Three Bulgarian Ministries Assist Illegal Construction of Politician’s Seraglio

The Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works (MRDPW), the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Transport have joined forces to issue a special detailed territorial development plan (SDTDP) for the #Doganseraglio marina in 2019. This happened despite the fact that construction of the seraglio on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast was illegal and had no title deed. The signature under the approved SDTDP is of Nikolay Nankov, the Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works.

The information can be found on the website of the MRDPW in the “For the Consumer/Registers” sector, the MRDPW told Bivol in a response to a second inquiry under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA), after the first one of May 2020 was left unanswered.

Meanwhile, events took place near the seraglio of Ahmed Dogan, the Honorary Chairman the party mostly representing the Muslim minority in Bulgaria, Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), leading to national protests and demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. The surging public outrage forced the Prosecutor’s Office to launch an investigation that “discovered” the illegal marina, built without a single construction document. Bivol wrote about it three months ago and explained the scheme behind it.

Dogan’s new pier, designed as a luxury marina, was seen in detail in footage taken by a catamaran trying to dock there during a protest rally. It was pushed back by DPS followers, led by party leader Mustafa Karadayi. The latter declared the pier private.

According to documents, this is indeed the case, but the procedure for the legalization of the ownership of the company that built the seraglio is deeply flawed and laced with crimes committed by private individuals and officials.

“It was there…”

The company “Hermes Solar” used an extremely brazen trick to legalize the territory seized from the sea. It claimed that the 220-meter-long breakwater had been built in the 1980s and then registered it as legal property through a correction of an old notary deed, claiming a factual error.

The bold lie can be seen in the documentation of the Registry Office in the Black Sea city of Burgas, issued on March 18, 2020, amidst the most severe coronavirus lockdown measures. It states that there is a “specialized port facility” consisting of two main parts. The first part of 50 meters had been built in the 1970s and 125 meters from the north and 85 meters from the west have been added in the second stage in the 1980s.

Everything written about the second stage is a brazen deception. Satellite images show that the construction of these additional 210 meters was completed after 2016.

As acknowledged by the MRDPW, it has never received and approved an investment project, as well as documents for issuing a construction permit for a specialized port facility – a yacht and boat dock, located in the “Otmanli” area of park “Rosenets” in the northern part of “Cape Chukalyata”, Municipality of Burgas. The Ministry clarifies that under the law “the water area of the ports is exclusive state property, and the territory and the infrastructure of the ports can be the property of the state, of the municipalities, of natural and legal persons”.

How to obtain an SDTDP and legalize a property without ownership documents?

The legalization of the illegally constructed seraglio marina involved three stages – survey and SDTDP preparation, registration in the Cadaster and obtaining a document for ownership.

When “Hermes Solar” submitted documents for the preparation of an SDTDP of the port in 2019, they did not include an ownership document. The construction of the pier and the breakwater was carried out in the sea, which was (still) state property under the Constitution. Such construction requires a lengthy and complicated coordination procedure but there was no such procedure.

Nevertheless, three Ministries have given the green line to the project, and a special National Territorial Planning Council has reviewed it and has approved it. The chronology of this fraud is presented in the APIA response of the MRDPW, showing that it has become possible because all involved institutions have turned a blind eye to it.

A draft of the SDTDP for the port area of “Cape Chukalyata” was submitted by “Hermes Solar” with a letter to the Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications dated September 2, 2019. With it, the company applied for the issuance of a certificate for operational suitability of an existing specialized port site, a yacht and boat marina and for its entry in the Register, writes the MRDPW.
The verification whether the “existing site” was legal is simple, but the MRDPW failed to conduct it and accepted that there was nothing wrong with the newly built 220-meter pier.

The coordination with the Ministry of Defense’s Naval Command took only a week. With a letter dated October 10, 2019, the Ministry of Defense gave the green light to the new marina.

This raises the question of whether the Naval Command knows at all what is happening in Bulgarian territorial waters because it turns out that it is possible to build a breakwater mobilizing heavy equipment without any documents and permits under its nose (its “Atia” base is next door). This is, after all, a 220-meter pier that can accommodate even small ships under 500 metric tons. It is additionally reinforced with hydraulic elements of the “Tetrapod” type to dampen the waves. The builder, Glavbolgarstroy, even brought the floating crane “Antey”.

For comparison, the northern port of the resort town of Nessebar has a breakwater of 183 meters, another resort, Pomorie, has a 410-meter breakwater. The pier of the naval base Atia is 450 meters long, the one in the resort town of Tsarevo is 240 meters, and the two piers of the infamous private marina of Dinevi brothers have a total length of about 500 meters. Dogan’s new pier is comparable to the neighboring pier of the Rosenets oil port, which is about 270 meters long.

At the next stage, the draft SDTDP has been reviewed and adopted by the National Expert Council on Territorial Planning and Regional Policy at the MRDPW.

Bivol requested the Minister’s order appointing this Council and the minutes of its meeting but they were not provided and cannot be found on the by the MRDPW’s website.

Other decisions of the Council in question show that it brings together experts from almost all institutions in the country such as the Black Sea Basin Directorate, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Executive Forest Agency, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism, the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications, the General Directorate of the Civil Aviation Administration, the Chamber of Architects in Bulgaria, the State Enterprise Port Infrastructure, the Ministry of Environment and Waters, the Road Infrastructure Agency, the Regional Administration, the Municipal Council and even the Fire Safety and Protection of the Population Directorate.

All these experts failed to notice any problem whatsoever with the newly built pier and its non-existent ownership!

Finally, Deputy Minister Nikolay Nankov signed an order dated October 10, 2019, by which the SDTDP of the port was adopted.

The next move was one of the Head of the Burgas Cadaster. He crowned the breakwater fraud with a finding that a failure to enter the site in the Cadaster in the past was a clear factual error that must be corrected and subsequently entered the 5,838 square-meter property with a new cadastral number 07079.831.346. This happened with order 18-2034 from February 24, 2020, again, without any document for the ownership of the facility whose entry in the Cadastral map cannot happen without a notary deed, but it happened somehow.

Armed with all these documents, “Hermes Solar” applied for the issuance of the above-mentioned Deed of Ownership, which took place in the office of notary Gergana Chineva in Burgas on March 18, 2020.

Ultimately, several key institutions put their stamp under the legalization of something that did not exist and should not exist. They have noticed the lawlessness and the deceit but have chosen to turn a blind eye to it.

Will anyone be punished?

The saga with the legalized pier involves several obvious crimes committed by the managers and proxies of “Hermes Solar” and by the institutions.
The Penal Code contains explicit texts on what happens when someone seizes state property and builds on it.

Art. 323a. of the Penal Code calls for imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of BGN 1,000 to BGN 3,000 for anyone who builds on arable or agricultural land or pasture without the right to do so.

It sounds absurd but there is no text in the Penal Code that sanctions seizure and illegal construction in Black Sea waters since they also have a public-state property status. Nevertheless, the illegal breakwater can be deemed a crime under another article of the Penal Code – declaring false data and circumstances.

The company “Hermes Solar”, which is the owner of the seraglio, declared that the breakwater had existed since the 1980s, which is not true. Snezhana Karova is the manager of Hermes Solar and owner with a 95% stake, while Russian national Georgiy Seropyan holds the other 5%. The architect and designer of the seraglio is architect Kalin Tiholov, who is considered particularly close to DPS and Dogan. Karova submitted the documents for the registration of ownership of the breakwater with a statement of findings, therefore, she must be held accountable for the incorrect circumstances in the first place.

The Prosecutor’s Office can and should investigate the entire coordination procedure between the MRDPW, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Defense. The Regional Governor of Burgas, Valcho Cholakov, should be also held responsible for the construction carried out in a state water area without proper documents.

Whether this will happen or we will witness another cover-up and veiling of crimes remains to be seen. So far, we only have the findings of the Supreme Administrative Prosecutor’s Office about the illegal pier and the threats of politician Valeri Simeonov to destroy it.

Headline photo: Police and DPS followers at the illegal marina on July 11, 2020, screenshot from a video made by Lachezar Bratoev.


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