Meet Valeri Petrov, not the prominent Bulgarian poet, but Valeri Petrov – owner of VM CORPORATION. This is a meeting that unravels many suspicions; suspicions that someone in the State is aware of the schemes of FIB; suspicions of a cover-up for perhaps the most insolent and large-scale theft of European Union (EU) funds – 26 million euro from the food to the poor in Romania.
In addition to having a bold name, VM CORPORATION also has a powerful financial back – First Investment Bank which issued to it bank guarantees in the amount of 31 million euro for its participation in the tender for the supply of oil and flour for the poor, organized by the Romanian Agency for Payment and Intervention in Agriculture (APIA). VM CORPORATION won the bid, the money was taken in advance, but the food was not delivered. The damage to the Romanian State is 26 million euro. After OLAF, Bivol also followed the money trail and found Valeri Miloradov Petrov. He ought to be a millionaire, at least on paper, but lives in a dilapidated house. He explains to us:
VP: This here it is not mine. I only guard it. I don’t pay anything.
Bivol: Who owns it?
VP: Well, it’s a very strange house again, so…. It has been sold a dozen times. No one knows who the owner is. They began to plunder it, one nice lady let me live here.
Valeri categorically stated that he was a dummy figure, a straw man who kept signing powers of attorney one after another. He explains that his connection was Vesselin Lafchiev who was detained as part of the organized crime group of Ivan Tanev “The Universal”, along with Mila Georgieva. “The Universal” managed to escape.
Lafchiev offered to Valeri to establish a company in his name – VM CORPORATION. Lafchiev’s name is currently included in an indictment of the Romanian Prosecutor’s Office. According to this document, which Bivol examined, employees of FIB in Bulgaria have been involved in the theft of the 26 million euro. We ask Valeri Petrov if he knows someone in the bank in question:
VP: And it is some fraudulent bank, most fraudulent. So, this, what was it, they wanted from me some company seals. I have not seen seals, nothing. And it turned out that they brought them down, these seals, from upstairs, from the office of this bank. So I told them, I told everyone, these people, were they from the Anti-organized crime unit, from the National Security Agency, I do not know them, I don’t know who these fictional characters are.
Bivol: From where did they bring them down?
VP: From somewhere upstairs, from the office of the bank itself
Bivol: Your company’s seals were brought from the office of the bank?
VP: Yes, yes, yes.
Bivol: Of your company?
VP: This is an absolutely fraudulent bank. Of my company, whose seals I have not seen! They were brought from somewhere upstairs by an employee.
Bivol: Where was this office? Was it the central office?
VP: Near the traffic police headquarters; I mean this office, the one near the traffic police.
Bivol: On “G.M. Dimitrov” boulevard?
VP: Right on, near the traffic police. From there, they brought them from somewhere upstairs, because Mr. Lafchiev did not have them then; I do not know what was his position, a lawyer or something? So, he did not have the seals, and we waited for 15-20 minutes and the seals came down. One of their employees brought them.
Bivol: The seals of your company came down from the office of First Investment Bank?
VP: Exactly, yes. I am telling you this quite sincerely now. Mr. Lafchiev will hardly confirm it, but it is a fact. I do not know if the bank has handled my company? I don’t know who, but there is some jiggery-pokery here.
The video reportage has been made by AGRO-TV and Bivol and was aired on November 6, 2015.
The homeless millionaire poignantly stressed that he had told all this to all kinds of “fictional characters”, as Petrov calls agents and employees of DANS and the anti-mafia police (GDBOP), apparently not without reason. What were these special services doing that prevented them from launching an investigation against the financial institution? Had DANS and GDBOP provided a cover-up for FIB? For the homeless person, the answer is obvious. Being aware that he would likely face the threat of being jailed, Valeri decided to help us in our investigation. We started on
The money trail
As the partnership of Bivol and the Romanian investigative center Rise Project (see here) already revealed, Valeri Petrov’s signatures under the contracts with APIA are forged, while the account of VM CORPORATION has been changed at the last minute by someone named Stefka Stoeva. She is now wanted by Romanian prosecutors, as part of the criminal group that includes Vesselin Lafchiev and Mila Georgieva.
On behalf of Valeri, someone declared before the Romanian Agency an account opened in a FIBANK branch in Cyprus. But on September 28, 2012, Stefka Krasimirova Stoeva showed up in Bucharest, also armed with a power of attorney from Valeri Petrov, and changed the account. The new account was not in FIB, but in the Bank of Cyprus. On October 12, 2012, the directors of APIA ordered an advance payment for the cooking oil in the amount of 18,926,709 euro. The oil was not delivered and the money disappeared. All three directors who signed the documents are currently in custody in Bucharest.
Who gave a power of attorney to Stefka Stoeva? Valeri does not remember that name. But he was signing proxies as on an assembly line. We went with him to the notary to have him also sign a power of attorney for a journalist from Bivol.
Then we accompanied him to a FIB branch where he personally, as a millionaire and CEO of his own company, requested access to his account statements. And he hit a wall. Apparently, employees of the Bank are fully aware of the company whose seals they keep. The employees fretted and at first claimed that there was a technical problem. After about an hour it became clear that there is no problem, but simply
FIB denied the legitimate owner access to the accounts
This ended with the absurd situation with Valeri Petrov having to write a request to FIB’s bosses to obtain information on his own accounts that are not frozen. The journalist from Bivol, as a legally authorized representative, helped him file a complaint with the Commission for Consumers’ Protection and the central bank (Bulgarian National Bank, BNB). We are waiting for answers. And we will go again.
After the visit to the bank, Dimitar Stoyanov from Bivol’s team filed an official signal in the Main Directorate “National Police” that he has been followed. Shortly after the visit to the FIB branch, the journalist established that he has been persistently trailed by several persons. According to information from Stoyanov, these were a total of three people who periodically replaced each other, but in no way tried to hide. Actually, all three were walking ostentatiously right behind him. The incident is recorded and can be confirmed by witnesses.
The journalist connects these open attempts to pressure him with his work on the accounts of VM Corporation in FIB. Last Friday, he accompanied Valeri Petrov, the owner of the company, while the latter attempted to get information on the current status of his three accounts in the Bank. They went to the FIB branch on “Alexander Stamboliyski” boulevard, behind the Mall of Sofia. The bank refused to provide to Valeri Petrov information on the balance of his company’s accounts. This in itself is a violation of law. The man was forced to fill a written request for account statements, the same that is filled to obtain information about financial transactions carried out three or five years ago. Such a statement was also required by Petrov. Since the owner of VM CORPORATION did not want to leave his phone number with FIB, Dimitar Stoyanov left his.
The journalist expected that after alerting the police the tensions will be toned down, but such expectations ended up being a delusion. Several days later, our colleague established beyond doubt that “unidentified persons” have been foraging his home while he was away. This information was also reported to the police.
To Cyprus and back
A few days later, our reporter Dimitar Stoyanov, the brand new proxy of Valeri Petrov, landed undercover in Nicosia. Unfortunately alone, as Valeri suffers from fear of flying that proved stronger than his desire to visit the island of Aphrodite and to check his own millions before going to jail.
Impressed by the official power of attorney translated in Greek and certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bank of Cyprus willingly shared the information that the company VM CORPORATION had two accounts: 357005672675 in US dollars was opened on September 24, 2012 and closed on March 4, 2013. 357005672657 in euro was opened on September 24, 2012 and closed on March 5, 2013.
The millions from APIA arrived in the euro account, but did not stay there for long. 14,566.000 euro traveled to the company BEACH ENTERPRISES INC registered in the Seychelles, and 3.6 million euro to GRAND OCEAN SERVICES from Mauritius. Who ordered payments? What proxies? Here, the Bank employees directed us to the company of attorney Orestis Shambartas.
Mr. Shambartas received us in the office of O.SHAMBARTAS LLC and confirmed that he had opened and closed the accounts as authorized by Valeri Petrov. But he denied ordering the money transfers. Who did it then? The lawyer promised to cooperate and send us more information, but never did. After being informed that this pertained to a case with big fraud with EU funds, Orestis Shambartas promised to think whether to comment on the upcoming publication. We did not get a comment from him. The further investigation, however, revealed that
O.SHAMBARTAS LLC and GRAND OCEAN SERVICES have received money from the account of phantom company in FIB
This is BRANDEL SENT 2000, registered to another dummy. This company is not registered for VAT, has no annual reports, has not imported or exported goods through the Customs, as a previous investigation of Bivol showed. But the turnovers in its accounts with FIB are impressive. Millions have come in them from the VEILMES company, which received a loan from FIB, never repaid it and became bankrupt. Some person was bringing huge amounts of cash to the teller counter – 100,000, 200,000, 500,000 at once, and no one sent a signal to DANS for money laundering! Why? Because the millions were going to companies associated with the owners of FIB, Tseko Minev and Ivaylo Mutafchiev.
One of these companies is BALKAN HOLIDAYS in London, run by Radka Mineva, Tseko Minev’s wife. Another company that has received money from the account of BRANDEL is ZORGANE ASIA, owner of GENESIS LABORATORY. The manager of GENESIS is defendant Mila Georgieva, whose name also emerges in the Romanian affair. This is the same Mila, who several years ago personally bought from Ivaylo Mutafchiev an apartment for 350,000 levs. Another company is SANTA FE, owned by the dummy Evdokia Maklamuzi who appears along with the mythical Georgios Georgiou in dozens of Cypriot companies that have received hundreds of millions in loans from FIB. The same companies are owners of VITOSHA SKI and YULEN. The offshore MARENGO, which is building illegally in the national park Pirin mountain, also belongs to Maklamuzi who lives with her family in a modest house in a small mountain village, as our reporter established. The full schema with these companies, the offshore companies and the connections to the Romanian case is complex (see here), but it is not so easy to steal 26 million euro.
On March 15, 2012, 2,000 euro have been transferred to the account of O.SHAMBARTAS LLC in Nicosia for “legal services”, shows the statement which Bivol has. We did not manage to establish what exact legal services the shell company BRANDEL SENT 2000 received in Cyprus, as so far the owner cannot be found. But it is a fact that Shambartas, who opened and closed the Cypriot account with the EU millions, provided services to a company involved in money laundering and transfers to companies of the owners of the Bank.
Second, the statements of BRANDEL show two payments of 100,000 each and one for 15,000 euro to GRAND OCEAN SERVICES. This is the same company where the 3.6 million euro of the money for the poor in Romania went. And this closes the circle of connections between the Romanian affair and the owners of FIB.
We should add to this documented evidence the alarming insider information that FIB has created a whole department for falsification of records and credit records. There is priority work on the Romanian affair, the credits of “The Universal”, but also on the huge loans to companies connected to Bulgarian energy mogul Hristo Kovachki. As we have seen, there is no lack of seals. It is harder to find someone to sign. Valeri Petrov had refused to sign a forged contract with APIA and his signature was forged in turn.
The “fictional characters” from GDBOP, DANS and OLAF have been informed about most things over a year ago. Why did they fail to undertake anything? Why didn’t they search the offices of FIB to find the seal of the company of the homeless Valeri; to check the invoices of O.SHAMBARTAS and GRAND OCEAN SERVICES; to question “well-dressed bankers” who have visited Valeri to get their powers of attorney? Or there is such powerful cover-up for the “banksters” that we can say as in a film about ancient Rome:
F… the poor
So far those in Romania.
And when it finally becomes clear that Evdokia and Georgios will not return the billions to FIB, as Valeri has not returned the 26 million euro to APIA, they will be followed by the depositors of “the most fraudulent bank” in the words of Valeri. The same one that became home of the corpulent business of MP Peevski after the collapse of Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB); the same one that had to be rescued with taxpayers’ money.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian