monika-brendo

Viennese Waltz

Who Are Monica Stanisheva’s Business Contacts in Austria?

When selecting business partners, one is also selecting reputation. Otherwise, one could find him or herself entangled in a web of relationships and contacts that lead too far into suspicions of links with the underworld.

Such relationships pop up around an Austrian business partner of Monica Stanisheva (PR expert and wife of Sergei Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Party of European Socialists – editor’s note) – relationships with persons identified in a criminal case for cocaine trafficking and money laundering against Evelin Banev AKA Brendo; relationships around a hotel linked to Ahmed Dogan; around the state-owned railways company BDZ and whatnot. All connections between the protagonists in this text date from five years ago when the current wife of then Prime Minister Stanishev, Monica Stanisheva, was a behind-the-scenes person in the Three-Party Coalition cabinet.

So far, her Austrian connection was known only by her contracts with lobbyist Peter Hochegger, who was convicted of corruption. A check in Austrian registries shows that Monica Yosifova (her first husband’s family name – editor’s note) was owner of a Vienna-based company in partnership with Aneliya Krushkova, who is currently the Chair of the Supervisory Board of „BDZ Holding.“ The Austrian company was established not to invest in Austria, but to conceal the ultimate owners of a Bulgarian company for European projects consulting.

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One important programming period

The company Europroject Holdings AG was founded in Vienna in June 2007. The subject of activity was “acquisition and management of other enterprises.” The incorporation capital was 200 thousand euros, deposited by Austrian citizen Herbert Edlinger (198 thousand euros) and by Evelina Gyudorova (two thousand euros). Subsequently, the ownership structure changed. A reference in the Austrian trade registry shows that by 2010, Monica Lyubomirova was already the majority owner (75%) (the shareholders’ list states her middle name, her date of birth and her address is indicated as Crystal Palace Hotel in Sofia) and Krushkova (25 %) was her partner.

Krushkova was Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications in the Cabinet of former King and Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg from 2003 to 2005 (at that time she was also in the management of BDZ Holding), and from 2007 to the end of 2009, she headed the State Tourism Agency.

The management of Europroject Holdings AG included Denitsa Vulcheva (an employee in Monica Stanisheva’s company „Active Group“), Nadiya Ivanova and Evelina Gyudorova.

In July 2007, the company „Europrojects Point“ was registered in Sofia with the Austrian company as sole shareholder while Zinaida Zlatanova was executive member of its board (a post she held until the end of 2007 when she was appointed representative of the European Commission in Bulgaria. She is currently Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister in the Socialist-led government – editor’s note).

On the company’s website, which is not active today, it is written that „Europrojects Point“ is an organization specifically created to assist potential beneficiaries in the process of application and implementation of projects financed from EU funds.

From 2007 to 2010, the company – directly or as part of a consortium – closed contracts for the execution of projects related to EU funds, totaling 1.2 million levs. The larger projects involved the modernization of the administration in the municipalities of Dve Mogili and Popovo. There was also a signed contract for an information campaign under the EU Operational Program Administrative Capacity, together with the now-defunct Ministry of State Administration and Administrative Reform, headed at that time by Nikolay Vassilev. Links between Monica Yosifova and Nikolay Vassilev emerged along the shareholding company with special investment goal „Expat Beta.“

The smallest of contracts of „Europrojects Point“ was only for 5000 levs, but it is a stark example of conflict of interest. It was concluded in the spring of 2009, several months before the end of the term in office of the Three-Party Coalition. At that time, Krushkova, in her capacity of Chair of the State Tourism Agency, signed a contract with „Europrojects Point,“ which was chosen among five other firms to prepare documentation for a public procurement tender.

If the Chair of the Tourism Agency had carefully read the contract she signed, there was no way she would not have noticed that the address of the contractor was … her own. At the same time, as evidenced by documents from 2010 from the Austrian trade registry, shortly after leaving her post Krushkova appeared as a shareholder in the Austrian parent company of „Europrojects Point.“

Krushkova denied before „Capital“ having anything to do with the company: „You have had a chance to review the company’s records; I have no relations to it.“ She added: „The company’s registry is public and everyone can refer to it. The management system is two-level and Herbert Edlinger is the sole proprietor.“

Dangerous Liaisons

Two documents that are uploaded in the Austrian trade registry show that Krushkova and Monica Stanisheva are the owners of Europroject Holdings AG. They were represented by Boryana Lindinger at two general meetings of the company.

Boryana Lindinger currently works in the Austrian office of LGT Group – a bank in Liechtenstein for private banking and asset management, and before that she was a senior executive at Euram Bank in Vienna.

She explained before „Capital“ that she has been associated with Europroject entirely as a private person and there was no link with her work as banker. Her role in this company has been to connect the two ladies, Krushkova and Monica Stanisheva, with a law firm in Vienna. She says she has met Monica Stanisheva only once or twice. She knew Krushkova better, but they did not work together on anything. This is not the first involvement of Boryana Lindinger with Bulgarian business. In 2006, she became part of the management of the financial house „Private Finance Union“ (PFU), replacing Simo Karaychev. He is the brother of Evelin Banev, nicknamed Brando, convicted on first instance of cocaine trafficking (in Italy) and of money laundering (in Bulgaria). In the money laundering charge in Bulgaria, Brando is tried along with his brother, his ex-wife Monica and her sister Desislava. Regarding her relationship with PFU and the group around Evelyn Banev – Brando, Boryana Lindiger explained that she was director of one of their companies entirely and only on the assignment of her employer at the time – Euram Bank. She added that she has been interrogated in the money laundering case, but she had no personal or business relationship with Brando.

According to written motives for the verdict of Sofia City Court regarding the money laundering case against Evelyn Banev, Boryana Lindinger has been „servicing the bank accounts of the defendants.“

The bank was used as guarantor – it granted credit to the Bulgarian company PFU, but in fact the money came from accounts of offshore companies controlled by Brando. According to the court, the origin of funds in these accounts is cocaine trafficking from South America to Bulgaria.

The representative of Europroject Holdings AG is Austrian citizen Herbert Edlinger who is partner of Boryana Lindinger in another company. Edlinger’s name appeared in media in 2010, when, at the request of the Commission for Establishing Property Acquired through Criminal Activity, the court foreclosed the „Casa Domini“ hotel in the resort Ribaritza, which is associated with Ahmed Dogan, honorary leader of the party of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS).

Shortly before the foreclosure, the hotel was bought by the company „Via Pontica – Pomorie.“ Until early 2009, it was owned by „Festa Holding“ (83.6% stakes) and personally by the Chair of the Board of Directors of „Festa Holding“ Petya Slavova (16.4% of the stakes). They subsequently sold their shares to a company registered in Washington D.C. „Remington International Investments.“ Precisely Herbert Edlinger is a representative of this company. The registry of the District of Columbia shows that the company was listed in the United States’ capital by the Sofia-based lawyer Zhivko Georgiev.

„Capital“ was unsuccessful in its attempt to reach Herbert Edlinger. By the time of the editorial closure of the publication, he did not respond to messages left on the answering machine in his office or to emailed questions.

Train to Nowhere

Herbert Edlinger has at least one more point of contact with Bulgaria and this is the company Domino Beteiligung GmbH, which he owned and ran until January 2012. The company has a subsidiary, incorporated in Sofia, under the name „Domino Beteiligung Bulgaria“ with activity in transport and logistics. By September of last year, it was managed by Evelina Gyudorova, but she then started working at management level in BDZ and was replaced in the company by Albena Krushkova, who is the daughter of Aneliya Krushkova.

One of the services that the company offers is rail transport. Its website explains that the company deals with „expertise in organizing block-trains, tracking movement of train cars, oversized cargo, food products, chemicals in tanks certified under RID, direct negotiations with rail and ferry lines, insurance of cargo.“

Krushkova, who currently works in „BDZ Holding,“ is adamant that there can be no question of conflict of interest:

„Until now, the company „Domino Beteiligungen“ has been active exclusively in the field of pure logistics services and had not participated in public procurement; there were no contracts whatsoever with any state organization, both in transport and in other areas. In this sense, there is no conflict of interest related to my daughter’s appointment as manager of the company, and to my position in the management of BDZ.“

By the time of the editorial closure of the publication, Monica Stanisheva did not provide answers to questions sent by „Capital“.

The check in the registry of the District of Columbia was made with the help of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

The original article by Capital Weekly: http://www.capital.bg/politika_i_ikonomika/bulgaria/2014/02/21/2247031_vienski_vals/

Translation: Bivol

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