Owner of Scandalous Bulgarian Company Purchases Workers Comp for Himself

Dimitar Stoyanov

Stanko Stankov, owner of the infamous company Bulmarket, whose train tanks exploded near the Bulgarian village of Hitrino, causing fatalities, injuries and material damage, has purchased life insurance policies for his workers for his own benefit and has personally collected the money after the accident. Relatives of company driver Orhan Suleymanov, who died in a road traffic accident, are now raising the alarm about these cases. They have had an offer by Bulmarket to receive the insurance money as a payoff for not filing a lawsuit against the company’s management. These practices appear to be grave insurance fraud to which the authorities are closing their eyes.

Suleymanov died on the spot on November 14, 2017, after the tanker truck he was driving overturned on the Trakiya highway’s exit to the village of Trud. The conclusion of experts of the Ministry of the Interior was that the driver had been at fault because he had been speeding. According to the sons of the deceased, it is very possible that the accident had been the result of a technical malfunction or a flat tire, although the expert inspection had not confirmed it.

Speeding is apparently becoming a major cause of problems with Bulmarket’s tanker trucks and train tanks. Just days ago, the first instance court trying the Hitrino blast case convicted the engine drivers of causing the incident because of speeding.

It is not moral, but it is legal

Before the Hitrino incident, Stankov had been purchasing insurance policies for his employees as if they were his serfs. In addition, his company can benefit from tax breaks every year. The company probably acts as an insurance broker as well as it insures a large number of people and has the right to collect a commission from the purchased policies. In case of an incident or an accident, the money goes to the boss’ personal account, that of Stanko Stankov.

In the absence of an insurance event by 2027, Stankov and Bulmarket will collect the money. However, the most controversial moment is that in the event of death, Stankov collects the insurance bonus because he is the beneficiary.

An insurance expert commented for Bivol that there is nothing illegal in Stankov’s actions, but they were certainly immoral.

A motive to commit crime? No, Stankov is not that kind of person

In a standard situation, an insurance policy in favor of the employer would be considered a potential motive for crime since the latter is not motivated to make the necessary efforts to preserve the life and health of its employees as the insurance bonus, in this case about BGN 18,000, will be paid to him in the event of an incident.

We approached Bulmarket for comment. The company replied that insurance policies had been purchased only for the employees of Bulmarket Auto Transport and had been in Stanko Stankov’s name so that he could handle the money should a problem arise with the insurance company.

After Orhan Suleymanov’s death, the company had purchased insurance policies solely in the names of employees and their families. It did not become clear why Bulmarket Auto had reversed the procedure without considering it a vicious practice.

The insurance policy bonuses could not be interpreted as a motive for crime, nor could they provoke the company management not to care for the life and health of their employees, because Stanko Stankov is not that kind of a person, Bulmarket claims. It did not provide other arguments against possible doubts other than Stanko Stankov’s personal qualities.

Bulmarket insists that in any case the funds had been allocated and made available to the victims or the victims’ relatives.

Insurance as a payoff to victims’ relatives

However, Ertan Suleymanov, the son of the deceased Orhan Suleymanov, claims that the Bulmarket management pressured him and his family to abandon any claim against the company against in exchange of collecting the insurance money, an offer that they refused.

Ertan Suleymanov told Bivol that he had accidentally learned that his father had an insurance policy in the name of Stanko Stankov.

Ertan: There is life insurance; one of their employees told us. He had workers comp and life insurance.

Bivol: Have they paid the insurance money to you?

Ertan: No, they said initially that they would pay, but called in the last minute to say they wanted to meet us. My brother and I went, but they asked all my father’s relatives, our grandmother and aunt, to attend. They had prepared an agreement offering us this money as compensation from Bulmarket, as much money as they had received from the life insurance policy. They also said they would assist us in cases against the insurance company Bulstrad, where he had workers comp. All costs would be borne by them. However, we knew that we would not win against Bulstrad. When we refused to sign the agreement with Bulmarket, Svetoslav Parvanov looked me in the eye and told me “you have relatives in the company, we can fire them”. Fire them, I said. What am I supposed to do about that? Then they threatened to sue us for property damage, to pay for the truck.

Bivol: When did the accident happen?

Ertan: In 2017.

Bivol: How did it happen?

Ertan: The truck overturned on the Trakiya highway, it was a tank with bargain hazardous cargo, on the ramp to the village of Turd, near the city of Plovdiv.

Bivol: What did the post-accident inspection show?

Ertan: Listed cause is speeding. He entered the ramp with 80-90 km per hour, which I think is impossible. There is a very sharp turn there at the end of the cloverleaf intersection. In my opinion, it is impossible to drive with 80 km or 90 km per hour there.

Bivol: What are your doubts?

Ertan: I do not know. Maybe he felt ill, there might have been something, some truck malfunction, but according to the inspection, everything had been fine with the vehicle. I cannot claim anything, we are not experts. Nevertheless, I don’t believe it was his fault. He was an experienced driver and had traveled there many times. He has driven along this route for years.

Bivol: Has he had any other accidents?

Ertan: Yes, my father had another accident as a Bulmarket tank truck driver, but it was a light one. Because of the tires.

Bivol: Why because of the tires?

Ertan: He was complaining to me then that they didn’t change the tires, that they were worn out. But he wasn’t hurt then and continued to work for them.

Bivol: What happened then?

Ertan: The truck slid out of the road and leaned on one side.

Bivol: What are your next steps?

Ertan: We filed a claim and we have a court trial on February 12, 2020, against Bulmarket. According to them, my father is 80% guilty and they refuse to pay us compensation. In my opinion, the expert report is tampered with. The problem is that the investigation was conducted in the village of Trud. I have no idea what the investigating cops did there.

Bivol has several investigations that prove that at the time of the incident in Hitrino, the owner of the exploded train that killed seven people, wounded 28 and destroyed 23 houses, was the destitute Cypriot Georgios Georgiou.

At the time, Georgiou also owned the largest ski concessions in the Pirin and Vitosha mountains in Bulgaria and was the person behind BGN 1.2 billion in loans from private lender First Investment Bank’s (FIB or FIBank) to dozens of dubious offshore companies. After the Hitrino incident and our publications, a reporter of Bivol caught Stankov leaving FIB’s headquarters. He later bought out Georgios’ shares.

It also became clear that Bulmarket’s accounts at FIB had been withdrawn to prevent paying compensations to the victims.

Ironically, Bulmarket had not come up with the money to insure their trains and trucks so that the indemnity would cover damages in the event of an incident, such as the one in Hitrino. On the other hand, the company apparently had sufficient financial resources to insure employees in favor of the owner – Stanko Stankov.

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