From left to right: Gérard Zerbi, Rémi Thuau, Ivan Danov and Nikolay Kostadinov, photo by the Ministry of Investment Planning

Over the years, the French mission in Bulgaria has been alternating loud failures and glorious moments. After the striking affair with sales of visas to prostitutes in the 90s, the French flag became a symbol of hope for European justice in the case “Borilski.” The affair “Koilovtsi” that followed is no reason for bragging, but after that, the position of the French Ambassador on the mafia and backstage dealings led to him being deprived of the highest Bulgarian state order “Stara Planina”. And now, the affair with the French “unemployed” Ivan Danov is about to turn into another bad international scandal.

This week Danov gave a press briefing in the presence of two retired police officers from the public-private company Civipol – Gerard Zerbi and Rémi Thuau, who defended him against information revealed by an investigation of Bivol (see here). This investigation exposed Danov in draining thousands of euros from the French welfare system by presenting himself as unemployed. In the announcement for the briefing, the French were proclaimed as official representatives of the French state. However, the French magazine L’Express (see here) quickly debunked the manipulation: the former Prefect of Côte d’Armor (French department – editor’s note), Rémi Thuau, was presented on the Bulgarian ministry’s website as “head of the Paris’ criminal police,” which is a position he never held and the French Interior Ministry commented off-the-record that people from Civipol were in Bulgaria not to polish Danov’s image, but to “assess risks for French companies wanting to invest in Bulgaria.”

It is known that the largest current French investment project is “Destination Rila” – a ski resort for 550 million euros between Separeva Banya and Govedartsi, which is within a protected area (see here). Such large-scale investment must be mandatorily approved by the newly launched by Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski Ministry of Investment Planning. The risk that namely Minister Danov will stop this “Pharaoh” project is not that big. Ten years ago Ivan Danov has acted as a “petty freeloader,” deceiving the French State, which assisted him as unemployed, all while he founded a company and worked as a lecturer in Bulgaria (see here). Due to these discrediting circumstances, Danov is the especially convenient at the moment “friend of France” as Gerard Zerbi called him, because if he decides to stand in the way of the immediate interest of investors, he can be held liable at any moment. The logical question is whether a person with a strong dependence from a foreign country can head a ministry that is so important for the economy and our national interests?

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Offshore business and French lace

The public spectacle with retired police officers and attempts to “exonerate” a key minister – former French “unemployed” – hint that the French might act in Bulgaria by using the local chicanery methods. Perhaps the choice of their Bulgarian representatives and associates can be attributed to the latter?

Attorney Nikolay Kostadinov, who heads the Sofia office of Civipol, is among the players in the failed project for the swap of land of the French School in the Bulgarian capital. Bivol’s investigation found that a Balkan storyline with thugs, offshore companies, a “bad apple” bank and improper Bulgarian institutions might spin around the project for a new building of the French School. Attracted by the prospect of France guaranteeing a bank loan, with which to finance the project for the school’s own building, unknown enterprising persons behind a Panama offshore company “Capital Shopping” have acquired land plot for 105000 euros and offered it to the French for 2.58 million euros.

Before Bivol, lawyer Kostadinov, who is involved in this project, refused to disclose who is behind the offshore company “Capital Shopping,” citing a confidentiality clause. Now, he acts both as representative of Civipol and as Ivan Danov’s lawyer, providing him with questionable indulgences from the French social services*.

Another figure of dubious glory is Georges Andre Gyurkovski, representative of “Rila Regional Development” Ltd., the company of the investors in “Destination Rila.” Gyurkovski is in the heart of a giant scam with 2000 decares of municipal land in Kableshkovo, along with other international dodgers – the owner of many passports Bozidar Tomalev (Bozidar Tomalevski, Dario Tomaletti) and Briton Nicholas Gallagher, portrayed as “the man with the money.”

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Georges Andre Gyurkovski is representative of the company that makes the investment proposal for “Destination Rila”

In 2005, Tomalev, Gyurkovski and Co managed to persuade the Pomorie municipality that they were real investors who will build a giant recreation and golf complex with hundreds of job openings that will bring prosperity and welfare. 

“Our group is represented in Bulgaria by “NGB Consulting ” Ltd; it has extensive experience in developing large-scale projects in the UK, Spain and throughout Western Europe, including a large golf club (Northampton Golf Club – www.northamptongolfclub.co.uk), residential buildings, retail outlets, facilities for leisure and with commercial purposes,” the investors wrote in the information for the project, which they provided to the municipality.

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George Andre Gyurkovski is the manager of NGB Consulting

The promised investment, aimed at misleading the municipality to transfer its “golden” plot, was in the amount of 150 million. Nine years later, there is still no money, and the Pomorie municipality is facing a real tragedy of losing a huge piece of land, worth about 50 million levs. For years now, the municipal councilors have been writing letters to various institutions, to the Interior Ministry and to the Prosecutor’s Office asking for assistance to get out of the flawed deal. The Mayor of Pomorie Ivan Aleksiev set concrete financial terms for investors as guarantee, but they were not met either. A series of investigations of Bivol revealed the shadowy side of techniques to appropriate public property only against beautiful promises, a shiny facade and dramatic sketches. The story, to sum it up, is as follows:

In addition to Nicholas Gallagher, other noted investors included entrepreneurs David Newman and Thomas Gallagher, who allegedly led a construction company “JJ Gallagher Ltd” for 40 years. The company had built more than 20000 houses, shopping facilities, golf courses and recreation areas in Western Europe and the UK, modestly estimated at over 1.1 billion euros. Nicholas Gallagher presented himself as Thomas’ son and as director of the renowned Investment Fund Powerscourt Capital. 

Impressed by this power and the prospects for future “Big Vasyuki,” the Pomorie councilors voted to deposit as asset 2000 decares of land in a joint company “Kabland” Ltd., managed by Dario Tomaletti. Co-shareholder in the company was “NGB Consulting” Ltd, owned by Tomaletti and Gyurkovski and managed by Georgi Andreev Gyurkovski (the same person as the manager of the French investors, but with Bulgarian identity). What the councilors did not know was that two weeks prior to the vote on the deal they have already been tangled in large-scale fraud. Shares of “NGB Consulting” have been secretly transferred to the Maltese offshore company “Darnik Limited.” No one knows who is actually behind it. At the end, it emerged that the Pomorie municipality has entered into a business partnership with two million square meters of land, but without actually knowing with whom. The land plot automatically became property of the company “Kabland” Ltd., in which, however, the municipality has only 20% stake and no right to majority veto. The remaining 80 % ownership (the municipal land is the only real asset) is owned by “NGB Consulting,” respectively by the Maltese offshore company “Darnik Limited.”

Investments, of course, did not materialize. As an investigation of Bivol revealed, Nicholas Thomas Gallagher is not at all related to a powerful British construction company that has completed projects worth billions. More specifically, such company does not exist. Nicholas Gallagher has never worked in the Investment Fund Powerscourt Capital. To create a legend of being an investor, the Briton registered the company Powerscourt Investments. In 2004 (the year prior to the offer of “NGB Consulting” for the golf complex), this company was renamed Farben Investments, and on October 14, 2010, it has been deleted from the business registry of the Republic of Ireland.

Because of their investigations in this scam, Bivol journalists were subjected to slander, attacks and lawsuits from Tomaletti. He lost the cases at all instances.

In the following years, the partners with many passports and fake biographies have not stopped putting pressure on the municipality to invest in infrastructure, threatening to take away its shares and thus grab 2000 decares of land on the sea for pocket change. Whether this was their real goal should be established by the probe of the National Investigation Services, which is underway.

It is intriguing to find out if the former French cops and current consultants from Civipol have come to the same conclusions about the large-scale swindling while researching their business partners in Bulgaria. If not, they can use our investigations to justify their astronomical salaries. However, if they know all that we have published, as we assume, the following questions remain open: what are the methods, means and principles that protect the Republic of France in its investment policy and business in Bulgaria; are there any tolerated backstage dealings in French- Bulgarian diplomatic and political relations?

We continue to expect the position of the French Embassy on the petty dishonesty of the unemployed Ivan Danov. The Embassy has so far remained silent, both before local and foreign media.

Sooner or later, the truth will emerge and then the cumulative effect of the current “cover-up” of some dubious personalities will be very negative for the image of France, and not only in our country.

 *We approached attorney Kostadinov with a question whether he is officially engaged as lawyer of Ivan Danov and with a request to provide the document from the French Labor Bureau, which he presented at the press briefing, but he did not respond by the time of the editorial closure of this article.

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