“They are seeking me out because of my great expertise,” Kalin Mitrev told Nova TV just one day ago. He justified payments received from Azerbaijani Laundromat paper companies with a consultancy contract with the Avuar-Co company in Baku that had worked on a project of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations.

One September 6, Kalin Mitrev, who is the husband of Bulgarian politician and Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, sent an explanatory letter to Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, in which he provided the same account. Bivol has the text of the letter that reads as follows:

“Payments to me that media wrote about came from a three-year contract with a private Azerbaijani company, which then worked mainly on a major State program to prevent and control periodic floodings in the Kura and Aras basins with the participation of many local and foreign private companies and public organizations. Based on my years of experience with major projects in Bulgaria and the European Bank in 2002-2009, I advised the company how to participate in tenders and projects with a public-private partnership; how to apply the best European and world practices in this field; how to work with international financial institutions and cooperate with major global companies. The company has confirmed all these facts in writing to the media. ”

The company that Mitrev refers to is called Avuar Co MMC, as he, himself, has confirmed in a written response to a request from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

Kalin Mitrev also claims that he has paid taxes on the received royalties that coincide in time with other payments made by Baku’s slush fund to European politicians lobbying for the positive image of Azerbaijan.

Based on these purported explanations, the Bulgarian government decided not to withdraw Mitrev as its representative to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for now, but to ask its President Suma Chakrabarti what he thought about the journalistic evidence. By coincidence, Chakrabarti is on a visit to Azerbaijan on September 7 and 8 and can make his own research on location. For example, he can meet and talk to the person on the photograph below as he was from 2011 to 2014 Kalin Mitrev’s employer and paid him EUR 425,000.

 

Agaselim Seidov: Director and owner of Avuar-Co MMC. Photo: personal Facebook profile

 

This is Agaselim Seidov, owner of “Avuar Co”, which, according to Mitrev, is working on a large state program involving many local and foreign companies and public organizations.

However, an investigation by Bivol and partners from the Azerbaijani Laundromat project found serious discrepancies and inconsistencies in Mitrev’s account.

First of all, the official website of the Azerbaijan Public Procurement Agency (which is currently inaccessible), displayed all public tender contracts won by Avuar-Co MMC in relation to the Ministry of Emergency Situations. There were exactly four such tenders in 2012 and 2013, but they are not associated with flooding or consulting services and were all for various equipment purchases.

Public procurement bids won by Avuar-Co MMC. The amounts are in Azerbaijan mana

 

Обществени поръчки на Avuar-Co MMC. Сумите са в азербайджански манати

One can immediately notice that the total amount of these tenders is about USD 300,000, considerably less than what was paid to Mitrev. It is possible that the company received other money from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, but without a public procurement this would be illegal and a clear indicator of corruption.

Another, even more disturbing, fact is that the written explanations in question, that Mitrev claims before to Goranov to have been sent by Avuar-Co to the media, seem to be fake.

In a response to questions sent by OCCRP, Kalin Mitrev, himself, provided the company’s email address and wrote the following:

“…As to the three companies, named in your email, I must state that I have had no contact with and have no information why Avuar-Co chose to pay my commission through them. On this you may wish to contact Avuar-Co directly on the company email, copied above, [email protected].”

After OCCRP Editor Paul Radu contacted the company, two responses were received within a short time:

Hello, Mr. Radu
My company has a long-standing relationship with these three companies. Using some of their debts to me, I took the opportunity and asked them to pay my bills. We performed work against the drying up of the Kura River. Almost 30% of Baku’s water
supply comes from this river. I suggest you come to us and I will clearly introduce you to our work. Mister MITREV advised us for what we are very grateful to him. About the methods of payment you will tell my accountant. Sorry, I’m on vacation now and on
my return is ready to answer any of your questions.
Sorry for the delay, we had problems with the mailbox. Please send us again all that was sent within 2 days.

Yours faithfully Director Avoyar / Agaselim Seidov

Dear Paul Radu,

If I understand correctly, you want to verify the information given by Mr. Mitrev in his email to you from 18 August and copied to us. I confirm that Mr. Mitrev’s answers are correct. We are grateful to him for sharing his experience in management of large projects and cooperation with international donors, especially during our work on the Kura River program. The payments that you ask about were made by Avuar for his work in accordance with our contract.
About your questions why Avuar has made the payments via third companies – this is a normal business practice for a company with payables and receivable from different partners in the country and abroad. The concrete terms and agreements are private company information and not for discussion.
We believe this is sufficient for confirmation and consider the issue closed. As a private company, it is not our policy to disclose the details of our business arrangements and contracts with our clients or partners.

Yours faithfully
Director Avuar / Agaselim Seidov

Seidov’s name is unique in Azerbaijan and reporters tracked down his Facebook profile (which is no longer accessible as well), finding that he lived in Mashtaga, a poorer outlying area of Baku. His appearance and clothing do not at all suggest that he could be the engine behind a big project “involving many local and foreign private companies and public organizations” and the one to hire the super-qualified international expert Kalin Mitrev.

But as sometimes appearances can be misleading, OCCRP correspondent Khadija Ismayilova contacted Agasalim Seidov through the Facebook messenger voice service.

Recording of the conversation with Agasilim Seidov

Conversation:

Khadija Ismayilova, journalist OCCRP reporter (KI): Alo, salam aleykum, is that Agasalim muallim?

Agaselim Seidov (AS): Yes

KI: You are Agasalim Seyidov, right?

AS: Yes

KI: You are the founder of Avuar co?

AS: Noo.

KI: Can you hear me?

You are shown as a founder of Avuar Co

AS: Yes.

KI: We have question regarding that company

AS: Your voice sounds bad (he speaks in a heavy Mashtaga village accent)

KI: I am Khadija Ismayilova, journalist.

AS: Aha

KI: We have questions about Avuar co company

Alo.

AS: I am Listening

KI: You are registered in Mashtaga, right?

AS: Yes

KI: Avuar co company is registered on your name

AS: Yes

KI: You are the founder of that company?

AS: I am director

KI: We have question regarding that company. In 2011 2014 did you do works related to Kura Araz floods?

AS: Kura Araz?

KI: Yes, related to flood in Kura and Araz

AS: Kura Araz flood? Is that a name of the company?

KI: No, did Avuar-Co do works on Kura Araz river flood?

AS: It is first time I hear about company Araz Kura

KI: Remember when Kura overflooded,

AS: Yes

KI: Did you do works related to that flood?

AS: May be did, may be did not. What do you need, please explain me.

KI: It is said that your company did some works on Kura Araz flood. I want to know, what kind of works you did.

AS: Inaudible… we have to check. Now the company is closed, so I don’t know.

KI: So your company is closed now?

AS: Yes.

KI: So you don’t know about those works?

AS: The company worked back then. It stopped working last year.

KI: I am talking about2011 and 2014

Did you do those works?

AS: Is it possible that I will check about that and then contact you?

KI: We have a letter written on your behalf. Did you send a letter?

AS: I didn’t, but may be other employees in the company did.

KI: Which employees?

AS: Can you introduce yourself again??

KI: I told you, I am Khadija Ismayilova, journalist

AS: Yes yes I know.

KI: What kind of work did Avuar-co do re kura Araz flood?

AS: Well, whatever I say I would lie to you. Let me check, and will contact you.

AS: Whom do you want to check it with?

Inaudible

KI: Hello?

AS: There is one person. I will contact him, and get back to you.

KI: You are the founder and director. Who is that person?

AS: Inaudible – I don’t know- inaudible

KI: May be the company registered on your name but not yours?

AS: No it is my own

KI: Your own

AS: Yes my own. Yes.

KI: Did you write a letter to Paul Radu?

AS: Your voice is breaking.

KI: May be you give me a phone number and I call to your phone?

AS: Can I reach the place I am going now and then contact you?

KI: How?

AS: Please be patient a little bit.

Hangs up.

Several things become clear from the recording.

Firstly, Agaselim Seidov from the photo admits that he is the director and owner of Avuar-Co.

Secondly, he cannot remember the Kura-Aras project, although it should be the core of the company’s portfolio.

Thirdly, the company is already closed.

And finally, Seidov had not send answers to the OCCRP, but perhaps an associate from the already closed company.

If there is a real and not pro-forma probe intended to cover up the scandal, Minister Goranov can easily request information from Microsoft on the address [email protected] from which the company’s written confirmation was sent. With this, he can ascertain whether Mitrev has told him the truth.

Is this the real address of this company that has been used for years, including for correspondence with Mitrev in 2012-2014, or has it been set up just recently to provide credible support to the consulting account? The IP address and the country where that address was used when responses signed by Agaselim Seidov were sent can be established as well. These are verifiable and reliable data that cannot be manipulated by the interested parties and that will dispel ambiguities surrounding Mitrev’s consulting fee, if there had been one at all

 

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