The crime group (OCG) “The Killers” of ringleader Mila Georgieva organized large-scale cigarette smuggling and drug trafficking and theft of EU funds. They are assisted by former and current employees of Bulgaria’s National Security Agency (DANS). The “investments” in the criminal business and the money laundering from criminal activity happened with credits and cash payments from First Investment Bank (FIB).
On May 30, 2016, the Prosecutor’s Office disseminated a press release reporting that O. Popov and P. Yordanova were arrested on May 28 with over 100 kg of amphetamines. The next day, they were charged under Article 354 of the Penal Code with possession of narcotics for distribution. The text contains one important clarification:
“According to preliminary information, the scheme has involved a third person, but the investigation has established that this was not a case of organized crime and the offense was committed in complicity by Yordanova and Popov.”
The difference under the Penal Code is “only” in the jail sentence, which is from five to fifteen years for operating as part of an organized criminal group. That is, if the prosecutor has ordered the detention of the mysterious third party, the three would be tried by the Special Court under the second paragraph of the same article – trafficking of a particularly large amount of illegal drugs carried out by an organized crime group. Now, the two accomplices risk at most from three to twelve years and the third one is not risking anything. This is another textbook example of providing “cover-up” for criminals and criminal activity by the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office.
The very next day, the media close to controversial lawmaker and shady businessman Delyan Peevski joined the campaign with “operational” information. It’s no secret that the former short-lived boss of DANS (Peevski) has his own trusted people, both in the Agency and in the Prosecutor’s Office, who regularly feed his media with controlled leaks. “We decided to attack them just after they had bought a record amount of 101 kg of amphetamines,” anti-mafia authorities explained to Telegraph daily. In the leaked information there is no word on major issues: Where did this drug come from? With what money was it bought? Was it produced in Bulgaria or abroad? Who is its recipient? Who is the mysterious person who was not arrested?
Instead, it was reported that the two arrested people had no intimate relations, and also, almost as an excuse that the Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime (GDBOP) had acted on a tip from the US Anti-Drug Agency DEA.
In this case, the intimate relationships of Oleg Popov (O. Popov) are not irrelevant, because he is the husband of Denitsa Nikolova, an employee of GDBOP and daughter of Natasha Nikolova Alexandrova, a former Chief of the Sixth Police Precinct in the capital Sofia. The prosecution’s press release further informs that Popov was accused of participating in an organized criminal group in another case which is monitored by the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office, however, it omits the unpleasant fact that Popov has not remained in custody after his arrest and was released on the same day thanks to his mother-in-law. This detention was not even included in the file on the case known as “The Killers” against Mila Georgieva, her son and Oleg Popov for contract killings, racketeering and extortion.
In short, there is a clear symbiosis between serious organized crime and persons vested with power, as the latter try to cover up the acts and mitigate the penalties of the former. But things are far more sinister than they seem and the unwinding of this case can and should lead to the long-awaited deep purge of DANS and the prosecution of corrupt individuals operating on behalf of organized crime.
The operational report on the OCG activities
Bivol has long been in possession of operational information on the investigation against this criminal group that is also monitored by foreign services. The GDBOP operation was indeed launched due to a tip from DEA. For years, however, officials involved in the investigation are pressured to remain inactive and the findings of law enforcement are intentionally hushed. Bivol’s checks in the collected operational data only confirm the evidence in the report as does the most recent GDBOP operation, launched over “external” attention towards the group. We present this evidence to you in the form we have obtained it, along with our additional checks and revelations.
We explicitly specify that this publication should be treated by the Prosecution as a conscientious tipoff stemming from acquired evidence about general crimes that need to be properly and objectively examined by the authorities.
Mila Georgieva is the stepdaughter of Hristo Kulishev, the former Head of Main Directorate “Customs” from the golden era of mafia smuggling. She is also known as the ringleader of two organized crime groups – “The Universals” and “The Killers.” For several years now, she is investigated for cigarette smuggling in the direction Thessaloniki – Sofia.
Insider sources reveal a sinister scheme to cover large-scale criminal activity associated with high-level corruption and money laundering:
The Cypriot cigarettes “Raquel”
A request for assistance from a foreign prosecutor’s office arrived in Bulgaria last year. It was not until March 2016 when it reached the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office where it was filed under number P-136/2016. The request included providing various documents, among them the documents that have become the basis for issuing a bank reference letter from FIB for the individual Ivan Hristov Karatsanov.
Ivan Hristov Karatsanov is a destitute Bulgarian and under normal circumstances it would be impossible for him to become the holder of a bank reference letter for millions of euro. His role is to be a dummy for Mila Georgieva. He is also the manager of the company “Raquel Bulgaria”, which is owned by the Panamanian offshore company J-MAX. Unfortunately, the “Panama Papers” do not reveal anything about its real owner.
“RAQUEL” is the well-known and very popular on the Bulgarian black market cigarette brand made in the factory “EXPLOSAL LTD”, which is located in the duty free area of Larnaca, Cyprus.
Since 2009, Mila Georgieva works with two Cypriot nationals Christoforos Tornaritis and Zacharias Zapitis, who are owners of the factory. Their names are often found in the media in connection with investigations into smuggling (see here).
They deliver their cigarettes to secret warehouses outside Athens and Thessaloniki, where Georgieva’s people pick them up, load them on trucks hidden under toilet paper and get them to Bulgaria through the Kulata border crossing point. It is established that Georgieva’s man in Thessaloniki is Krassimir Petrov, owner of the company “Perin” – officially this company deals with trade, but there is enough evidence that this is just a front for cigarette smuggling. It is established that Krassimir Petrov organizes the loading of cigarettes, the warehouses, the documents etc.
But why Karatsanov, the owner of “Raquel Bulgaria”, needed a reference letters from a bank? “Raquel Bulgaria” was registered because at some point Mila Georgieva had intentions to become an official distributor of “Raquel” and this could not be done without money with official origin. The plans for the legitimate business failed, but cigarette contraband is thriving.
Borislav Mandzhukov, who was shot dead in Sofia on March 24, 2014, was in charge of cigarette smuggling through Kulata. Investigators have operational information that Mandzhukov was shot and killed by a man known as “Black Rodi” on an order of Georgieva because a truck, smuggling cigarettes, for which Mandzhukov was paid 100,000 euro, has been caught and the deal flopped.
After Mandzhukov’s death, Georgieva lost her position at Kulata and entered a new business with a new partner. This is precisely when Oleg Popov appeared.
Heroin trafficking with the group of “The Turks”
Oleg Nikolov Popov is from the town of Velingrad; he is the owner of AGRO-OLEG POPOV. His main business, however, is not farming, but dealing with VAT theft and illegal drugs. He was arrested together with Georgieva in January 2015 in the operation against her codenamed “The Killers”, but was released on the same day because his mother-in-law is a former Chief of the Sixth Police Precinct in Sofia. He was released without even his arrest being listed in the case.
Mila and Oleg have been intercepted while organizing logistics and transport of heroin from Turkey to Greece.
According to the law enforcement tracing their movements, in early 2014, Georgieva and Popov traveled to Larnaca, where they met with Tormaritis and on the next day with a Lebanese smuggler named Natali, who is also a Customs agent, representative of several Korean cigarette brands and working with an Arab named “The Doctor“.
Mila Georgieva hit a wall in both places as no one trusted her anymore after the botch with Manzhukov. The next day Georgieva and Popov landed in Thessaloniki where they met with the group known as “The Turks“, led by a Turkish citizen named Osman.
Osman and his accomplices have supplied Georgieva with cigarettes produced by Tormaritis in 2010-2012. Due to allegations of smuggling, Osman left Istanbul and moved to Thessaloniki where the hotel “Electra Palace” is the base of his group.
Mila Georgieva and Popov met with them in the coffee shop on the ground floor of the hotel and agreed on heroin trafficking. They made two successful deliveries of small quantities, but the biggest failure happened on April 14, 2014, in the town Alexandropoulos.
Six Bulgarians were arrested by Greek special services and the drug seized. The operation was widely reported in Greek media including with pictures of the seized drugs, cars, currency and phones.
After that Osman blamed Georgieva and Popov, because the drug has not been paid for and Georgieva had lied that the load will be transported by car, while it was seized on a boat.
In November 2014, Georgieva held a meeting in the southern Bulgarian town of Gotse Delchev with representatives of Osman. According to insider sources, she was driven there by Ivaylo “The Little Tennis” Bozhilov, brother of Georgi “The Big Tennis” Bozhilov -also part of the group for “wet work” of “Black Rodi” and Mila Georgieva.
At the meeting, Georgieva made a commitment for trafficking currency in the amount of 30 million euro from Amsterdam to the Middle East. She also made the commitment for trafficking hallucinogenic pills from Bulgaria to Turkey, hidden in secret compartments of automobiles.
On September 12, 2014, Oleg Popov went to Amsterdam, but failed to connect with the owner of the money. Georgieva traveled there a few days later, using a route through Thessaloniki in order to avoid Bulgarian authorities detecting her ultimate goal – the city of Amsterdam.
On January 14, 2015, Mila Georgieva, Martin Georgiev and even Oleg Popov were arrested in the operation codenamed “The Killers”. Oleg Popov was released on the same day without his arrest even been recorded in the documentation in the case.
Financial backing from FIB – 100 million in loans
During all this time, Georgieva maintained close links with the owners of First Investment Bank and in particular with one of its majority shareholders, Ivaylo Mutafchiev. As early as 2007 she bought from him an apartment for 359,873 levs, financed with a mortgage loan from FIB.
Around this same time a circle of companies – VEILMES, GENESIS, NIKSTOM, ELIKS, ZITERA, VMP and VMK – was set up. These companies have received over 100 million levs in loans for meat, sugar, wheat, and nothing is repaid. Bivol has revealed a large number of schemes for siphoning money from these companies:
According to preliminary information at the beginning of 2012, the hole was in the amount of 104 million levs given to Roma and socially disadvantaged.
Accounts in this bank also service payments for cigarette trafficking. The distributor of RAQUEL cigarettes is the company ROSTCOCK. This company has received five-digit payments from the FIB account of a ghost company – BRANDEL SENT 2000.
The account is padded with cash in the amount of hundreds of thousands of euro without attracting the interest of the bank or financial intelligence despite the fact that BRANDEL SENT does not even have VAT registration. Large sums are transferred from this same account to the offshore ZORGANE ASIA, which owns a company of Mila Georgieva, and also to BALKAN HOLIDAYS in England, which is run by the wife of Tseko Minev – Radka Mineva.
All this is classic money laundering to which DANS turned a blind eye, because at that same time the DANS Head of Financial Intelligence was Polina Kavrakova who has consumer loan for 200,000 levs from FIB.
Despite all the investigations against her, Georgieva regularly services her loan in FIB, probably with the money from illicit trafficking. Her company Genesis Laboratory, owned by ZORGAN ASIA, also has loans worth millions. As manager of the company, Mila Georgieva regularly withdraws large sums in cash from its accounts. Moreover, lawyers of the bank represent her in criminal cases and she officially uses Mutafchiev’s contacts in DANS – example – the already cited Kavrakova.
Between December 2015 and February 2016 only, the services had intercepted two secret meetings between Mila Georgieva and Ivaylo Mutafchiev. There is evidence that Georgieva, together with her criminal group, has begun to collect illegally the overdue loans of FIB.
Theft of EU funds
Mila Georgieva and an unnamed FIB representative are explicitly mentioned in the indictment of the Romanian Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office as suspects in the theft of 26 million euro of aid for the poor. The money was for the supply of oil and flour to be delivered by a shell company, owned by destitute Bulgarian Valeri Miloradov whom Bivol interviewed. Valeri was recruited as dummy by Vesselin Lafchiev. The latter is charged, along with Mila, in the case “The Universals”. His name also appears in the Romanian indictment.
The contract with the Romanians was made possible because FIB provided to the homeless man bank guarantees for 26 million euro without any collateral. Once the money was disbursed by the Romanian Paying and Intervention Agency for Agriculture, it disappeared into offshore accounts. There are no supplies of oil and flour, but the Bank refused to pay the bank guarantee to the harmed party – in this case the Romanian Agency (see here).
The money stolen from European taxpayers must be tracked down and authorities must check whether the Bank is using it to cover old bad loans granted earlier to “hobo” companies, such as ELIKS, ZITERA and VMK? And what is even more alarming – whether cigarettes and drugs trafficking are funded with it?
The European anti-fraud office, OLAF, plays a crucial role here, but it tracked transfers only to Hong Kong and then gave up, despite the operational information in our investigations which gives directions where to look and what Cypriot accounts need to be verified.
Six months after the publication of a joint investigation into the case by Bivol and the Romanian site for investigative journalism Rise, the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office pretends that it has not seen it – an action that speak for itself about the corrupt nature of this law enforcement institution. However, the Romanian one is acting, perhaps because there have not yet “defeated corruption” as we have done.
But, let’s go back to the drugs. After the failure in Alexandropoulos, Bulgarian investigators from GDBOP attempted to exchange information with the Greek office dealing with illegal drug trafficking, but hit a wall. Their contacts with the Greeks were banned and all inquiries to Greece failed to result in obtaining information about Mila Georgieva. Moreover, DANS launched an espionage case against the GDBOP officers who communicated with their Greek colleagues in this case. Actually, this became grounds for spying on them and the information is delivered to Georgieva’s criminal group.
This story will probably have a difficult denouement, but it will also be a new beginning because it will untangle all links and it would no longer be possible to prevent the arrests of the offenders. The most important outcome would be that the part of the services that wants to work honestly and really fight organized crime could use this case to clean DANS from the vestiges of the Communist secret services that are now used to do favors to Peevski and his “banksters” from FIB.
The question what to do with the “special unit” of Prosecutor General Tsatsarov remains. For years this unit has been passing the ball and serving brazenly the “model #WHO”. We can recall the case of the collapsed Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) in which the prosecution remained idle while Peevski was partner with CCB majority shareholder Tsvetan Vassilev and his bank was drained. In the case of FIB, however, the consequences could be more severe because of the scale, duration and audacity of the robbery schemes.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian