Nikolay Staykov & Co. with a fund sponsoring vicious attacks

The scandal surrounding Malofeev and Reshetnikov is being whitewashed by attributing non-existent Russian ties to Peevski

A new desperate campaign against the enemies of its mentors – indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev and fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev – has been launched by the cohort of former employees of the head of the Capital circle that is now ostensibly working for the pretentiously named NGO Anti-Corruption Fund. This operation masked as an investigation has several goals.

On the one hand, it is to deliver yet another strike against the prosecutor general-elect Ivan Geshev by once again spreading the talking point that the Prosecutor’s Office, as represented by him, is purposefully not looking into a supposed connection between lawmaker and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski and the collapse of CorpBank, something that has been proven to be untrue hundreds of times already. On the other hand, the idea is to hit Peevski himself, long identified by the oligarchy in Bulgaria as its №1 enemy because of his legislative initiatives and the revelations made by the publications of his media group regarding the behind-the-scenes clique’s thieveries. But above all, the goal is to whitewash the shady ties to dubious Moscow figures of Prokopiev’s associates – fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev and the chairperson of the National Movement “Russophiles” Nikolay Malinov – by pinning non-existent Russian ties to other people. In order to downplay the espionage scandal, which exposed not only the subversive operations conducted by Vassilev and the indicted in the case Malinov but illuminated the identity of their Russian patrons with evidence and documents – GRU general Leonid Reshetnikov and the oligarch with strong Kremlin connections Konstantin Malofeev.

And so on 5 November, the so-called Anti-Corruption Fund, which has been operating exclusively as an instrument for paid vicious attacks since its inception, released the second episode of its The CorpBank Case: The Missing Names series. Unsurprisingly, it was only minutes before the video turned up in another place harbouring former employees of Prokopiev and media outlets affiliated with him – the Bulgarian desk of Radio Free Europe. Just as unsurprisingly, the video is an 11-minute manipulation relying not on documents but rather on insinuations, similarly to the first episode. Once again, the writers and directors of this hodgepodge of half-truths and outright lies make a string of mistakes betraying the fact that their product is pure disinformation and not the investigation they advertise it as.

In the first part of the hodgepodge, in an attempt to frame lawmaker of the opposition party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) Delyan Peevski for the South Stream gas pipeline debacle, Nikolay Staykov’s gang for vicious journalistic attacks effectively confirmed Tsvetan Vassilev’s ties to Russia by, probably unwittingly, revealing that he has communicated directly with one of the most trusted people of President Vladimir Putin – Alexander Babakov. The video reveals that the Russian was among the visitors to the fugitive banker’s office on 22 November 2013. Babakov, a lawmaker in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, is believed to be one of the people tasked with personally monitoring the progress of the South Stream project. As if to make the connection between him and Vassilev perfectly clear, the Anti-Corruption Fund also presented a document proving that CorpBank issued a €2.5m guarantee for the project on the name of the Russian company Stroytransgaz. Do you see any involvement of Delyan Peevski here? There is not one to be seen because the authors of the film do not show one, which does not stop them from trying to pin Russian ties and the project itself on him. How? With claims made by Tsvetan Vassilev.

Since the authors obviously espouse the propaganda motto that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth, the exact same tactic is used in the second episode of their series. It, too, fails to provide documents proving such dependencies. However, the claims of Vassilev, the main defendant in the CorpBank case, against his sworn enemy Peevski, whose legislative initiatives staved off the fugitive banker’s attempts at a secondary plundering of the lender, are embellished with those by another indicted individual – Nikolay Malinov. Why and how Prokopiev’s former employees have come to the decision to trust the word of an indicted person like Vassilev, who refuses to even testify in his own case because he is hiding in Belgrade, and a second one, who travelled to Moscow to receive the Order of Friendship and meet their common mentors Malofeev and Reshetnikov, is really a rhetorical question. The more intriguing part is that the creators of the video are yet again tangled up in their own conspiracy.

First, they disprove the very thesis they are trying to peddle – about a connection between Peevski and the collapse of CorpBank – by admitting that only one testimony out of the over 400 taken as part of the investigation mentions his name. Which one? That given by Nikolay Malinov, of course. Here is the time to remind that every single defendant in the case, with the exception of Tsvetan Vassilev, has already testified, including the bank’s executive directors. But neither of them has mentioned such a connection. Why? It is simple – there is not one.

Its existence is only alleged by Vassilev, who has much to gain from making Peevski out to be worse than the devil because it was the amendments to the Bank Insolvency Act introduced by Peevski and several other MRF lawmakers that stopped the secondary plundering of CorpBank and allowed bankruptcy administrators to return some of the stolen assets to the lender’s insolvency estate. The same applies to Malinov, who mentions Peevski twice out of the blue, if the documents presented by the Anti-Corruption Fund are to be believed.

Second, no doubt to lend some credibility to the story, the video credits Peevski with business interests in a whole host of companies he has nothing to do with, something that can be easily verified with a simple visit to the public registers. In addition – an old fabrication about “unpaid loans” by Peevski is pushed forward, putting the authors in the awkward position of incriminating themselves in a lie. It is their short memory to blame. After citing all sorts of numbers regarding these imagined debts over the years – anywhere from BGN 150m to BGN 700m – they are now pinpointing the amount at BGN 575m. How they arrived at that sum remains unclear, but a quick Google search shows that this number has been mentioned repeatedly over the years by Tsvetan Vassilev, his pawn in the NGO We, the Citizens Vera Ahundova (agent Hranova of the former State Security – editor’s note) and the website relying on the fugitive banker for financing Frognews (owned by another former agent Ognyan Stefanov – editor’s note).

What is the actual truth? It is easy to find. Peevski and his family effectively repaid all their CorpBank loans long before the lender’s collapse, as it has been confirmed by the Bulgarian National Bank and the bankruptcy administrators. The transparent attempts to dust off yet another categorically disproven talking point, the one about Bulgartabac, are not even worth discussing.

What is worth examining, however, is the timing of the episodes in the soap opera produced by Staykov’s Anti-Corruption Fund. The second episode came out literally 48 hours after the Bulgarian public was shaken by the news that Nikolay Malinov, who is charged with spying for Russia – the same person that is cited as the video’s main source – was allowed to travel to Moscow. Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov responded by requesting that the Inspectorate to the Supreme Judicial Council investigate the Specialised Criminal Court judge who gave Malinov permission to leave the country in contravention of established legal procedures. Further, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, even dared to threaten Bulgaria over Malinov in a blatant interference in the country’s domestic affairs. Against this backdrop, the video tries to insinuate that the charges against Malinov are unfounded.

And if you think that this alignment of events is a coincidence, think again. The entire saga about the supposedly missing names on the CorpBank indictment list started barely a month after the espionage scandal blew up, which inevitably raises the question as to whether Prokopiev’s former employees, whose million-leva grant expires at the end of this year, have found another way to fund their operations.

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