L’Express – Bulgaria: When French Experts Prop an Intriguing Minister

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From left to right: Gérard Zerbi, Rémi Thuau, Ivan Danov and Nikolay Kostadinov Photo: Ministry of Investments

How far should we go to improve relations between Bulgaria and France? In any case, while in Sofia, Rémi Thuau and Gérard Zerbi, respectively CEO and the person in charge of police issues of Civipol, the consulting company of the Ministry of Interior in which the French state has 40% stake, have rendered an immense service to a Bulgarian Minister at odds with France.

Let’s recap. Since the revelations of L’Express last September, Ivan Danov, responsible for investments in the government in Sofia, wears the unfortunate image of petty freeloader. According to our information, vigorously denied by the interested party, the architect improperly received about 15000 euros in the form of unemployment benefits in France between 2004 and 2005. He had obviously “forgotten” to report to the Labor Bureau that he resumed work in Bulgaria.

“Me, I can attest that Danov Ivan has no problem with France. I can certify!” insisted Gérard Zerbi on February 24, during a press conference at the Ministry of Investments. The Minister is not subject to any prosecution in France, said the commissar of division, adding that “the only complaint he had seen was from Danov for offenses committed against him.” According to representatives of Civipol, the Minister has requested an investigation in France, following the investigation of L’Express, on grounds of “breach of confidentiality of correspondence.”

Paris’ position on the case

Presented as the Head of the Bulgarian office of Cevipol, Nikolay Kostadinov, a lawyer who is well-known among the Francophone community in Sofia, said he was in possession of a letter from the Labor Bureau (Pôle employ) whitewashing Ivan Danov in stating “he had not received even one euro that was not due to him.” The letter, dating from July 2013, according to him, bears the signature of Anne-Marie da Silva, presented as “Head of one of the offices of the Labor Bureau in Ile-de-France.” As for Ivan Danov, he declined reporters’ questions, inviting them, in his words, to benefit from the presence of “French professionals” to sweep away any remaining doubts in his good faith.

The French graciously joined the game. Gérard Zerbi, former head of RAID (the anti-terrorist unit of the French National Police – editor’s note), went as far as to state he perceived the Minister as “a friend of France.” Regarding former Prefect of Côtes-d’Armor, (a department in France – editor’s note), Rémi Thuau, he was featured on the website of the Ministry of Investments as “boss of the Paris criminal police,” a position he never held.

What is the official position of Paris on this matter? Mystery. Gérard Zerbi cautiously explained to reporters that the ambassador of France in Sofia had to make a decision. In the absence of the latter, the embassy declined to comment. Asked by L’Express, an official from “place Beauvau” (Beauveau square – the French Ministry of Interior – editor’s note) insisted, on condition of anonymity, that the visit of representatives of Civipol in Bulgaria “was in no way linked to the charges against Danov, on which the French Police Force has nothing to say.” He also reminded that the mission of Cevipol was merely to “assess risks for French companies wanting to invest in Bulgaria.” This is certainly a coincidence, but it happens that all foreign investment projects are subject to the approval of Minister Ivan Danov…

Reached by L’Express, Gérard Zerbi has not responded to our questions. On its part, the Labor Bureau is still tracking the letter they have issued, so far without success. Even true, charges against Ivan Danov have prescribed, a spokesman of the Labor Bureau explained to us last September.


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