The new owner of the mobile operator “Globul“, the Norwegian company Telenor, has evidence of economic crimes committed by the previous owner – the Greek OTE. The Norwegians discovered contracts with “shell companies” to which payments have been made without any supplies of goods and services.
Although this has emerged in 2014, Telenor has notified the law enforcement authorities in Bulgaria as late as April 2016, writes the Norwegian business daily DN in two extensive articles about the case.
Sources, quoted by DN, include former and current executives of Telenor in Norway. Bivol turned to the Bulgarian subsidiary of Telenor and received a confirmation of this information.
Another article in DN claims that Telenor has complained to the Norwegian Embassy in Bulgaria in connection with the challenges associated with “corruption, lack of transparency and of regulatory framework.”
The Embassy has helped the company to organize meetings with outgoing Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and local mayors.
The article points out that Bulgaria is the most corrupt country in the European Union with the most corrupt sectors being the judiciary, the Parliament and the Revenue Agency.
It is unclear, however, why Telenor has waited two years before turning to Bulgarian law enforcement authorities with a signal about economic crimes. According to the publication of DN, the company has reported the identified problems to the tax authorities in 2014, but nothing has followed in terms of reaction. Telenor then has consulted a Norwegian anti-corruption prosecutor who has given them advice to turn to the prosecution.
The response of the Bulgarian subsidiary of Telenor provides information that the company has conducted an internal investigation that has been “detailed and comprehensive” before notifying the Bulgarian authorities.
Greek legacy for the Norwegians
The inherited from OTE problems in Globul were investigated by Bivol and the investigation exposed the so-called “golden phones of people in power.” It turned out that Globul had given to senior politicians and officials subscription plans to talk as much as they wanted without monthly fees and limits.
At the time, Telenor confirmed the existence of hundreds of such VIP subscribers, including Boyko Borisov, former Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, who is now MEP and leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the Chief of the Commission for Communications Regulation, Vesselin Bozhkov. After these revelations, Telenor tried to terminate all VIP plans, but the move was met with outrage by customers who did not want to part with the lucrative plans.
However, the affair with the “fake contracts” used to drain “Globul” seems much more impressive because it has defrauded Telenor of millions. The company has previously admitted to DN that it had received 4.8 million in compensations from OTE but has stated that this was only for one case.
“The consequences can harm the reputation of Norway if things go wrong,” this an admission in a letter sent by the Norwegian Embassy in Sofia to the Minister on the occasion of the forthcoming meeting with the head of Telenor Sigve Brekke. The journalists from DN have had access to the letter.
Since 2011, OTE is controlled by Deutsche Telekom, which acquired a 40% stake, and the Greek State retained 10%. It is unclear whether “fake contracts” date from the period before the Germans took control of the parent company.
Expect further details…
This post is also available in: Bulgarian