Nikolai Koblyakov, Russian entrepreneur and opposition activist in Paris, is detained in Bulgaria on an extradition request from Russia

Nikolai Koblyakov, who is a Russian and French national, travels often over his business in social entrepreneurship. He crosses borders across Europe and America without problems. On July 29, he landed at Sofia Airport on a flight from Paris. The reason for his visit was a business meeting. Koblyakov presented his French passport at Border Control. Despite that, he was immediately detained by Bulgarian “Border Police” because Russia has placed a search warrant for him through the Interpol system. He remains in custody for 48 hours already. The hearing on the term of his detention will be held Friday; then the Sofia City Court will decide whether to extradite him to Russia.

Besides being an entrepreneur, Koblyakov is known as a strong critic of the Kremlin regime. He was one of the founders of the NGO “Free Russia”, which organizes protests in Paris against the politically motivated trials and detention of opposition activists in Russia. The organization also prepares reports on corruption and abuse of power by the Kremlin.

The formal extradition request, received in Bulgaria, stems from a fraud case, which in recent years has been taking place in Russia. According to the Russian edition of Forbes, the matter resembles a classic raider foray – Koblyakov received a proposal to make someone close to the government one of his partners, and when he refused, proceedings were launched against him and his offices were raided. Koblyakov fled from Russia, settled in France and continues to develop his business with construction of nursing homes for the elderly in the Baltic countries.

Two days after Koblyakov’s detention, the international scandal is flaring. The news of the Bulgarian arrest toured Russian and Bulgarian media. Diplomatic demarches of France to free its citizen are currently failing. Prominent NGOs have already started a petition (see here).

There was a protest rally outside the Bulgarian Embassy in Paris as well, against Bulgaria’s decision to keep Koblyakov in detention (see here)


The announcement about the Thursday protest outside the Bulgarian Embassy in Paris

He is still doing fine, his wife Julia reported in a phone conversation; she flew to Sofia yesterday to support her husband and to organize his legal defense. His spirit is high and the outside support of the NGO sector is contributing to it. The French Consular Office is also providing great understanding and assistance, she said. According to her, Koblyakov had not been specifically warned by the French authorities not to travel to Bulgaria.

Unlike the French, Bulgarian detention authorities are not showing that much of an understanding and have not even allowed his wife to visit the “dangerous prisoner” in NIS.

The fact that Koblyakov traveled freely to many countries, members of Interpol, and has not been warned that he could be arrested, raises the question whether Bulgaria is not used again as a “Trojan Horse” of Russia? Why a can a man, reported as wanted by Interpol, travel with a French passport in Europe and the United States, but Bulgaria, which is a NATO and European Union member, is keeping him behind bars? When exactly was the retention bulletin logged by Russia? Was it not sent hastily shortly before he boarded the flight to Bulgaria?

Years ago, media wrote about the case of Kostya Tziganov – Russian mafia boss, whose picture was hanging among the ones of wanted fugitives on the website of the Russian Interior Ministry, while Interpol was tracking him down with a red bulletin. The wanted Tziganov was living peacefully in Bulgaria and had even obtained citizenship with the signature of the “great” counterintelligence chief Ivan Drashkov. Tziganov was building vacation complexes for hundreds of millions of euros on the Black Sea coast and was playing friendly soccer games with former Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry, Boyko Borisov. The Russian Court never requested his extradition, despite the Interpol bulletin, and Bulgarian authorities kept their eyes closed for years – the Interior Ministry did not touch him under a number of Ministers. The National Security Agency (DANS) finally caught him and extradited him on the order of the then-Head of the agency, Tsvetlin Iovchev.


Wanted by Interpol Russian national, Kostya Tziganov, is seen playing soccer with the former Secretary of Interior, Boyko Borisov

Bulgarians are not only unusually diligent in the case of opposition activist Koblyakov, but Russians are also very “proactive”, as a notoriously failed Bulgaria candidate for European Commissioner used to say. According to information obtained by Bivol, the Russian judiciary has mobilized with the speed of light after the capture of Koblyakov and has been faxing documents up the storm to justify the extradition request. This led to a prosecution decree to keep him under arrest for 72 hours, although prosecutors initially denied they were aware of the case.

The Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office and the Interior Ministry owe answers about these double standards – not only to Bulgarian citizens, but to European ones, who, unlike Russian mobsters, can hardly feel so safe in our country.

Anti-Poutine protests in Paris leaded by Koblyakov. Source: Russie-Libertés





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