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Some of the most beautiful spots on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast south of the town of Tsarevo have been acquired as property through criminal acts, an investigation of Bivol reveals. The lands are located mainly on the territory of Natural Park “Strandzha” –  the coastal areas of Varvara, Ahtopol Sinemorets, and Rezovo – and are owned by individuals and companies directly or indirectly associated with Yordan Tsonev – a fixture Member of the Parliament since 1997 until now (former member of the right-wing Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), and now Deputy Chairperson of the Parliamentary Group of the party of the Turkish minority Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), and as such – Head of the Budget and Finance Committee) and with the /undercover/ Minister of Investment Planning – the infamous architect Kalin Tiholov. Some of the land plots are owned in person by them or by their relatives. These crimes of misappropriation of picturesque lands in a double-protected area have taken place about 10 years ago, therefore the limitation period (prescription) for pressing charges and for convictions has expired, according to the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office.

However, the scam, exposed by by Bivol, clearly explains the genesis of the persistent attempts of the corrupt power elite, associated with DPS and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), to revoke the protected status of coastal lands in park Strandza, or to close the park altogether. It also explains the General Territorial Development Plan of the municipality of Tsarevo, which was prepared by a work team, invariably led by the same Kalin Tiholov. The controversial General Territorial Development Plan was challenged in court by NGOs as detrimental to nature and the status of the park. After many years of litigation, the magistrates and the current government agreed to legalize Tiholov’s Genera Plan without any adjustments. From evidence that we possess, we can make the sinister conclusion that the General Plan for construction on the last intact coastal strip of Bulgaria has been created for the “private benefit” of Tiholov, Tsonev and the web of individuals and companies associated with them, once they have acquired coastal terrains.

Five lawyers from Burgas’ Bar Association involved in the scam

Five Burgas lawyers have forged powers of attorney to litigate on behalf of heirs of lands in Tsarevo, Varvara, Sinemorets and Rezovo. This emerges from a large-scale prosecutor’s investigation, conducted in 2010-2011. The probe was assigned by a personal order of then Chief Prosecutor (Attorney General) Boris Velchev. To avoid exerting pressure on the law officers, the probe has been dispatched to the city of Sliven, instead of Burgas. Until now, it remained completely hidden from the public. After months of correspondence with the Prosecutor’s Office, Bivol managed to get partial access to information about the investigation, ordered by the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassations, incriminating acting lawyers for real estate fraud.

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In summary, the story is as follows: Lawyers forged powers of attorney on behalf of landowners in the Tsarevo municipality. The names of these people have been taken from land ownership registries. A total of 21 property cases have been filed in the municipality on their behalf. At that time, the Town Hall was managed by the tandem Petko Arnaudov (mayor) and infamous lawyer Evgeniy Mosinov. Both are currently senior officials of BSP in Tsarevo and Burgas. The lawyers won the property cases on behalf of the unsuspecting people or of dummies and then, with the same fake powers of attorney, sold the land to companies and individuals directly or indirectly related to Tiholov and Yordan Tsonev. Some of the people, whose signatures are on the powers of attorney, even said that they do not know and have never met these lawyers. The land ownership registries have been simultaneously forged as well. The perpetrators have not been exposed.

The properties in question are some of the most lucrative waterfront sites in Park Strandza, subject of huge investor interest.

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These land plots above the mouth of Veleka River in Sinemorets have been privatized through the scam

The initial claims, filed with the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Tsarevo, have been delayed and put on the back burner for 4-5 years. Because of the huge number of affected individuals, the scandalous inaction of local magistrates eventually reached the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassations and the probe was assigned to prosecutors outside the region.

The crimes fall under Articles 316 and Articles 308 of the Penal Code. In 2011, they were proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. However, the findings of the investigating authorities and of the prosecutors did not conclude with the mandatory in such cases indictments and convictions. “It turns out that Bulgarian legislation is totally tolerating such major crimes, involving forgery and misappropriation of property,” explained the District Prosecutor of Sliven Plamen Stefanov. There is utmost absurdity in our Penal Code, but it is, obviously, not illogical – the offenses have been committed in 2005 and because of the sluggishness of the judicial system, the limitation has expired.

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“Other individuals”

According to the prosecutor’s decree, in collusion with other persons, not identified by the prosecution, lawyers from Burgas’ Bar Association – Nencho Nedialkov Dragnev, Diana Dimitrova Krasteva, Svetla Georgieva Kamenova, Kremena Nedkova Tabakova and Kamen Kolev Kraichev have researched in land ownership records the names of heirs of lucrative waterfront properties, who never claimed ownership. The lawyers filled fake powers of attorney with these heirs’ personal data and faked their signatures. Then, they filed claims before the Tsarevo municipality to recover ownership of the lands.

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The Court in Tsarevo dismissed the claims, but the lawyers appealed in the Regional Court in Burgas. There, the municipality was “skillfully” represented by its legal counsel Evegeniy Mosinov and lost all cases. The lands were restituted to the heirs and the lawyers sold them without their knowledge in 2006 – 2007.

The prosecution stumbled on this trail after a complaint by one of the heirs and began unravelling the crime story. Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev was also informed in person. On June 21, 2010, he ordered prosecutors in Sliven to handle the probe, over suspicions of conflict of interest in Burgas, where the wife of one of the investigated lawyers is a magistrate and the others are members of the bar association.

Velchev grounded his decision on “huge legal and public interest” and “public significance” of the case. However, it was quietly closed in late 2011 and after that nobody heard about it, and the victims kept their “firm faith” in the rule of law and the justice system of the Republic of Bulgaria!

Crime WITHOUT punishment

The official papers, which Bivol obtained through a request under the Access to Public Information Act, describe about 150 decares of illegally acquired property through documents with falsified personal data – powers of attorney. This is a punishable offence under Article 309 of the Penal Code and has a limitation period of 5 years. In addition to the fake documents, the prosecutors have also investigated misappropriation of property through false documents under Article 212, Paragraph 1. However, the misappropriation of property offense was written in Article 212 only in 2010, while the committed offense dates back to 2005, therefore the guilty parties were not indicted under this article.

Nevertheless, the legal proceedings established and described in detail the offenses, but were closed at the end of 2011 due to limitation. It is not clear whether there was improper interference by interested parties to have this limitation expire in the course of the investigation. This is a question that can possibly be answered by the National Security Agency (DANS) and by the Inspectorate of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassations.

A copy of the decree has been sent to the Burgas Bar Association with the advice to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the exposed lawyers. Approached for comments by Bivol, the current chairman of Bar Association Burgas, attorney Hristofor Kondev, could not remember this case and asked to refer the Association in writing. Kondev is chairman since 2013, but was firm that such case is not known to the Association and has not been discussed by it until now.

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Kalin Tiholov and Yordan Tsonev

It is not clear why the Prosecution failed to examine these criminal deeds by using the simple principle “follow the money trail.” The lawyers have not set aside lands for themselves; they were rather used as a tool for carrying out criminal scams. The entire property, seized through deception, has been immediately transferred to other individuals and companies. A careful examination of the transactions indicates that part of this property, directly or through third parties, became ownership of Arch. Kalin Tiholov and Yordan Tsonev’s best man, Milcho Kiryakov, who is also an associate of Tiholov.

Here are some of the cases:

Eighteen decares, restituted to V.K. from Sinemorets, were sold to Yordan Yorgovski who resold part of them to Hristo Gebrev and another part to Milcho Kiryakov. Kiryakov then transferred the property to Yordan Tsonev’s wife, Proletina.

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Twenty five decares near Rezovo have been restituted to R. K. and were sold to ES GROUP, owned by Errol Ali Saeed. He is a partner of Kiryakov in the company ES-POINT. Another 19 decares near Varvara were sold to Ekaterina Kiryakova who then gave them to Milcho Kiryakov. ES GROUP also acquired another 5 decares in Sinemorets, restituted to A.ZH.

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Dz.P. got 25 acres near Varvara, in the vicinity of the now-demolished illegal vacation village Golden Pearl. They were divided and sold to the company Avangardstroy JSC (11 decares) and to KAYA IMPEX LTD (14 decares). Arch. Kalin Tiholov is a co-owner of the latter company. It owns many properties in the village of Varvara, near the infamous Golden Pearl. Precisely these properties were included as lands where construction is to take place in the disputed General Plan prepared by Kalin Tiholov.

You can read about other cases involving Tiholov’s and Tsonev’s real estate assets in a previous investigation of Bivol: PARK STRANDZA: YORDAN TSONEV AND KALIN TIHOLOV – PROPERTY SCAMS WITH APPROPRIATED LANDS (https://www.bivol.bg/strandja-conev-tiholov-english.html)

Over the years, we have also described the notorious case of acquisition of land in 2001 by Tsonev’s father-in-law, Georgi Yakimov. Because of suspicions that waterfront property has been acquired with falsified documents, the Tsarevo municipality sued Yakimov for illegal privatization of land and won the case in the Regional Court. But right then BSP activist Petko Arnaudov became mayor. The entire file on the case was seized by him next year. It was entrusted to the new municipal attorney, appointed by BSP – Evgeniy Mosinov. Yakimov appealed the verdict in the Burgas District Court. The legal counsel of the municipality of Tsarevo missed deadlines and appearances in the case and, logically, Tsonev’s father-in-law won and obtained the priceless municipal lands near Sinemorets and Rezovo.

700 decares seized trough fraud

The full scale of misappropriated and looted property is truly staggering, reaching more than 700 decares of land directly along the coastline. So it is claimed in an article in Trud (Labor) daily from 2010, which quotes the current head of the ethics committee of the Supreme Judicial Council, Yasen Todorov, and the former Deputy Chief Prosecutor, Valeri Parvanov. The land is appraised at hundreds of millions of euros. According to the same publication, the investigation was for an offense under Article 308 of the Penal Code for falsification of land ownership registries, which are official state document. If there is such act, then the limitation period for it has not expired.

It is still not clear what happened to the investigation in the falsification of land ownership records. We are waiting for an answer to this question of “huge public interest” from current Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov. The decree on the forged powers of attorney describes about 150 decares. Hence, it appears that there are still 550 decares of stolen land for which a judgment of the prosecution is still pending. Maybe, we should wait for another year to have the limitation for this offense run out completely as well!

*Witnesses told Bivol about other scams through which heirs were defrauded. For example, K.B., who owns 18 decares just above the beach near the mouth of Veleka in Sinemorets, got his property back in 2003, but faced obstacles in the municipality, preventing him from entering into possession. He has been approached by Georgi Yakimov, father-in-law of Yordan Tsonev. Yakimov convinced him that he should transfer ownership of half of his property in order to arrange the entry into possession. The owner signed a power of attorney by which all property was sold to Milcho Kiryakov, a close partner of Tsonev over the years and his best man.

The fraudsters have also cooked scams with dead landowners by using information from the land ownership registries.

Chance for the victims and the public

The prosecution’s decree, on which Bivol shed light, gives a chance to the heirs to file lawsuits against the corrupt deals and get justice. This is a chance for our entire society, suffering from lawlessness and corruption, to reinstate its faith in the judicial system. The following is written in black and white in the decree of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Sliven: “The court rules are flawed, but it is the responsibility of the prosecution to initiate the procedure in their possible resumption under the Civil Procedural Code.”

However, the deprived heirs did not know about that decree, despite the huge legal and public interest. The prosecutors did not deem necessary to inform them, but, after this publication of Bivol, they can exercise their rights, citing the prosecution’s decision, the full text of which is kept in our editorial office.

Bivol will urge the Chief Prosecutor to reopen the investigation in order to also identify the unknown persons who, together with the lawyers, masterminded the fraudulent scheme. We rely on the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassations to find a way to avoid the brutal and ceaseless “prescription” that over the years turned Bulgaria in a feudal state, owned by the Mafia.

* The names and the testimony of the witnesses are kept in Bivol’s editorial office for the sake of their personal safety and security. They will be handed upon request only to official oversight institutions.

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