Lozan Panov with a new anti-Bulgarian campaign: Sues the country in Strasbourg over his fine

The Black Swan incriminated in two serious tax offences related to the acquisition of an apartment from Arteks

Lozan Panov and his wife Elisaveta

After years of concerted efforts to bury Bulgaria’s judicial system into the ground and after gradually turning the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) into a weapon wielded by the oligarchs, the chairperson of the SCC Lozan Panov has undertaken yet another attack against Bulgaria. The country’s de jure №1 judge is suing it in Strasbourg over a BGN 1,000 fine that he got for infraction of the law and that has been upheld by courts of two instances.

This means that after breaking the nation’s rules and regulations, Panov is now about to argue before an international court that he should not have been punished for failing to observe the law.

The absurd situation, which goes against not only legal norms but every moral or ethical norm, came to light in a bTV interview given by the judge’s wife, Elisaveta Panova. The SCC head’s spouse, who has been dubbed the Black Swan, announced that she and her husband are going to file a claim in Strasbourg because they could not find justice in Bulgaria. That justice is hard to find in Bulgarian courts is well known, as is the fact that that unfortunate reality is largely the doing of Lozan Panov.

Ever since assuming the position of SCC head in January 2015 and gaining power over the lower-instance courts like the Sofia City Court and the Sofia District Court through his strawmen, Panov has been working to turn Bulgaria’s judicial system into a pawn in the hands of the indicted oligarchs operating in the country, led by fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev, the ringleader of the Capital circle Ivo Prokopiev and pharmaceutical tycoon Ognyan Donev.

There are over a dozen evidences confirming this, while Lozan Panov apparently views himself as the guardian of the interests of Tsvetan Vassilev, who is being tried for embezzling billions from CorpBank. An entire series of interpretive cases considered by the SCC is working in the favour of the fugitive banker and his cronies. Panov even had no qualms using the SCC to try and block the illegal assets forfeiture procedure against the banker. Against the backdrop of these actions, strictly aimed at helping people who have defrauded Bulgarian citizens of millions of levs and are now trying to escape retribution, the complaints of Panov and his spouse that there is no justice in Bulgaria seem like a joke. Unfortunately, the SCC head’s behaviour is real, as is the fact that one of the country’s most important judicial institutions is led by someone serving the interests of indicted individuals, to whom he is tied through their common mentor – the father of the criminally conducted privatisation process, former PM Ivan Kostov.

By the way, Mina Kostova, the daughter of the premier responsible for helping people like Tsvetan Vassilev, Ivo Prokoiev, Ognyan Donev and dozens of other “prominent figures” in the privatisation process plunder the country’s assets, is a family friend of the SCC head and his wife Elisaveta Panova, aka the Black Swan. That relationship with the Panovs goes far beyond the normal bounds of friendship, and the Kostov family is not the only example. While, judge №1 is pulling all his levers in the judicial system to serve the interest of the behind-the-scenes clique in Bulgaria (created by his family friends, the Kostovs), it was revealed two weeks ago that he and his wife live in an apartment bought at ridiculously low prices from other family friends – the owners of Arteks, the couple Vesela and Plamen Miryanov.

An investigation conducted by the publication Legal World showed that Elisaveta Panova is the client that has gotten the lowest prices from the construction company. In April 2013 she acquired a four-bedroom apartment in the luxury Arteks residential building in Sofia’s neighbourhood Izgrev at prices four times below the market level. In an interview for the bTV programme 120 Minutes on 7 April she essentially confirmed this by showing the property’s deed. According to the document, she bought a 172-square-metre (1,851-square-foot) apartment and two garages of 19 sq m (204 sq ft) each for the total sum of €80,000, which is fewer than €380 per square metre. A visit to the websites of major real estate brokers shows that the average price for an Izgrev apartment in the process of construction was €1,040 per square metre at the time and over €1,200 per square metre for completed ones. Bear in mind that these prices concern regular apartment buildings not luxury ones like Arteks’s, where the asking price jumps to over €1,500 per square metre. Despite the attempts of the TV programme’s host Svetoslav Ivanov to assist Elisaveta Panova in defusing the scandal by artificially raising the price to €465 (after calculating it without taking into account the two garages), it turns out that the Back Swan acquired the apartment at a price four times below the market level.

The apartment itself was bought through the company Ganeva 2000, of which Elisaveta Panova is the sole owner. Therefore, the purchase should be reflected in the property statements of her husband from 2015, i.e. the year they got married, onwards. But that is not the case. In her bTV interview Panova avoided another inconvenient question – about the vacation home by the sea that her now-husband acquired in 2013 in one of the attractive areas near the city of Varna. The 72-square-metre (775-square-foot) house and a 480-square-metre (5,166-square-foot) yard cost the “honourable” judge just BGN 26,000. A quick research reveals that the market value of the property is at least four times higher even today, despite the drop in real estate prices over the past year. These discrepancies were never addressed by Panova in the interview, thanks to the helpful assistance of the host.

The long list of different sums paid for the apartment only nourishes doubts that the apartment where the Panovs have been living since the beginning of 2018 is not just a bargain buy.

This assumption is borne out by the journalistic inquiry by Trud daily, according to which at the purchase of a four-room apartment the Black Swan has breached the tax code at least twice. The first case is related to the fact that she concealed the origin of €175,000 which was not paid via bank transaction, as the law requires, but in cash. Mrs Panova has committed the second breach in her capacity of a sole proprietor and manager of Ganeva 2000 and evading VAT tax due to the state for this deal. According to the material, to become the owner of a 172-square-metre apartment in a deluxe building Mrs Panova has not paid only €81,000, as is written down in the deed circulated by her personally but a total of €256,000, i.e. about half a million levs. If the deal were attested by notary and for its real price, Mrs Panova would have paid another BGN 100,000 in VAT for it via her company.

The web of lies weaved by the spouse of Bulgaria’s No.1 Judge was untwined after she herself explained before the media outlet defending her husband, sustained by indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev, namely Capital, that she paid not €225 per square metre, as was registered in the Land and Property Register but €382, which proved to be untrue. None of the deals concluded between Arteks Company and the buyers of the apartments in the same apartment block has not been attested by a notary at a price so low as claims the wife of Bulgaria’s top judge. Before Trud daily, an expert on sales of new lodgings explains that the concealment of the real price of property transpires from the very deed. It features a round sum of €80,000 which the company of Elisaveta Panova paid to the builder for the construction of a real estate, as well as another €1,000 for purchasing the certificate for engineering construction, again from Arteks.

“The deed contains an additional clause which provides that if the property buyer, according to the circumstances, in our case the company Ganeva 2000, cannot come into possession or is dispossessed by a legal procedure, Arteks should restore the double price of the deal, i.e. €162,000 plus another €110,000 described as forfeit. This is the usual practice for many construction companies when their customers prefer to pay in cash which guarantees that they won’t be cheated by a buyer, especially when it comes to the buildings still under construction,” reads the article, according to which Elisaveta Panova had paid €1,370 for each square metre of the 172-square-metre apartment.

It means that for the apartment where Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov is living now, his wife, apart from the paltry €81,000 transferred via bank, has paid “under the counter” another €1,000 per square metre, the article reads. The question about the origin of money in such cases is the most difficult for the investigators, at least because the persons under investigation are not interested in promoting justice. According to the article, though, when Panova effected these ample payments she exacerbated the conflict with Dimitar Ganev, the son of her late first husband Ivan Ganev. Elisaveta met Ivan Ganev in the late 1990s when the latter already had a lucrative business and good contacts with the first serious investors from Germany who set foot in Bulgaria. Several years after she came to Sofia as a student, Elisaveta took the surname of her first husband who was much older than her.

After Ganev died in 2005, she came into conflict over the inheritance with the children of a first marriage. Ganeva claimed that she was entitled to a larger share of it because she had a child born in this marriage. In the long run, she took the lion’s share of the Ivan Ganev’s real property and came into possession of his business. In 2014, Dimitar, the son of Ivan Ganev reported Elsaveta Ganeva to the police exposing her for illegal drawing of BGN 40,000 from the bank account of his father’s companies within two months.

It turned out that the money has been drawn and Ganeva concealed from the bank the fact of her husband’s (account owner) death. Due to the frequent drawings the bank ordered an audit and found out that there were some irregularities. After that the widow’s access to the accounts was suspended.

From the financial reports of Ganeva 2000 published in the Commercial Register it transpired that there was no flow of funds amounting to BGN half a million which was invested in the real estate in the Sofia upmarket neighborhood of Izgrev.

It means that in all probability Elisaveta Panova had the money in cash which she pocketed after the death of her first husband.

Probably, the money for the apartment is of some other origin, which Elisaveta and Lozan Panov seem to cover up by all means. They maintain that by the time of the purchase the two of them did not even know each other or at least did not have close relationships. This claim, however, raises doubts having in mind the fact that the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation and his spouse refuse to give clear-cut answers as regards the disclosures concerning their apartment which Ganeva bought from their future best men, owners of Arteks construction company, concludes the newspaper article.

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