the official.

Of course, a formal conclusion that fraud has been committed will end Danov’s ministerial career and will seriously shake the government of Plamen Oresharski. Perhaps this is what the official had in mind when labeling the matter “very awkward.” After all, a Socialist government is in power in France, despite distinct indications in French press (Le Nouvel Observateur magazine, for example) that Sergey Stanishev is disliked by the French Socialists.

However, there is another affair, which is yet to stir noise. Large French hotel and construction companies are planning to invest 550 million euros in a ski resort in Rila – an investment that needs the signature of Investment Planning Minister Ivan Danov. The situation is even more delicate, because for that this project to happen, the effort of the whole fragile parliamentary majority will be needed to amend the Forestry Act.

So the old French (and Bulgarian) saying “silence is gold” acquires very specific dimensions. One might even estimate how much gold are these 550 million euros worth, and also what is the value of all the tales of rule of law and equality before the law, which the French Republic never fails to highlight when blocking Bulgaria’s Schengen membership… or deporting Bulgarian Roma outside Schengen.

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