“Thank God that we were able to save Koblyakov,” said one of his Bulgarian friends on Facebook after the news of the brutal murder of Boris Nemtsov near the Kremlin in Moscow made headlines. Nikolay Koblyakov was among the organizers of the mourning rally in Paris on Sunday, where the free Russians expressed their anger against Putin’s obscurantist regime that sends the country back to the terrible years of the Gulag, of purges and fear.
WHO enticed Koblyakov to Bulgaria to be arrested? Are there agents of Putin’s regime in our country, pursuing Russian dissidents even on European and NATO territory? Did they have accomplices in the Interior Ministry to close the trap at the right time? Bivol’s investigation established that Russian dissident Nikolay Koblyakov was invited to come to Bulgaria by the company Galaxy Group, connected to Plovdiv’s manufacturers of alcohol and cigarettes known as the “Peshtera guys”. He was arrested at the Sofia Airport on July 29 this year under an Interpol notice issued by Moscow on April 1, 2014, but activated on the very day of his arrival in Sofia.
On March 27, 2014, Koblyakov received an email from Yulian Nikolov, Trade and Investment Director of Galaxy Property Group. The company said it was interested in Koblyakov’s concept of homes for the elderly and proposed cooperation for investment projects in Bulgaria. Koblyakov replied on March 29 that he was interested and would visit Bulgaria.
Two days later, on April 1, the Interpol Bureau in Moscow issued an international fugitive wanted notice for the Russian national (see the document below). Despite the existence of this notice, Koblyakov insists that he had traveled freely in countries of the Schengen area and beyond, and has not been detained anywhere. The French authorities even issued a French passport to him after April 1, 2014, without any objections.
Meanwhile, the correspondence of Koblyakov with Galaxy Group continued and the dates for his visit to Bulgaria – July 29 to 31 – were specified in early July.
Lawyers of “Peshtera guys” have advised Koblyakov not to tell about the case
On July 29, at 4:20 pm, Koblyakov landed in Sofia on an “Air France” flight. He was arrested when crossing the border control with his French passport.
“The Border Police were very polite,” Koblyakov told Bivol.
“One of them told me that if I had arrived a day earlier, I would not have been arrested. They had just been given the notice for me.”
Koblyakov managed to get in touch with Yulian Nikolov, who sent lawyers of Galaxy Group. The Russian had been advised not to make the arrest public knowledge.
The Russian dissident, however, dismissed them and sought legal advice and a local lawyer to be provided by the international human rights organization in Paris. We can only guess now what could have happened without the publicity and public support for the threatened with extradition to Putin’s Russia Russian-French citizen.
This order of events raises legitimate suspicions of a thoroughly organized by Moscow plan for the detention of the Russian citizen namely in Bulgaria. Koblyakov’s statements also hinted about such plan as he talked several times before the media about a set “trap” without going into detail. It is important to clarify how come a notice issued by Interpol on April 1, 2014, was activated precisely on the day of Koblyakov’s flight to Bulgaria, and not earlier. Why was the Russian notice ignored by the special services of several Schengen countries, and whether they had received it? Bivol attempted to find an answer to these key questions to elucidate what happened to Koblyakov, but faced the silence of the competent authorities and a refusal to comment from his business partners.
Interior Ministry: Date and time are “personal data”
Bivol submitted a request for information under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) on the first day in office of the new caretaker Interior Minister Yordan Bakalov to learn the exact date and time of receipt of the Interpol notice in the Interior Ministry and the exact date and time of entry of the data in the system of Border Police. That was the first request under APIA to the new Interior Minister.
Bakalov’s answer states that the date and time were personal data and could not be disclosed. Contacted by phone for explanation, he promised to reconsider his decision and to release at least the information that does not affect the system of Interpol – the date and time of the entry of data for Koblyakov in the Bulgarian Border Police system. Bakalov, however, renounced and did not respond to repeated requests. His lie had a particular effect – while we waited, the deadline to appeal his first refusal in Court expired. Paradoxically, a month later, Bakalov, who began his mission with a refusal to answer a question of great public interest, received from the “Access to Information” Program an award for transparency.
Bivol also insisted before Bakalov on launching an official probe in the case, but this request was ignored by the Minister. Koblyakov himself has not received an answer to the same questions to the Ministry of Interior either, his lawyer Bilyana Pisova said. She has tabled a similar question on Koblyakov’s behalf, but was refused access to information despite the earlier expressed opinion of the Interior Ministry that the date and the time were “personal data” that Koblyakov had the right to know.
Parallel to the inquiry to the Interior Ministry, Bivol sent questions about the Moscow notice to the central office of Interpol in Lyon, France. Why it was not applied in the countries of the Schengen area, the UK and the US? When was it registered in Bulgaria? A response was not received.
Bivol approached for comment Yulian Nikolov with specific questions concerning the correspondence with Koblyakov, the identity and actions of lawyers who first interacted with the Russian national. Yulian Nikolov said that he would “coordinate the provision of information” with Nikolay Koblyakov as it “affects trade relations and directly concerns him as well”. We did not get a subsequent response.
Meanwhile, Nikolay Koblyakov received strong public support in Bulgaria and even the prosecution withdrew its request for extradition to Russia, recognizing the risk that he would not receive a fair trial there and would become victim of repression. After the Court acquitted him, Koblyakov returned to France, where, contrary to the logic, he was not arrested because of the Russian international notice which has not yet been officially canceled.
The case “Koblyakov” fits in a long series of cases of Russian opposition figures prosecuted through Interpol and reported in the international press. As the British Telegraph wrote, instead of catching criminals, Interpol is often used as an instrument of repression against dissidents.
Did the Russian special services have accomplices in Bulgaria, including in the Interior Ministry to set the “trap” for Koblyakov? Bivol will continue to ask questions to the new leadership of the Interior Ministry as well and will insist on an official probe in the circumstances leading to Koblyakov’s arrest namely in Bulgaria. Despite the happy outcome for the Russian himself, his arrest positioned our country once again as a vulnerable sector in the western security system, while the refusal to hold anyone accountable confirms suspicions of breakthrough in Bulgaria’s special services rather than dissipating them.
Who are Galaxy Property Group
The owners of Galaxy Property Group are Anton Shterev and Atanas Petrov, known as the “Peshtera guys”. They own the “Peshtera Winery” and a cigarette factory in Plovdiv, producer of the cigarette brand “Kings”. They are also known to the general public with the affair with fake excise duty labels uncovered by Customs Head Vanio Tanov and with the bribe given to former Deputy Chief of the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (GDBOP), Ivan Ivanov, who asked for an expensive hunting rifle and a laptop in exchange of providing cover-up for their illegal activities.
A reference distributed to the media by the late former Chief Secretary of the Interior Tsvyatko Tsvetkov revealed that the “Peshtera guys” have sponsored both the now-opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the second-term ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party (GERB) with considerable amounts for their election campaigns. In more recent times, the “Peshtera guys” allegedly had a joint business with notorious lawmaker Delyan Peevski, including in connection with the purchase of Bulgartabac, but recently their relations have gone sour.
Right of Reply:
Bivol published a letter sent by the “Galaxy”, as a right of reply. We specify that we have received information about contacts and correspondence with Julian Nikolov and Nikolay Koblyakov, also how their connections are leaking from the very Koblyakov. We have a statement of Koblyakov to editors. We have made correspondence with the the Ex manager Julian Nikolov, who did not deny those facts by Koblyakov. Nikolov promised us answering the issues. This was no answer.
Post a reply of “Galaxy Investment Group” in graphic form and without any editorial manipulation.
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