Tens of thousands of Romanian poor families have not received oil and flour by the Romanian State, because the Bulgarians who had to deliver them under a contract with the Romanian Agency for Payments and Intervention in Agriculture (APIA), disappeared with the food and the money.
The total damage is about 26 million euro in funds provided by the European Union (EU) from the program for assistance to deprived families in Romania.
The Directors of APIA were arrested on October 5, 2015, by the Romanian Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (see here) and were charged with abuse of power and money laundering.
The journalists from Bivol worked on this investigation together with their Romanian colleagues from the Rise Project for months and managed to find the owner of the Bulgarian company which is involved in the fraud scheme.
His name is Valeri Petrov Miloradov and, according to documents, he is the owner and CEO of VM CORPORATION which has signed contracts with APIA to deliver flour and oil.
When he saw the APIA documents, Petrov pointed out that the signatures on them were not his own, although they are placed under his name.
One of the signatures belongs to Veselin Lafchiev. He is the man who recruited Petrov for the scheme, paying him for the “dummy” role in the company VM CORPORATION, Petrov, himself, insists. Lafchiev’s name also appears in the indictment of the Romanian Prosecutor’s Office.
To win the bid with the Romanian State, VM CORPORATION needed a solid bank guarantee in the amount of 31 million euro. Such a guarantee has been issued by the Bulgarian First Investment Bank (FIB/FIBANK). But now the bank does not want to pay the guarantee with the argument that the money was not received in the company’s FIB account as it was written in the contract with APIA – a contract that was not signed with Petrov’s authentic signature.
Veselin Lafchiev, who signed instead of Petrov, created and registered VM CORPORATION at the address of his mother’s apartment on 6 “Lavski Rid” street in Sofia. Valeri Petrov, who is the “dummy” in the scheme, explains how “well-dressed and nice-smelling gentlemen, real millionaires”, visited his home to persuade him to sign various documents. From what he says, it appears that other people controlled the company and have prepared the documentation for the Romanian tender.
The Bulgarian group
According to Romanian prosecutors, the head of the Bulgarian group was Ivan Tanev AKA “The Universal”, the son of former Agriculture Minister Georgi Tanev. He is wanted by Interpol for tax fraud and money laundering, but managed to escape. His associate Mila Georgieva was arrested in Belgrade and extradited to Bulgaria. A year later, she was again arrested on charges that she led an organized criminal group which the Interior Ministry codenamed “The Killers”.
In the indictment of the Romanian Prosecutor’s Office, Mila Georgieva is listed as a partner of Veselin Lafchiev and three other Bulgarians – attorney Snezhina Stoykova, Stefka Stoeva and Nikolay Hristov. These persons are also representatives of VM CORPORATION, according to APIA documents seized by prosecutors.
The indictment also states that unknown employees of First Investment Bank, which has issued the bank guarantees for the tender, have contributed to the fraud.
To win the bids, Georgieva and her accessories have made commitments to deliver oil and flour at very low prices. These commitments played a key role as they allowed the Bulgarians to eliminate the competition.
The first company to sign a contract for the deliveries was ALEXANDRA TRANSPORT which is controlled by a Panamanian offshore company, part of Mila Georgieva’s group. The manager of Alexandra Transport is Alexandra Samundzi, who, together with Mila Georgieva, is a manager of the company GENESIS LABORATORIES.
The Romanian group
which signed contracts with VM CORPORATION is VEGA TRADE INDISTRY from Giurgiu. This company is associated with a large-scale scheme for tax evasion and money laundering through criminal arrangements in which the Romanian Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation in 2012.
VEGA TRADE INDUSTRIES is managed by Sorin Adrian Găzdac and by the son of Senator Cezar Măgureanu who is being investigated in the same affair. Găzdac has been dealing for years with food and has a business relationship with Octavian Grecu, head of the clan “The Buttons” from Giurgiu, involved in many scandals of national importance. Prosecutors proved in 2012 that this clan was involved in a complex scheme of operations in many countries, including Bulgaria and Romania. More than 100 companies were operating in a network for cross-border food deliveries that caused damage to the Romanian budget in the amount of more than 130 million euro.
FIB: “We will not pay!”
Bulgarian bank FIB is defending itself on grounds of corruption in Romania and refused to pay the guarantee to APIA, despite the decision of the Appeal Court in Sofia, which is not final. The financial institution rejected the judges’ rule and sent a letter to the central bank (Bulgarian National Bank, BNB), the Ministry of Justice and to magistrates, claiming that it was inappropriate a Bulgarian Bank to pay for “corruption in Romania”. In view of the fact that the Supreme Court of Cassations is yet to rule in the case, this letter can be interpreted as an attempt to pressure the Court.
At the same time, the relations of FIB with Mila Georgieva’s group have been proven. One of the majority shareholders of the Bank, Ivaylo Mutafchiev, sold to Mila Georgieva an apartment in Sofia for 350,000 levs (see here). Dummies Georgios Georgiou and Evdokia Maklamuzi, who are nominal owners of offshore companies that received more than 1 billion levs in loans from the Bank (see here), are also behind the companies associated with VM CORPORATION and Mila Georgieva.
Where is the money?
Journalists from Bivol and Rise established that nearly 19 million euro from APIA went into an offshore account of VM in Cyprus and from there to other offshore companies and their tracks became lost in Hong Kong. Not quite, however. Traces do remain. Read more details in the sequel.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian