The Romanian Agency for Payments and Intervention in Agriculture (APIA) has frozen accounts of the Bulgarian private lender First Investment Bank (FIB) in the amount of 44 million levs. This is what the Romanians have paid to a ghost Bulgarian company to deliver food to the poor (flour and cooking oil) under a European Union program. FIB is a guarantor in the deal and the Romanians want to recoup their money.
After a Bulgarian company won the bid and received the payment, it never delivered the food and the money has vanished in offshore companies. The Romanian Prosecutor’s Office and the European anti-fraud office, OLAF, launched an investigation. The former heads of APIA, who ordered the transfer of money, were arrested a year ago. The indictment of the Romanian Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office notes in black and white that the theft has occurred with FIB’s complicity.
At that time, FIB immediately released a statement that it has alerted the Bulgarian National Security Agency (DANS), the prosecution and OLAF about this abuse of European funds as early as January 2013 but facts point to an attempt to divert attention similar to
“The thief is crying thief”
First, it is not clear why FIB has issued letters of guarantee for 33 million euro to… a homeless Bulgarian man – Valeri Miloradov Petrov. He, himself, confirmed in a videotaped interview with Bivol that he was just a dummy person and the Bank has kept his company seal in its headquarters where he went to sign the documents. Why is FIB holding his seal? Does this mean that the tender documents have been entirely controlled by the Bank?
Miloradov even accompanied one of our reporters to a FIB branch to requested access to his accounts but the request was denied. If he is the legal owner of the company, why is FIB refusing access even after an intervention and order of the central bank (the Bulgarian National Bank)? Maybe to conceal the money tracks from the accounts of Miloradov’s company to offshores?
Second: Why has the Bank waited for months and has not attempted to find out where did the money go? It is known that the money was transferred in mid-October 2012 to the Bank of Cyprus, but there were no food deliveries by the end of the year. APIA then began to aggressively seek either the goods or the guarantees from the Bank and notified the competent authorities about the fraud. FIB has a branch in Cyprus and asking what has happened to the money of its client would be the most common thing to do. This is a legit question that was also asked by Ivan Tanev, who is considered one of the main protagonists in the “APIA” case. In an interview with Bivol and Rise Romania, Tanev denies any involvement in the brazen theft and presents his own viewpoint.
It seems that the exposure of the involvement of dummy “businessmen” in the affair, which Bivol has been investigating for a year and a half now, has made someone very nervous. Bivol’s reporter Dimitar Stoyanov, who filmed the confession of Valeri Petrov, was followed and his home was broken into by unknown people. Then, “mercenaries” from the controlled by controversial lawmaker and media mogul, Delyan Peevski, Channel 3 TV travelled all the way to Paris to harass Bivol’s editor-in-chief, Atanas Tchobanov. The director of Channel 3 offered a remarkable explanation in a TV interview by saying her media was investigating Bivol journalists because journalists from Bivol have been investigating a certain Stefka Stoeva.
In fact, Stefka Stoeva is one of the dummies cited in the documents of the Romanian Prosecutor’s Office. Allegedly, she was the one who replaced the account of Petrov’s VM Corporation with an account in the Bank of Cyprus.
Our team has always seen pressure and threats as additional motivation. We continued to work on this key Romanian affair and together with our partners from OCCRP we obtained evidence that the Bank has had contacts with those involved in the money theft.
Who has received the money? Where, how and for what was it spent? The readers will learn all this from a large-scale parallel investigation of Bivol, Rise Romania and Atlastzo Hungary.