Former UNESCO chief Irina Bokova has signed a consultant contract with the Organization’s new Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, which guarantees her immunity and tax exemption, the French publication La Lettre A reports. The contract gives the same rights to her husband, Kalin Mitrev, who in the meantime is investigated by the Bulgarian Public Prosecutor’s Office for lobbying fees in the affair known as the “Azerbaijani Laundromat”.

Bokova’s consultant contract had been signed by the international organization in January. It does not provide remuneration for Irina Bokova, who had been discreetly appointed as advisor to the head of UNESCO, but allows her to benefit from an advantageous status after her departure. And this while her name is cited in several affairs.

“Golden contract” for one US dollar

The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, has granted her predecessor Irina Bokova a strange favor. The former Director-General, whose mandate ended in November 2017, had been discreetly hired as special advisor to Audrey Azoulay as of January 1, 2018, without the knowledge of the representatives of the UNESCO member states. Equally surprising, Audrey Azoulay had granted this mission to Irina Bokova in the form of a USD 1 contract that La Lettre A has seen, and it had not been the subject of any internal communication.

These symbolic benefits officially allow UNESCO to utilize the specific skills of their former senior managers. They offer the twenty or so former senior officials of “Place Fontenoy” (the UNESCO Headquarters), starting from former deputy directors and up, tax advantages and immunity related to their diplomatic status.

In the case of Irina Bokova, the contract provides that she “advises the general management on the various aspects of the UNESCO programs” and “conducts missions to organize meetings, conferences and consultations” until the end of November 2018. If in the corridors of the organization, the representation work done by Irina Bokova went unnoticed, this USD 1 contract could well serve as a judicial and fiscal safeguard for the former Bulgarian representative in Paris.

Very secret contract

Bivol has managed to see the contract that has come into force before being signed by Audrey Azoulay. Another strange thing is that it had not even been entered into the UNESCO information system with the corresponding incoming number. But there is no doubt that it exists, as the latter has been confirmed by a spokesman for UNESCO to the colleagues from the French publication.

This means that the immunity privileges had been extremely important for Bokova and Mitrev. They are provided by the French State under the contract for UNESCO (Accord de siège) signed on July 2, 1954, which sets the legal status of the headquarters of the UN agency in Paris. Article 18 of this agreement gives diplomatic status to workers for the Organization and their families.

The privileges stemming from this status are numerous, but perhaps the most important are related to judicial immunity and to income that is not subject to tax declaration in France.

Only four days after the signing of this contract on January 26, the Bulgarian officially announced that she was joining the board of the Russian company PhosAgro. The former Sofia representative to UNESCO is well acquainted with this Russian phosphate giant that had formed a partnership with the Organization in 2013. The director’s fees, granted by the Moscow-based company, could therefore be exempted from taxes in France.

Bivol revealed earlier that Bokova and Mitrev had managed to acquire four luxury apartments – in Paris, London, and two in New York, for a total of USD 4.7 million, which exceeds by USD 1 million their official income as state and international functionaries. The former UNESCO chief was also suspected of rigged appointments of key staff members, as well as using UNESCO’s resources for lobbying in favor of her candidacy for the post of UN chief. There had even been talk in the international organization about the Bulgarian’s impeachment, but she managed to finish her term in office despite the criticism and the huge financial scandal involving her husband.

Kalin Mitrev with double immunity, which may create a problem for the Prosecutor’s Office

However, for her husband Kalin Mitrev, the diplomatic status is even more valuable. He is being investigated in Bulgaria in the context of the case known as the “Azerbaijani Laundromat”, concerning payments from Azerbaijani funds to European decision makers, revealed in September 2017. The revelations stirred a huge scandal in the OSCE and the European Parliament, where corruption investigations were launched.

Mitrev has received about EUR 400,000 in Swiss and Bulgarian bank accounts from a shell company, whose director is obviously a strawman, as it was established through a joint investigation by Bivol and colleagues from international media, participating as partners in the project. Mitrev claims that the money was paid to him for consultations for a major Azerbaijani state program to prevent and control periodic flooding in the Kura and Aras basins. But the company that paid him the fee has nothing to do with this project.

The doubts that Mitrev had received the money under the table against lobbying activities in favor of the Baku regime are also fueled by the apparently privileged relationship between Bokova’s family and the authoritarian couple Ilham and Mehriban Aliyevi (cover photo).

Bulgarian authorities’ reaction was evasive. Mitrev was not dismissed as a Bulgarian representative in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the Finance Ministry sent a letter to the Bank asking whether after the scandal they had lost confidence in him. However, the EBRD replied with a statement that the confidence issue is the Bulgarian State’s business, as Kalin Mitrev is a Bulgarian diplomat. This was followed by silence and a refusal by the institutions to answer questions about this case. However, the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office announced that Mitrev’s fees are being investigated, but despite numerous inquiries from Bivol, no response about the progress of the investigation has been provided so far.

It becomes clear now and from the above that in case the investigation ends with Mitrev’s indictment, the prosecution must actually overcome his double diplomatic immunity – once as a diplomat in the EBRD, where he remains a representative of Bulgaria, and his second immunity as a member of the family of a UNESCO diplomat.

 

 

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