Four Prosecutor’s Offices Likely to Unravel the Model WHO

Interview of Atanas Tchobanov, editor-in-chief of the site for investigative journalism Bivol for the Horizon program of the Bulgarian public radio (Bulgarian National Radio, BNR)

Host: Is there anything in the information that has been released so far that surprised you; if you wish, we can maybe recapitulate how big of a businessman Delyan Peevski emerged to be in recent weeks?

A.T.: Yes, I was surprised by “the coming out of the closet” of the media business of his mother Irena Krasteva and of the cigarettes business in Bulgartabac, however, his share in the latter is quite small – the official share, at this point. The money issue is pretty clear, I think; this is about money that came from the “late” Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB). We have proven this with documents a year and a half ago, in an investigation based on both public documents and  a classified document from the prosecutor’s office, a decree establishing that the origin (of money) for the purchase of the media of Delyan Peevski ‘s mother is from CCB. We went even a little further and found out that the money was actually taken from the CCB treasury by its majority shareholder Tsvetan Vasilev; was transferred to his companies i.e. we have lending to connected parties, and then his companies lent to Irena Krasteva, who acquired the media. Whether the money was returned to CCB is, however, something that we don’t know and evidently the prosecution and the State Agency for National Security (DANS) are not interested to learn what happened to that money. But this is where the money for the great acquisitions of Delyan Peevski and his family came from – from this safety vault, from this piggy bank of the people in power.

Host: Why is this business starting to become public right now? In fairness, it must be said that information that Delyan Peevski is associated with Bulgartabac and owns media has been circulating for years … Why is all this happening now?

A.T.: I think it is happening now because we have some dirty money that came to light. I do not want to brag, but it was again our site Bivol that showed that the deal for Bulgartabac was prearranged behind the State’s back to make it happen with some offshore companies with the persons in question behind them.

Host: In what way?

A.T .: That is, before the privatization of Bulgartabac, VTB, the Russian bank, with CCB as a consultant, sealed a contract with these offshore companies that had to buy out later this share from it. And then the question was with that money was the majority stake in Bulgartabac to be bought out. A document that we published showed that 45 million euro came from a Dubai-based offshore company, bearing the signature of Ventsislav Cholakov, Executive Director of Bulgartabac. Dubai is one of the centers where Bulgartabac’s business is booming. But what is the origin of this money? There are sources that insist that it is from cigarette smuggling, for example with Kurdish rebels, which has been a market of Bulgartabac since a long time ago. The key point here is that the money went in the British account of a company that is registered in the British Virgin Islands, but this account is located in Switzerland. Meanwhile, the offshore companies are from Liechtenstein. The company which holds Bulgartabac is Austrian, thus we can count so far four European prosecutors’ offices that should take an interest whence this “dirty” money, 45 million euro, came from. This means that our prosecution simply has no say and they have, obviously, realized that things are going in the direction of a collapse of the model WHO, and started to bring the business to light; this is my hypothesis.

Host: And are they going to take interest, do you have more information; we are talking about these foreign prosecutors?

A.T.: They will certainly take interest; I guarantee it to you, because a large sum is at stake; this is a matter of strategic, so to speak geopolitical issues with the financing of Islamic terrorism and if there is suspicion that the Bulgarian Bulgartabac is involved in that through its “occult” backstage owners, and there are such documents indeed, other forces will join and they will blow off the cover, which was built by Delyan Peevski with the help of Chief Prosecutor Tsatsarov.

Host: Well, why aren’t the institutions reacting? You said about the prosecution…

A.T.: And they are reacting; they are reacting by concealing the schemes; by concealing the dirty origin of the money; by concealing the backstage games with prosecutorial decrees of convenient prosecutors. We saw what happened with the signal of the “protest network” – i.e. the institutions are also actively concealing what is happening in Bulgartabac. Did you know that since the beginning of the year Bulgartabac has a new owner, a new offshore company? Nobody knew it until we published these documents. The Financial Supervision Commission is silent; the Commission for Protection of Competition is silent; nobody cares who this new offshore owner is. Several laws have been violated. And they remain silent. The right-wing Reformist Bloc is silent; the “protest network” is silent and is not saying: Let’s see who the owner of Bulgartabac is. They keep silent. Why are they silent since the documents are available? Institutions, former anti-government protesters, current protesters against the Mafia with which they already entered a “historic compromise”, so to speak, keep silent.

Host: Yes, actually they have been many probes in the family of Delyan Peevski in recent years that failed to establish anything.

A.T .: Well, because they are not seeking the money; because they are limited to Delyan Peevski having declared an old Opel. And Irena Krasteva declared “loan” as the origin of the money. Where did the loan come from? It turns out that you can steal money from a bank and give it to the media to praise the people in office and the latter to keep quiet and not to seek who stole it. That’s what it’s about.

Host: Do you see a connection with an earlier statement of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov that Delyan Peevski is an obstacle in the relations between his party GERB and Peevski’s DPS?

A.T .: To him personally, Delyan Peevski is certainly an obstacle because according to the information available to us, Boyko Borisov and Ahmed Dogan (honorary lifetime Chairman of DPS – Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the party largely representing the Muslim minority in Bulgaria – editor’s note) received a little something from the privatization of Bulgartabac. And he is shaken by great fear that it will be revealed what has gone where in this deal because this is very heavy political corruption. But traces remain. The offshore companies remain; we have found them; we know who they are. It is a matter of will for the British prosecution to lift the banking secrecy and to see who the true beneficiaries are. So there is great fear. Delyan Peevski has not as much to fear as Boyko Borisov does.

Host: You have published these investigations on your site Bivol?

A.T .: Exactly so.


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