New UK Anti-Money Laundering Law Threatens Two Affluent Bulgarians

UK Security Minister points directly to "The Laundromat"
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The UK government will use its “full force” to crackdown on foreign criminals and corrupt politicians as new Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) come into effect this week.

UWOs gives the British authorities powers to freeze and recover property if individuals who cannot explain how they acquired assets over GBP 50,000.

The measure is directed against Russian oligarchs, but it can also affect unexplained wealth of Bulgarian citizens. Among them are the Bulgarian representative to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Kalin Mitrev, suspected of corrupt dealings with the Azerbaijani regime and businessman Ivaylo (Ivo) “The Tomcat” Krastev, an individual who is allegedly part of the inner circle of current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. In addition to being the owner of the notorious Sofia nightclub “Sin City”, he also owns a luxurious nightclub in the heart of London, whose license was recently revoked due to frequent thug brawls.

“A pixie gave you the money? We want to “get the name of the pixie.”

The “Unexplained Wealth Order” initiative belongs to Sir Eric Pickles. He formulated his proposal as early as 2015, under David Cameron’s government. This is what he told the UK Telegraph then, in explaining how the new weapon against money laundering will work:

“I arrive, you are there, you have several strings of gold round your neck, you have a Rolex on each arm, you are wearing Gucci loafers which I notice are gold plated around the heels.

So I say ‘you are looking very well – where did the money come from?’ and you say ‘a pixie gave it to me’ or ‘I was very lucky on the Lotto’, ” noting he would want to “get the name of the pixie” and the orders would force people to explain the source of the wealth.

The UWO would allow police to try to confiscate the assets of suspects when charges against an individual are unlikely. If the suspect cannot explain the wealth was obtained lawfully, he or she will be pursued through the civil courts.

Previously, three countries – Ireland, Australia and Colombia – have enacted these orders. Opponents say that they will reverse the burden of truth and the innocent until proved guilty convention. Sir Pickles admits that “some of the existing laws can get you pretty close to that”, adding that “whether we need to tweak them, that is something I am interested in.”

From hit BBC McMafia drama series to journalistic “Laundromat” revelations

Speaking of the success of the BBC drama series McMafia, UK Security Minister Ben Wallace announced Saturday that the government wanted to exploit this success in the forthcoming uncompromising fight against money laundering. Based on the factual book of respected journalist Misha Glenny, the series highlights London’s role as a playground for Russian gangsters and the superrich, and as a hub for money laundering, drug and human trafficking, prostitution, fake designer labels and other criminal activities. Prague, Tel Aviv, Mumbai, and even upscale London districts are portrayed as the scene of a brutal mafia warfare dominated by gangsters in Moscow, acting in sync with the Russian secret services. Ben Wallace comments in an interview for The Times that the series, which gained huge popularity in the United Kingdom “is one of those things where you realise that fact is ahead of fiction”. He warns that Russian oligarchs may be targeted in the crackdown, adding the “full force of government would be brought to bear on foreign criminals and corrupt politicians who use Britain as a haven.”

The Minister points in particular to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) investigations from the 2017 “The Laundromat” two-part series – “The Russian Laundromat” and “The Azerbaijani Laundromat.” The first one focuses on a complex system for laundering through shell companies, registered in the United Kingdom, more than USD 20 billion in Russian money stolen from the government by corrupt politicians or earned through organized crime activity. The second investigation exposed a complex money-laundering operation and an Azerbaijani slush fund that handled USD 2.9 billion over a two-year period through four shell companies, also registered in the United Kingdom and related to the “Russian Laundromat”. It has a distinct Bulgarian connection.

Kalin Mitrev, the Bulgarian “protagonist”

in “The Azerbaijani Laundromat” is the husband of Irina Bokova, former Bulgarian UNESCO Director General and former contender for the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations. Mitrev is the Bulgarian representative with diplomatic status to the EBRD. He has received hundreds of thousands of euros from a shell company in Baku, supposedly for consulting services. The money has been wired to Mitrev’s Swiss account, but part of it has been rejected by the Swiss bank – Credit Suisse, and returned via Deutsche Bank. The bank refuses to state the reason for the return “due to the sensitivity” of the information, according to an international journalistic investigation with Bivol’s participation.

Despite the scandal, the government of Boyko Borisov refused to recall Mitrev, who is still in office. Meanwhile, the prosecution launched a “make believe” probe into the case – “make believe” as currently there is no request from Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov’s office to be provided the bank documents used as evidence in Bivol’s and OCCRP’s investigation.

However, Kalin Mitrev, has bought an apartment in London for nearly € 1 million (GBP 925 000). Together with his wife Irina Bokova, he has acquired another apartment in Paris and two apartments in New York. A detailed research by Bivol revealed an unexplained difference of EUR 1 million between the family’s income and property acquisitions.

The London flat of Mr. Mitrev and Ms. Bokova acquired 04.08.2014 four months after he received the last wire from the shady Azeri company.

This inevitably makes Kalin Mitrev a target of the new law, whose initiator, Sir Eric Pickles, says will very much facilitate investigations and the fight against money laundering.

Ivo “The Tomcat” Krastev invested millions in a luxury thug hangout in London

One of the largest known investments by a “Bulgarian pixie” in London is the luxury restaurant and nightclub DISTRKT. Opened in 2011 in the heart of SoHo, the establishment has a Bulgarian co-owner – Ivailo Krastev, British media City A.M. reported in 2011. It cites his “business partner,” Frazer Donaldson, who has organized for the club’s opening a big party for the London elite with X-Factor stars. The club has risen to fame with shocking prices, even for London, like GBP 70 for a cup of coffee from Sumatra, made from animal (luwak) droppings and London’s most expensive rose wine at GBP 270 per bottle, Evening Standard writes.

Donaldson left DISTRKT in 2013, and his profile in the social network LinkedIn shows that he was only a manager, not a real owner. The Brit boasts that under his leadership the popular club was generating sales in the amount of GBP 150,000 a week and an operational profit of over 30%.

What the British audience still did not know in 2011 is that Ivailo Krastev is also the owner of the Sofia mafia hangout – the “Sin City” nightclub. Logically, over the years, the fame of his London establishment changed from glamorous to scandalous, and so did the profile of its frequent guests.

There is no information in the UK Trade Register about the form of Ivaylo Krastev’s investment in DISTRKT. This apparently did not happen through a British company because Krastev’s first showing in the Register dates back to May 2017. Then he officially registered WEST END LEISURE GROUP LTD. A month later the company moved its headquarters to the address of DISTRKT.

“The pixie” and “the Tomcats” from Bankya

Information on the funds invested in DISTRKT varies. According to Donaldson, the sum was about GBP 10 million. According to City A.M. and Evening Standard – it was GBP 25 million. Anyway, this is way higher than the GBP 50,000 set by the UWO.

“Investor” Ivaylo Krastev, who has poured millions of pounds in the London establishment, is believed to be closely connected with the friendly and business entourage of the current Prime Minister of Bulgaria, a country known as one of the most corrupt European Union Member States.

Ivaylo Krastev is a major figure in Boyko Borisov’s “Tomcats” circle, along with other notorious figures such as businessmen Alexander Staliyski and Petar Lashov. Lashov is considered one of the heirs of the assassinated mafia boss Georgi Iliev, ringleader of one of the two largest and most powerful mafia organizations in Bulgaria in the 1990s – VIS.

Evidence of the above can be found in the recordings from the “Yaneva Gate” scandal, in which Borisov’s “Tomcat” friends are discussed in detail. According to attorney Momchil Mondeshki, they regularly gathered to play cards in Bankya (suburb of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, where Borisov’s home is located – editor’s note).

Mondeshki claims in the recordings that Alexander Staliyski has been involved in criminal business acquisitions. Ivaylo Krastev is also mentioned, and though the evidence is of a more lenient nature, it also reeks of corruption, cronyism and political protection.

Approximately at a time when Krastev made his investment in London, his friendship with the Prime Minister had been marred by a love triangle featuring Krastev’s wife, Dessislava Krasteva. This also becomes evident from said recordings where the salacious story is told by former judge Vladimira Yaneva.

Describing Boyko Borisov’s love adventures and advances, to which Yaneva, herself, had been subjected, she speaks of a lady who “walks around clad in Scervino” and was intimately and romantically involved with the Prime Minister who had even given her a job in the government administration to be close to her.

Bivol was able to establish that this was Desislava Nikolova Krasteva, the wife of Ivailo Krastev. After several inquiries under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA), it was further confirmed that she had indeed been appointed to the Council of Ministers in 2011.

The appointment has been made without a job competition and was based on the judgment that Krasteva was competent and fluent in several languages. It is unclear why this great professional was dismissed in 2013, after Borisov’s resignation, instead of continuing her career in the State administration.

There is, therefore, enough evidence of “the Tomcats” profiteering from their closeness with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria. This raises the legitimate question of the origin of Ivaylo Krastev’s millions invested in a luxury nightclub in London.

The British authorities can seek an answer under the new law, all the more so that there are fresh grounds. In November 2017, DISTRKT’s license was revoked. The reason for this is a series of brawls between thugs in downtown London. These brutal scenes of fights between Albanian and other Eastern European mobsters, guests of DISTRKT, can be found on YouTube. As readers can see for themselves, they resemble quite a lot some of the brutal scenes from the McMafia series.


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