The boss of Bulgaria’s Southeast Forestry Enterprise, Peycho Varbanov, traveled by plane to Dortmund for an exhibit, but he sent there his government-issued SUV several days earlier to wait for him at the airport and take him on a tour around Germany, an investigation of Bivol reveals.
The story is old, from the time of the prosperous years of the Triple Coalition’s term in office, but has been carefully concealed over the years and documents related to it are emerging just now. This fact shows how sustainably Varbanov, also known as Communist State Security agent with the codename “Forest”, has cemented himself at his post.
On January 29, 2007, according to data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF), Engineer Peycho Varbanov traveled with the then-Minister of Agriculture Nihat Kabil to a hunting exhibit in Dortmund, Germany. His official VW Tuareg (with the “tug” license plate number CH 0001 HH) departed for Dortmund by land a few days earlier.
The former secretary of Varbanov, Nina Veleva, claims that the SUV and the personal driver of agent “Forest” have traveled to Germany for his personal comfort. He used the business trip to visit Meglena Plugchieva-Alexandrova, with whom they were close friends. At that time Plugchieva was Bulgarian Ambassador to Germany.
Bivol met Varbanov on December 23, 2014, in front of MAF. We asked him why his government-issued VW Tuareg was waiting for him at the airport in Germany, provided that he flew with the government delegation.
Varbanov: The car was on a “green week” with other people when it was waiting for me at the airport
Bivol: Why did you send it?
Varbanov: It was sent by other people there; it was sent by the Minister. I did not have the authority to send it.
After this comment, agent “Forest” quickly left in his current government-issued vehicle, a Toyota Land cruiser V8, latest model. Only for reference, its price starts from 179,900 levs.
In fact, the government-issued VW Tuareg was sent to Dortmund not by Nihat Kabil, but by Iliya Simeonov, who in 2007 was Director of the Executive Forestry Agency (EFA). In the press, Simeonov is called a favorite of the party largely representing the Muslim minority in Bulgaria, Movement for Rights and Friends (DPS), believed to be Bulgaria’s backstage ruler, and he is known as a close friend of Varbanov.
The MAF inspectorate checked this trip over a signal in 2009. The inspectors found that the government vehicle was sent to Germany with order 8 from January 15, 2007, by Iliya Simeonov. The motive for the trip to Dortmund was “transportation of promotional materials” and the SUV traveled to Germany at the expense of the State Hunting Estate “Tundza – Yambol”. It remains unclear why the Director of the Estate, Konstantin Nedev, paid for transportation of promotional materials with a car owned by the Regional Forestry Sliven and not by “Tundza Yambol”.
In 2009, inspectors from MAF failed to see anything wrong with a VW Tuareg traveling thousands of miles to deliver promotional materials. Iliya Simeonov explained for Bivol that such was the practice then – to send promotional material with luxury SUVs. Apparently, while he was Director of EFA, he was unaware of the existence of diplomatic mail, which is used to deliver promotional materials for exhibitions, especially if they are visited by ministers. He was not informed either about the services of courier companies that are times cheaper.
This is not the first controversial case involving agent “Forest” that has been investigated by Bivol. Some time ago we reported that with the blessing of Peycho Varbanov thug companies extracted and sold radioactive rock. The case is being investigated by the prosecution. Despite the scandals, however, Varbanov remains irreplaceable, and given his demonstrative closeness with Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, hardly anyone from the current government would bother him as well.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian