The Brussels-based online edition Euractiv published a story on the open letter of the influential New York-based international organization for the protection of freedom of press, CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists), condemning the pressure against journalists from Bivol working on the theft of 26 million euro with the complicity of the Bulgarian First Investment Bank (FIB, Fibank). Dimitar Stoyanov, a Bivol investigative journalist, has been followed, and his home has been searched, which he has reported to the police. In its open letter, CPJ called on the Bulgarian Prime Minister to ensure the journalists’ safety.
Following the publication of the article, Nathalie Vandystadt, European Commission spokesperson for Digital Single Market, told Euractiv that media freedom, pluralism and the protection of journalists “are at the very base of a free and democratic society”.
“Regarding the investigations, the Commission is aware of the case and is cooperating with OLAF. We cannot comment on ongoing investigations”, Vandystadt had said
Euractiv which is considered the official media of the EU, notes that the above indirectly contradicts the narrative by Fibank, according to which the case was closed.
The entire Euractiv publication in English can be found here – http://www.euractiv.com/sections/justice-home-affairs/journalists-investigating-eu-funds-largest-single-theft-ever
Comment of Bivol:
Together with its Romanian partner RISE Project (see here), Bivol revealed earlier that the bank is explicitly mentioned as an accomplice in the scheme for embezzling 26 million euro. So far, however, the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office has not arrested any of the individuals named by Romanian prosecutors as organizers and perpetrators of the fraud.
The list includes Bulgarians Mila Georgieva, defendant in the case “The Killers 6”, Ivan Tanev AKA The Universal, who is hiding abroad and Vesselin Lafchiev, also detained in “The Killers 6” case. The investigation of Bivol and RISE Project established that Lafchiev has organized the creation of a fictitious company – VM Corporation – with a dummy owner. The company received bank letters of guarantee from FIB in the amount of 31 million euro. In the words of Valeri Petrov, the said dummy, the company’s seals were kept in FIB’s offices where the entire documentation for the tender for food for the poor in Romania has been prepared. After the company won the bid due to unrealistically low prices, 19 million euro disappeared into an offshore account in Cyprus and the food was not delivered. This is probably the single largest theft of EU funds so far.
Dummy owner Valeri Petrov agreed to help Bivol and visited a FIB branch together with Dimitar Stoyanov to ask for printouts of statements of the VM Corporation accounts. The Bank refused to grant such access. After that Dimitar Stoyanov has been followed by three people for hours, and the next day he found out that his home has been broken in.
Bivol continues to work on this case. Dimitar Stoyanov has a power of attorney from Valeri Petrov and has filed complaints with the Commission for Consumer Protection and the central bank over the denied by FIB service. To date, there is no response to these complaints. Meanwhile, Dimitar Stoyanov was fired from his other job in AGRO-TV.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian