Ex-Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria and Partner with Alleged Mobster Becomes Bulgarian Citizen “On Merit”

Екип на Биволъ

Anatoly Potapov, Ambassador in Sofia from 2004 to 2008, and his wife Tatyana have received Bulgarian citizenship “on merit”. Potapov has a common business for import of Russian vodka with Plamen “Gandhi” Timev, infamous for having been a boss of one of the two alleged most powerful organized crime groups in Bulgaria in the 1990s – VIS-2.

The information about a Russian ambassador who has become a Bulgarian citizen on merit was reported by the Bulgarian Anticorruption Fund, which has researched the decrees on granting Bulgarian citizenship in the last ten years. According to the Fund, a Russian oligarch who has been convicted of fraud in the United States, as well as a former senior boss at Lukoil have also become “on merit” citizens. As a whole, Russian citizens are the most numerous among the naturalized Bulgarians, followed by Armenians and Serbs.

“The case with a former Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Bulgaria (born in 1942 in Russia, a Bulgarian citizen under Decree No 9 of January 23, 2009), awarded with a Merit Medal of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, a medal of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, as well as with Medals of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, is raising serious questions,” the Fund says.

There are no specific names in its press release, but there was enough evidence for a subsequent journalistic investigation that Bivol has conducted.

Anatoly Potapov and his wife Tatiana Potapova are included in the Bulgarian Trade Register with Bulgarian social security numbers and ID card numbers, issued in 2009, which coincides with the data from the Anticorruption Fund.


In July 2007, Anatoly Potapov left the management of V.R.B. group and was replaced by his son Sergey

Anatoly Potapov was Ambassador to Bulgaria at the same time when his American counterpart, US Ambassador in Sofia James Pardew prepared and sent to Washington an extensive report on Bulgarian organized crime – a State Department cable that was later revealed by Wikileaks.

A number of organized crime groups are listed in this text, among them VAI Holding, also known as VIS-2: “As the largest player in the drugs market, VAI controls trafficking routes, production facilities, and distribution networks. The group is also involved in trafficking stolen automobiles from Western Europe to the former Soviet Union. Its other criminal activities include extortion and racketeering, illegal arms trading, gambling, prostitution, and smuggling.” Those conclusions were most likely inspired by the well-informed US intelligence and law enforcement services. Before becoming ambassador, Pardew, himself, has been a military intelligence officer.

Potapov left his diplomatic post in July 2008 but soon returned to Bulgaria to start his own business. In 2009, he became officially a member of the Board of Directors of the company V.R.B. Group. His son Sergey joined the board of V.R.B. at the same time.

Since that time and to date, Potapov’s business partner in Bulgaria is Plamen “Gandhi” Timev, described by Ambassador Pardew as one of the “high-ranking members” of VAI, the same criminal group involved in all kinds of illegal business, according to the cable.


His Excellency Anatoly Potapov, Russian Ambassador in Bulgaria 2004–2008

“Gandhi” was arrested in 2007 and was accused of financial fraud. However, his criminal connections date from far earlier. The former architect was the owner of the Black Sea city of Varna football clubs Spartak and Cherno More and in business with one of the most famous gangsters of the 1990s.

Plamen “Gandhi” Timev

Nowadays, “Gandhi” owns and manages a myriad of companies, among them the already-mentioned V.R.B., whose headquarters are in Sofia. V.R.B. trades in goods and in 2013 it declared to the revenue services a net profit of over BGN 897,000.

The secret behind this profitable trade is Russian vodka. Timev’s company is the official importer in Bulgaria of the well-known vodka brands “Stolichnaya” and “Moskovskaya”, produced by the Chernogolovka factory. Having serious partners, like a former Russian Ambassador, can be very helpful for generating good income from alcohol import activities as it is a sensitive commodity that is closely monitored by the Customs Agency.


In addition to vodka, Potapov’s family has other business links to Bulgaria. As we managed to reveal through the Trade Register, his wife and sons started investing in real estate while he was still in office as ambassador.

Potapov’s family also has profitable business in Bulgaria

A few months before Potatov left the diplomatic service, in February 2008, his son, Sergey, bought the company Integrated Visions EOOD. Then on June 20, 2008, he acquired an apartment in the St. St. Elena and Constantine beach resort, near Varna. According to notary deeds entered in the Trade Register, he paid BGN 73,800. Afterward, Sergey Potapov invested in Integrated Visions and increased its capital to BGN 596,500.

Potapov’s wife started shopping for Bulgarian companies a month after he left office. Tatyana Potapova became the owner of two companies Irix and Quadrex. She paid BGN 691,000 for Irix and BGN 60,650 for Quadrex.

The purchase turned extremely profitable because the 2008 Irix company report shows an availability of BGN 775,000. Part of this money belongs to the Ambassador’s family. Potapova bought the company on August 28, 2008, but three weeks earlier, on August 6, 2008, the company sold two homes in Sofia to her son Nikolay Potapov, who paid for the apartments in the upscale Sofia “Lozenets” district BGN 459,620.

Later, in 2011, Tatyana Potapova decided to increase the capital of Irix to BGN 1 million. She transferred BGN 381,850 to the company’s account in a Bulgarian bank, after which she donated the company to her other son, Sergey Potapov.

Nevertheless, the cheaper Quadrix also turned to be a bargain because it managed to exchange three modest apartments in Sofia for a valuable land plot in the Bulgarian “Borovets” ski resort.

At this point, the Potapov’s family in Bulgaria look pretty good: two apartments in Sofia, one in Varna, a land plot in “Borovets” and BGN 1 million in cash, or a total of EUR 1 million.



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