Sofia Shooting Victim Was Racketeered

Dimitar Stoyanov

The police had detained three people in the Bulgarian capital Sofia during special ops against a criminal group suspected of contract murders, Bulgarian media reported. One of these suspected murders is that of Stanka Marangozova. She was shot dead by a biker on October 11, 2019 in the capital’s Mladost district. The murder took place in front of the apartment building where she lived with her husband Dinko Gerov. The perpetrator fired through the open window of Marangozova’s car while she was parking. Marangozova’s lifeless body was found by her husband.

The next morning, authorities announced that a white rose had been left at the crime scene. A lesser-known fact is that on the day of the murder, prosecutors filed charges against two people for racketeering Marangozova. The indictment states that they have extorted from her BGN 860,000. Far smaller amounts have led to murders in Bulgaria, but the Ministry of Interior stubbornly refused to see such connection and motive in Marangozova’s shooting.

It is not yet known who were the individuals detained during the special ops. Ammunition had been found at one of the searched addresses, according to a report by the public radio BNR, but no weapon connected to the murder had been located.

After Marangozova’s murder, the Ministry of Interior and a bunch of tabloids persistently claimed that numerous financial crimes committed by her were the likely motive for the three bullets in the victim’s head. The authorities insisted that Marangozova had a “criminal” record, although she had never been convicted. The deceased was quickly declared a fraud and a mastermind of Ponzi schemes. Media linked to controversial lawmaker and businessman Delyan Peevski disseminated allegations that Marangozova was involved in fraud amounting to BGN 65 million.

No such murder?

Intentionally or not, the newly elected at the time of the murder Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev also neglected this serious crime. On December 5, 2019, he announced that there were no unsolved murders for the year, meaning that either Marangozova was not killed or her murder was solved. Neither is true. However, in the wave of slander and misinformation, many of the important facts about Marangozova remained hidden from the public.

It is unclear why the prosecution never announced that the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office had filed a new lawsuit against people accused of racketeering Marangozova on the day of her shooting.

Their names are Ivo Maslarov and Vesselin Denkov. According to the indictment, the two took from her more than BGN 860,000. Hearings were scheduled for the first months of 2020 but were put on hold over the COVID-19 pandemic. By the time Marangozova was shot, prosecutor Rossen Radev had already made two unsuccessful attempts to bring the case to trial after the court returned the indictment in 2018 and 2019 for correction due to inaccuracies and flaws.

The indisputable facts

When alive, Marangozova was accused of fraud of about BGN 1,400,000, although Interior Ministry officials and certain media kept claiming that she was involved in fraud for over BGN 65 million. It remains a mystery why the Sofia District Court is the one hearing the case. Bivol sent an inquiry to the prosecutor’s office on this and other issues related to Marangozova’s case but did not receive an answer.

Authorities have questioned dozens of the deceased’s clients in the course of the fraud investigation. Among the main witnesses of the prosecution is Zdravko Minchev, who managed companies from the Nadin group at the time when he was a client of Marangozova. Media have mentioned him as a person close to Rumen “The Pasha” Nikolov. During court hearings, Minchev stated that he had no claims against the defendant. Meanwhile, hearings have been delayed because of the court’s unsuccessful attempts to summon the wife of Ivo Kamenov from TIM, an alleged organized crime group in the past.

Bonka Kulinska was the only witness who maintained in court that she had been a victim of fraud committed by Marangozova. A legal entity, managed by her son, transferred BGN 996,705 to Marangozova for in good faith management on the stock exchange. Marangozova had been detained In 2011 on charges of money laundering, along with a man from the northwestern city of Vratsa who had been under investigation for usury. In the end Marangozova was accused of fraud but not money laundering. Upon learning of the arrest, Kulinska had checked and had established that the shares in her name had been for a little over BGN 115,000. According to Dinko Gerov, Marangozova’s husband, the case against her had been heading to acquittal, but we will never know for sure, as cases against deceased defendants are automatically closed.

However, the Ministry of Interior stubbornly overlooked another part of Marangozova’s life. At a joint briefing with the prosecutor’s office, the director of the General Directorate National Police, Hristo Terziyski, announced half-heartedly that Marangozova had been extorted. He emphasized that she had been coerced by persons who had been victims of her previous actions. Willingly or unwillingly, Terziyski turned into a defense lawyer of the accused of racketeering Maslarov and Denkov. When she was alive, Marangozova had claimed that she had paid by bank transfer about BGN 2 million in extortion money to Maslarov between 2009 and 2011. There is no evidence that the two men had been victims of Marangozova’s actions at any point in time.

The prosecutor from the specialized prosecutor’s office, Rossen Radev, filed the indictment against Maslarov and Denkov for the third time on the morning of October 11, 2019, a few hours after Marangozova’s shooting. On October 10, 2019, a few hours before the shooting, she once again booked an appointment with prosecutor Dimitar Frantisek Petrov during his visitor hours. Until very recently, before submitting his resignation a few days ago, he was the Head of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office and had been directly involved in the investigations against Marangozova and the prosecutor presenting the charges in the Sofia District Court. The deceased made an appointment to find out exactly what was happening with the accusations against Maslarov and Denkov. However, she never made it to the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office.

Who is Stanka Marangozova?

Contrary to media reports, she is not the daughter of an MP. Yes, her father’s name is Kancho Marangozov, but he is not the late MP Kancho Marangozov from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, but a cousin of the lawmaker and is not a public figure. Before her death, she was an accountant and provided services to several companies. When her problems started in March 2009, Stanka Marangozova was a financial expert engaged in securities management. One of her clients, Krassimir Atanassov, introduced her to Ivo Maslarov. At that time and in her own words, Marangozova had achieved a decent return for Atanasov’s portfolio of financial instruments that she managed.

Also at that time, Maslarov was already a well-known name. During the term in office of his stepmother Emiliya Maslarova as Minister of Social Affairs, he accumulated a serious fortune. The 168 Hours weekly named him a record-breaker in super-profitable deals. In September 2007, Ivo Maslarov acquired an apartment with an area of 94 square meters and a land plot of 625 square meters in the capital’s Hadzhi Dimitar district. A few days later, he acquired another land plot of 737 square meters in Sofia for the “modest” amount of BGN 55,000. On October 16, 2008, he became the owner of a one-decare plot in the Sofia village of Lozen. Maslarov also managed to buy an apartment of 104 square meters in downtown Sofia for BGN 104,076.

Emiliya Maslarava’s biological son, Konstantin Radonov, also became the owner of an apartment in downtown Sofia for only BGN 31,012, but he is far from the success of his stepbrother. During the terms of two different governments in the first decade of the 21st century, Emiliya Maslarova’s second husband, Anton, who is Ivo’s father, became a real “star” and was regularly discussed in Parliament. The company Lena, of which Anton Maslarov is the executive director, won between 2004 and 2005 from the Maritsa East 2 Thermal Power Plant four public procurement contracts with a total value of over BGN 5 million. In October 2005, the company of Anton Maslarov, already the husband of a Minister, also won a contract for the supply of 100,000 liters of diesel fuel for all State budget-supported organizations in the municipality of Maglizh. The value of the contract was BGN 138,647. In many cases, Lena was also the winning bidder in procedures without a call for tenders. Maslarov’s name was also mentioned in the investigations against Emiliya Maslarova, which ended with an acquittal.

Ivo Maslarov entrusted EUR 150,000 to Marangozova. She asked for a contract for management in good faith. The contract was drawn up and signed on March 12, 2009. The deceased received EUR 120,000 in cash from Maslarov at first, and a few days later the remaining EUR 30,000. He initially insisted on receiving his dividends in cash but was forced later to open a bank account for deposits. Thanks to this account, Marangozova was able to prove exactly when and what money Maslarov had received from her. In the beginning, he accepted the terms in the contract. Two weeks later, however, he began harassing her. Marangozova realized that the term stock exchange loss was foreign to him and that she had no right, even hypothetically, to assume that such a thing could happen. In the case of the classic good faith management, a three-month period is used as a basis and a revaluation of the investment portfolio is made after that. Only then and within a month of the revaluation, the funds can be released and only in the event of a generated return.

Speaking before her death, Marangozova explained that Maslarov had decided that the established practice did not suit him and the reporting should be done every 30 days. He had set rates of return that had been unattainable and had been harassing Marangozova on the phone and asking for meetings. According to her, the goal had been to intimidate her. She decided then that the only option to achieve peace of mind was to compensate Maslarov with her own funds and end her relationship with him. In May 2009, Marangozova informed Maslarov that she would be on leave for several months to undergo treatment for an illness and as she did not know for how long, she wanted to terminate her contract with him. The contract was terminated on June 12, 2009, and Marangozova reimbursed the EUR 150,000 in several installments but did not withdraw from stock exchange operations and continued to work actively.

In early June 2009, Maslarov surprisingly appeared in her office in downtown Sofia, asking for an explanation as to why she had lied to him. Under pressure, a new good faith management contract was signed on June 15, 2009. The documents explicitly stated that the amount under it, in this case BGN 425,000, must be wired by bank transfer. This did not happen, and the “client” did not return to her office for almost a month. Marangozova had no reason to consider the contract to have entered into force. One fine day, however, Maslarov summoned her to a gym, where he was exercising, and told her that he was expecting dividends and threatened her with making all her clients leave if she did otherwise. At that time, Marangozova was making serious money and resigned herself to paying him a racket, hoping to protect her sister and her husband. According to her, she gave Maslarov BGN 2 million from July 2009 to September 2011.

Group racket

In the summer of 2011, Marangozova’s life took another dangerous turn. Vesselin Parvanov Denkov and Radoslav Dimitrov Ivanov, two friends of Maslarov, appeared in the picture. These are the three people whom the police chief described as victims of Marangozova. Before her murder, she had pointed out that Denkov and Maslarov had been well known to the prosecutor’s office. The two were the last to see construction developer Boris Yordanov alive before he shot himself in an office of Fibank in Sofia. Yordanov is the father of the child of popular TV and radio host Diana Naydenova. According to Marangozova, indictments had been filed against them, but the prosecutor from the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office, Ivan Taskov, had terminated the case. Bivol sent an official inquiry to the Supreme Prosecution Office on the case, but we have not yet received a response. When we contacted Ivo Maslarov, he declined to comment but did not miss to stress that Emiliya Maslarova was his stepmother, not his mother. His real mother had been devastated by media stories about him. Denkov also refused to talk to Bivol.

In the summer of 2011, Marangozova told Maslarov and company that she had nothing more to offer them because they had bankrupted her. The racketeers decided to get their hands on her family’s property and cars. According to the indictment, with coercion and threats, Maslarov and Denkov forced Marangozova and Gerov to sign loan agreements in September 2011. Ivo Maslarov was listed in the documents as a “lender”, giving him reasons to claims that by January 2011, he had provided BGN 200,000 in two tranches to Marangozova. Paradoxically, bank statements from previous years show that the only visible source of funds for the “lender” was the money that Marangozova had transferred to him. On October 13, 2011, through a contract of assignment, Maslarov transferred his claim to Veselina Parvanova Denkova. Also in October 2011, Maslarov “appointed” Radoslav Dimitrov Ivanov as Marangozova’s personal driver to keep tabs on her. Ivanov as a driver made a strong impression on her colleagues because she was known for her reluctance to let someone else drive her car. On October 14 2011, Marangozova and Gerov were forced to sign a mortgage agreement in favor of Denkov’s company, Marshall Credit Group, to guarantee the money they owed him for the loan transfer.

“I was forced to look for all sorts of ways to find more and more money, no matter how and under what conditions,” Marangozova said in 2016. She testified that days before concluding the mortgage, Maslarov beat her (a fact also reflected in the indictment) because she had obtained a tax assessment only for her garage. The mortgage happened. On October 21, 2011, Marangozova was forced to authorize Radoslav Ivanov to check and monitor her Bulbank bank account statements. The deposits in the account were redirected to Vesselin Denkov and Ivo Maslarov. Marangozova initially refused and was beaten again. On October 24, 2011, after another beating, the family car, a Chrysler valued at BGN 35,000, was transferred to Denkov and Maslarov as well.

“Protective arrest” by DANS

The situation changed unexpectedly when Marangozova was detained by the unit of the National Security Agency’s, DANS, in the city of Vratsa on November 9, 2011. The DANS agents explained that they knew everything about the racketeering against her and Gerov. They told Marangozova that her detention was in her defense because they had concerns about her safety and life. The operation had started on a tipoff that she had been “laundering” money for one of her Vratsa clients, Georgi Georgiev. Subsequently, the accusation against Georgiev has been changed to usury and has been finally crushed by Prosecutor Dimitar Frantisek Petrov.

While Marangozova was behind bars, Maslarov took from Gerov the key from their family home, the same home that was mortgaged and put up for sale. In the prison cell, Marangozova decided to fight. Meanwhile, the organized crime police unit was also investigating Maslarov and Denkov under the oversight of the then-newly established special prosecutor’s office, but the new proceedings did not prevent Vesselin Denkov and company from obtaining a writ of execution for the family home. Denkov sent his “debtors” a “notification” that the amount of the mortgage of BGN 200,000 had increased to BGN 539,000. Despite Marangozova’s many efforts, including a precautionary order from the Sofia Court of Appeals to suspend the enforcement case, their apartment was sold by a private law enforcement agent and was acquired by the wife of Ivo Maslarov’s brother, Svetoslav Georgiev. Gerov and Marangozova started to file numerous civil cases over the ownership of their home but without much success because of difficulties to prove the coercion. Various panels of the Sofia City Court refused to use findings from special surveillance devices applied against Maslarov and Denkov as evidence, despite the prosecution’s opinion that they were a clear indication of racketeering. Judge Nelly Kutzkova was the last one to refuse to annul the deal for the sale of the family home because Marangozova and Gerov could not prove that they were victims of racketeering and had not provided an effective criminal court verdict against Maslarov and Denkov.

According to Gerov, Marangozova achieved small success in civil court when the judges ruled that Ivo Maslarov had unjustly enriched himself from her and ordered him to pay her over BGN 21,000. Together with court and lawyer fees, Maslarov had to pay about BGN 60,000. When alive, Marangozova legally claimed BGN 500,000 from Maslarov. Court documents indicate an amount of over BGN 1.5 million, which Maslarov acquired illegally, according to Marangozova.

While Marangozova was fighting civil cases, special prosecutor Andrei Andreev, attempted twice, in 2014 and 2015, to drop the case against Maslarov’s group for lack of evidence. The Specialized Court and the Specialized Court of Appeals quashed these attempts, citing serious procedural violations that harmed the victims. Andreev’s colleague, Tsvetoslav Vergov, also failed in his attempt to close the case in 2016.

When the case was assigned to Krassimir Trenchev, he “rolled up his sleeves” and prepared an indictment but was temporarily promoted to the Appellate Specialized Prosecutor’s Office. The case was taken over by prosecutor Rossen Radev, who, to the surprise of Marangozova and Gerov, brought it to court. However, the judges returned it twice to fix some oversights. The charges against Maslarov and Denkov were brought before the Specialized Court for the third time in the morning after Marangozova’s murder. Perhaps the recent special police ops in Sofia will give a new impetus to the investigation into the death of Stanka Marangozova.

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