Key Documents in the Case “Misho the Beer” Are Missing

The reports, memorandums and penal provisions issued after the Customs’ inspection in the "Ledenika" factory are gone

The original protocol in the case “Misho the Beer” shows that the Customs inspection was obstructed by the Bulbrew employee Stavreva

“We categorically state that there is no report from the inspection of the mobile group from March 13,2010”, this is the answer of the Customs Agency to the question of Bivol whether there is a protocol from the inspection in the factory “Ledenika”, which became notorious after recordings made with Special Surveillance Devices (SRS) leaked and became public knowledge. In them, one can hear how former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov calls Customs’ Chief Vanyo Tanov during the inspection and orders him the following, “I made a commitment… come on, take them out of there”.

This statement is in blatant contradiction with the available data and the testimony of participants in the inspection before the Parliamentary Committee with the comprehensive name “Ad Hoc Committee for Verification and Establishment of All Circumstances Surrounding the Telephone Conversation between Former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Former Director of the Customs Agency Vanyo Tanov which Was Made Public and Contains Data on Rough Incitement to Serious Crimes and Abuse of Power”.

The Committee worked for eight months and held lengthy hearings, from which we learned mostly that total chaos reigns in the documentation of the Customs Agency, in any case in documents concerning the inspection in the factory “Ledenika”. At the end of the term of the 42nd National Assembly (Parliament), the Committee, led by notorious lawmaker Yordan Tsonev from the party representing mainly the Muslim minority in Bulgaria – Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) – produced a report. Probably, due to warming relations between the centrist Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party (GERB) and DPS, this text never gained publicity and is even missing on the website of the National Assembly. The report was submitted to the prosecution, which only a month later squished the probe in the case by refusing to examine the evidence of abuse of power and trading influence. It became known this Tuesday that the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed the termination of the probe in the case “Misho the Beer” on the signal of our partner site “Court Reports” without even considering the provided arguments.

Bivol has been trying for years to shed light on all aspects of this case and to obtain all the documents that have been prepared by competent authorities. At present, it is clear that key documents are missing- a report and penal provisions issued after the inspection in the factory on March 13, 2010. But if official documents, constituting material evidence, are really missing, this is also a crime that prosecutors should investigate.

What Does the Original Protocol from the Inspection in the “Ledenika” Factory Say?

Until recently, the relations of Bivol with Customs’ boss, Vanyo Tanov, always passed through the Court. Two years ago, he refused to provide under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) the report from the inspection in the factory of the late Mihail Mihov AKA “Misho the Beer.” However, Bivol filed a lawsuit in the administrative court, won it on two instances, and obtained a copy of the report / protocol with deleted names.

On the second page of the protocol one can clearly see that it is written “the questioning was obstructed by”. To understand who obstructed the inspection, we requested the original protocol, but the Customs Agency refused to provide it. After an exchange of pleasantries in the media, Vanyo Tanov invited a representative of Bivol to a meeting at the Customs Agency and provided the original. It shows that the questioning was

obstructed by Stavreva

The Customs Chief explained that Stavreva is an employee of “Bulbrew” who traveled from Sofia to Mezdra in a hurry in the evening of March 13, 2010. She ordered workers not to give explanations to the inspecting mobile group of the Customs Agency. This has been added in the protocol, but because the wet stamp of the Customs Agency was already put on it, the end layout became blurry.

The conversation was useful to clarify one discrepancy that Vanyo Tanov stressed as argument that the recordings of his talks with the Prime Minister were tempered with. In the prosecution’s decision to terminate the inspection, it was mistakenly noted that the flash disc with the leaked conversations was given to Galeria weekly at the beginning of January 2010, i.e. prior to the inspection.

The prosecution answered the question of Bivol about the above, saying that it was a factual error. The flash disc ended in Galeria not in 2010, but in 2011, when the scandal broke.

During the meeting, Vanyo Tanov also promised to provide all correspondence concerning the inspection on March 13, 2010. Later, he made a “U-turn” and despite persistent queries to the press office, Bivol never received any document. To get the documents through formal channels, we filed a request under APIA.

“The Whole File to Be on My Desk”… Yet, No Penalties

In the recording of a conversation between Tanov and his Deputy Antoni Strandzhev, one can hear how the Customs Chief wanted the “whole file on his desk”. “The whole file” contains, in addition to the said protocol, a memorandum and seized logs – a total of 27 pages.

All this was told with great detail by the former Deputy Chief of the Customs Agency, Antoni Strandzhev, the Boss of the Customs in the Danube town of Lom, Volodya Bogdanov, and by Chavdar Sandov, Head of “Follow-up Control” in the Customs in Lom before the ad hoc parliamentary committee investigating the case, “Misho the Beer”. Their testimony can be read in the transcript posted on the site of the National Assembly:

Strandzhev also explains that the report and the 27 pages of notes had been brought back to the Head of Customs in Lom, Volodya Bogdanov, and he forwarded them to Vanyo Tanov in the Customs Agency.

“I do not even see any sense in these things reaching Sofia,” explained Strandzhev. “Sofia will not be the sanctioning authority. The sanctioning authority that has to decide is on the territory where the offense was committed. They were sent to Sofia, because, if you remember, even in the conversation, Mr. Tanov tells me: “The documents must be on my desk when I get back from the business trip. They made a copy and send it.”

Actually, it does make sense and it is this – after Borisov ordered Tanov to stop the inspection, if penal provisions were to be issued by the sanctioning authority – the Customs in Lom – this was to become a great blunder. The fact that there was a violation that should be sanctioned is also made clear by the transcript. At the time of inspection, the brewery was simply operating in a breach of the law…

“As in Nighttime Robbery”  

The brewery of “Misho the Beer” was officially closed, but there was an agreement with the Customs to finish bottling the available beer, which was to be done during the day in the presence of Customs officers. On Friday, March 12, Customs agents sealed the excise premises and left, but not before asking workers if they wanted to work during the weekend. The answer was negative. However, in the evening of Saturday March 13, the factory was open and people were working inside with dimmed lighting in order to not be detected, Strandzhev said.

The operating instructions to work in the dark were also written in the log of the technologist, and were cited by Yordan Tsonev: “If possible night shifts are to work with dimmed (turned down) lighting. When the brew is completed, pipelines are to be flushed from the slush and the log and this notebook must be put in some cabinet. On Monday, everyone should be off.”

Strandzhev: “And then I remember Mr. Bogdanov saying,” Why are they doing this as in a nighttime robbery? Had they asked, I would have provided people to work both on Saturday and Sunday. These were his words then, I remember.”

“In the case from March 13, 2010, a report was written by Mr. Volodya Bogdanov. I have the draft, not the official copy,” Antoni Strandzhev further said. He cited the very same text that describes everything found by the inspectors and it ends like this:

“The foregoing opinion of the Customs in Lom that they were activities of handling and processing of raw materials, leading to the production of excise goods in breach of Article 60 in conjunction with Article 59 of the Law on Excise Duty and Tax Warehouses is in connection with what is described above.”

This finding overthrows the defense argument of Borisov’s lawyers that he did not obstruct anything by calling Tanov because there was no violation.

Another defensive argument is that the license of the factory has already been returned by the Court on March 9, four days before the inspection, thus the latter was unlawful and Borisov’s call prevented injustice.

However, the very fact that the inspection was obstructed, regardless of its outcome, constitutes a crime, explains Strandzhev:

“…No one is talking here about whether someone has entered legally or illegally a Customs excise facility. Customs Agency has the right to enter and inspect all establishments within the meaning of the Customs Act and of the Excise Duties and Tax Warehouses Act, whether the enterprise is operating, is closed or not. It has been always stressed that, you see, the Customs went inside in breach of the law, because there was nothing wrong with the brewery. Its license was returned and it had right to operate. Okay, so what? We do an inspection. This is as if a traffic policeman stops someone on the road and the Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry calls and says, “Do not check this person.” Does he have the right to make a routine stop or not? ”

Reports and Sanctions – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The transcripts and their comparison with the current official position of the Customs Agency on the case make the fog even denser. Do we have reports and sanctions or don’t we? Where are documents that constitute evidence stored – in the Customs, the prosecution or elsewhere?

First, it must be made clear that there were two inspections in the factory “Ledenika”.

The first one was on November 9, 10 and 11, 2009, and it established an illegal column for the production of hard liquor and journals reporting production of 60,000 liters of alcohol. The report from this inspection is missing. There are no original logs as evidence, but penal provisions were issued, and the license of the factory was revoked on their grounds.

The second one was on March 13, 2010, and it established that the factory was operating in conditions of an explicit prohibition to do so. This was when the scandalous phone conversations took place. From them it became clear that Miso the Beer “would never get the license back” if the inspection was carried out according to the rules and Borisov was pressuring Tanov to stop it because he made a commitment. The inspectors also established that the alcohol column was still there. There is a report from this inspection, everyone in the Parliament claimed, including Vanyo Tanov.

Yordan Tsonev: “The evidence from the second inspection has a protocol and a memorandum and related documents prepared by Mr. Bogdanov to Mr. Tanov, where for the inspection on March 13, 2010, all documents seized from the company during it are presented.”

VANYO TANOV “…There was an inspection. The inspection was reported accordingly. A memorandum was prepared. I cannot remember, but usually the memorandum is made by so and so to so and so. And finally it comes to the Director… “

Tanov also mentions another interesting fact – that the Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime (GDBOP) was involved in the inspection and there should also have copies of the documents:

“At the same time, the inspection was carried out with the participation of mobile groups. And in 2009, the mobile groups acted together with a team of GDBOB. So, in this inspection employees of GDBOB were involved. And if there was evidence of a crime, these employees, because I found out from the media that there was a notebook, should have…etc. And if there was a notebook, because the Director does not have video surveillance, while his subordinates carried out the inspection, the employees of GDBOB should have seized this notebook. And this notebook is to serve as evidence at least to initiate preliminary proceedings against an unknown perpetrator, and in the course of the investigation eventually to seek to prove guilt and who is where in the chain. Otherwise, this notebook reminds me of the one of Tsar Kiro in the same way. Someone put it in their pocket and there is no way for any supervisor to know that someone has put the notebook in their pocket and for what purpose it was put there -whether to blackmail or conceal persons in this notebook, and this is already another issue.”

At that time, GDBOP was run by Stanimir Florov, the most loyal man to former Interior Minister, TsvetanTsvetanov, who is now under investigation on corruption charges. Currently, the GDBOP archive is kept in the National Security Agency (DANS).

“I have to tell you in this connection that we are waiting for information on the reports of the individual who participated in the GDBOP probe. We know who he is. We are waiting to see what report he made as a participant in the mobile group, because the reports of the mobile group are here. So let’s see if this was done there as well,” Yordan Tsonev replied.

The hearing was held on March 18, 2014, however, it was behind closed doors and it is unknown what documents are available in GDBOP and what has the anti-mafia unit done or not done.

Outstanding Issues

Where is the original of of the report from the inspection on March 13, 2010? How come it was here today and is gone tomorrow?

Have penalties been imposed after the inspection on March 13, 2010? This question was asked during the hearings:

VALERI ZHABLYANOV (MP): I have an additional question – do you think the establishment of brewing production on the evening of 13 March is a violation calling for penal provisions or it is not? And if it there were no penal provisions, what is your explanation as to why this happened?

ANTHONY STRANDZHEV: Yes, it is a violation because, again I say, they should not have worked at all without supervision.

According to by Chavdar Sandov, Head of “Follow-up Control” in the Customs in Lom, penal provisions have been issued:

“Following a thorough inspection, an act to establish administrative violation and a penal provision were issued after the first inspection. After the second, we have also issued provisions. The first inspection was on November 9, 10 and 11, 2009; the second – on March 13, 2010.”

What is written in those documents and where are they? While these issues in the case “Misho the Beer” remain outstanding, the doubt will weigh that the complex State machine for creating and storing official documents had suddenly stalled; a fault occurred simultaneously in several places and the documents have vanished. The latter incidentally proved very profitable for former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, to whom the prosecutors issued an indulgence.


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