Former interim premier lobbies in favour of Bulgarian Madoff
Ognyan Gerdzhikov scratches a whole section of commercial law; protects the schemes of the fugitive banker and his Russian connections
12 April, 2018From the moment the failed CorpBank was placed under special supervision by the central bank in 2014, Ognyan Gerdzhikov, a professor of commercial law and former speaker of the National Assembly, has been giving opinions vastly differing from the state's best interest and openly in line with the interest of Tsvetan Vassilev. In November 2014, in a bTV appearance, Gerdzhikov openly defended the illegal cessions and set-offs that allowed millions of levs in assets to be diverted from CorpBank's insolvency estate. “We cannot declare the cessions null and void just like that. They are perfectly legal,” proudly and in his capacity as a “leading legal mind” Gerdzhikov said, regarding the government's intention to amend the law and cancel the set-offs. But we all remember how the defrauded CorpBank depositors, in their panic, resorted to fire sales of their unsecured claims, while Vassilev's figureheads (he, at that time, relaxing in a five-star Belgrade hotel) bought them in bulk and reduced the shell companies' debt to the bank, with those deposit amounts. Petrol and Dunarit are just some of the most recognisable companies that got rid of their debt, but the total amount of the set-offs is over BGN 1bn. Maybe Gerdzhikov's position at the time could be justified with his expertise as a legal practitioner, but as it eventually turned out, his connection to Vassilev and the subsequent plunder of the CorpBank assets has been proven not with words but with his signature. According to a source of Telegraph, Gerdzhikov wrote an opinion at the end of December 2015, unapologetically defending the schemes Tsvetan Vassilev and his Russian friend and partner Dmitry Kosarev employed in their attempt to steal the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC). Let us remind that in 2015, after the fiasco with Pierre Louvrier, who is directly tied to oligarch Konstantin Malofeev and the leader (defence minister) of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Igor Girkin-Strelkov, and who got Dunarit, Avionams, NURTS, BTC, First Digital and GARB, all for the price of €1, yet another Russian from Vassilev's circle entered the picture - Dmitry Kosarev. To this day, Kosarev claims that Vassilev personally sold to him 76% of BTC (interesting how that came to be, considering that the money for the acquisition of the company came from CorpBank and not personally from Vassilev) and this is why he has filed law suits in Bulgaria and abroad in a quest to hold on to the asset. Even though in the early 2016 Kosarev publicly said that he filed a claim in the International Court of Arbitration, it subsequently emerged that the legal proceeding was launched on behalf of Technological Centre - Institute for Microelectronics, TC-IM (one of the main companies in Vassilev's scheme to embezzle CorpBank before its failure), but not by the executive director Teodora Taneva. No, behind the move were the two non-executive members of the Board of Directors - Martin Apostolov and Lyudmila Petrova, who remain “loyal” to Vassilev and continue to aid the secondary plunder of the lender's assets. It is because Taneva's position has been staunch all the way - all assets of the bank should be used to satisfy the claims of its creditors (in compliance with which in September 2015 she transferred in favour of CorpBank the rights to 33% down the ownership chain of BTC, controlled by the CorpBank-funded company Crusher), something that is not to the liking of Vassilev, thus the fugitive banker made several unsuccessful attempts to oust her as an executive director. But let us get back to the scandalous case in Paris. Once the claim was filed by Martin Apostolov and Lyudmila Petrova on behalf of TC- IM, without having the requisite representative power, the judges apparently raised the question of the legitimacy of these individuals to lead a case on behalf of a company they do not represent under the letter of the law. In their panic and facing the possibility of the case being dropped (its filing cost several hundred thousands of levs in fees that the fugitive banker apparently paid from his own pocket), the Vassilev-Kosarev duo turned to Prof. Ognyan Gerdzhikov, renowned expert on commercial law, author of textbooks on the subject, and lecturer for thousands of students at Sofia University. How much Gerdzhikov got paid for this opinion, used before the arbitration court, remains unclear, but what is known is that in it the professor of commercial law and future interim prime minister at the time passionately defends the actions of Apostolov and Petrova and reaches a conclusion that, under normal circumstances, would be a reason to grade with an F the work of a student - you see, he argues that in the event that the executive director refuses to exercise their representative power in relation to the company (like filing a case in an arbitration court to help Vassilev and Kosarev steal BTC) the other members of the Board of Directors are within their rights to take matters into their own hands and launch a legal proceeding. In other words, despite the existence of an executive director performing their duties, the other members, who lack representative power, may also represent the company. It is hard to even comment on such a presumption not only from a legal but a moral standpoint, even more so as Gerdzhikov finds the grounds for such a conclusion in his own reasoning, stated in his own position, that “the case facts suggest that the executive director of TC-IM probably struck a deal to the detriment of the company.” The commercial law “guru” does not mention the facts in question, but it is obvious that he refers to TC-IM's transfer of the rights to 33% in BTC in favour of CorpBank and the Bulgarian Deposit Insurance Fund, that Taneva ordered several months earlier. In other words, Gerdzhikov unequivocally states before the arbitration court judges that Vassilev and Kosarev have the right to plunder CorpBank's assets, while the people who oppose them and act in the interest of the state ought to be stripped off of representative power, even though it is vested in them by the law. All of this unfolded three years ago, in 2015. It is now 2018 and Gerdzhikov once again is talking on Tsvetan Vassilev's favourite channel, bTV - “for the past few years laws in Bulgaria have been written in an irresponsible manner, with populist goals and unprofessionally”, “this is a violation of basic legal principles”, “professionalism has been cast to the side”, “when I see how laws are being drawn up, especially in the last few years, I get incensed”. There is no point in guessing - his words are in response to the amendments to the Bank Insolvency Act, also known as the CorpBank Act, among whose proponents is MP Delyan Peevski. According to Gerdzhikov, the law is unconstitutional and there is no such thing as declaring past deals null and void in the “civilised world”.The answer in 2018 is easy. Once one writes an opinion that scratches out a whole section of commercial law, and acts (probably in exchange for a generous fee) in service of people plundering CorpBank assets, one simply has no choice but to keep spewing nonsense. The law provides for the recovery of collaterals in favour of the bank, invalidity of set-offs and a legal recourse for the bank's insolvency administrators to return hundreds of millions of levs to the insolvency estate. All of this does not suit Vassilev and his thieving gang. Of course, Gerdzhikov's commercial law, not the textbook version he teaches his students but his and Vassilev's version, will express opinion contrary to that of the legislator.