Prosecutor’s Office: Gebrev poisoning not related to Dunarit

The authorities present facts in response to the arms dealer’s manipulations

Emiliyan Gebrev

The attempted poisoning of arms dealer Emiliyan Gebrev, who has served as a pawn to fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev over the past few years, was not related to the military plant Dunarit. This was made clear in a press release by the Prosecutor’s Office, which describes in chronological order the developments of the investigation into the alleged poisoning of Gebrev, his son Hristo and the commercial director of EMKO. The Prosecutor’s Office announced that it was disclosing the information at the instruction of Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov in response to certain media outlets’ speculations that no work was being done on the case.

During the probe, the investigators requested that they be provided with all the available information on the business activities of EMKO OOD, owned by Emiliyan Gebrev – a company he later used in an attempt to gain a foothold in Dunarit. In the time around the alleged poisoning of Gebrev, however, “Emiliyan Gebrev did not take steps towards acquiring Dunarit, which makes any assertions to the contrary and citing such steps as reason for the attempted assassination groundless”, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Every single deal EMKO struck between 2014 and 2015 was also inspected. One of the hypothesis on which the authorities were working was that the murder attempts were related to arms exports to Ukraine.

The deal in question was signed with the Ministry of Defence for deliveries to the Ministry of Internal Affairs – National Guard of Ukraine and was carried out in three stages: December 2014, January 2015 and March 2015.     

In its statement, the Prosecutor’s Office reminds the chronology of the incident as well as its investigation up to this point. Gebrev was urgently admitted to hospital on 28 April 2015 after he had dinner with business partners at the restaurant of a Sofia hotel. His life was saved thanks to the competent intervention of the doctors. On the following day, 29 April, EMKO’s director of Production Operations was hospitalised with the same symptoms. On 4 May 2015 Gebrev’s son was taken to hospital to receive emergency medical care. In all three cases, the initial working diagnosis was a stroke, but after further testing and toxicological analyses of the blood, they were treated for severe poisoning with organophosphorus compounds.

As early as 1 May 2015, the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office started a pretrial proceeding looking into an attempted murder. The investigation was given to the Sofia Metropolitan Directorate of Interior. The investigators searched and retrieved evidence from vehicles, offices and homes, questioned numerous witnesses, forensic medical reports were requested as well as 13 toxicological experts’ opinions. The main version that investigators were working on at that point was attempted poisoning through food. Traces of chlorpyrifos (a highly-toxic insecticide used to protect crops from insect pests) were found in coffee prepared with the coffee machine in Emiliyan Gebrev’s house and on his son’s clothes. Traces of the same substance were also found in the arugula leaves in the salad that Gebrev and his partners ordered at the 28 April dinner, but the quantity was negligible and later explained by the treatment of the plants with chemicals in the production process. According to the medical examiners, the diagnosis of all three patients could be described as “severe poisoning with organophosphorus compounds”. On 4 June 2016 the pretrial proceeding was suspended as the perpetrator could not be found.   

On 11 October 2018 Emiliyan Gebrev sent a letter to Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov in which he maintains that the poison used in an attempt on his life is similar to Novichok drawing a parallel with the Skripal case. Following this letter the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office resumed the investigation on 15 October. On 19 October an agreement was signed between Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov, Minister of Interior Mladen Marinov and head of the State Agency for National Security (DANS) Dimitar Georgiev which greenlighted the establishment of a special unit for stepping up the investigation of this particular case.

It was assigned to a team of prosecutors, investigation police officers and DANS agents. In the course of work and after coordinating efforts with the partner services and the British Embassy in Sofia, the officers of the British police who investigated the Skripal case visited Sofia twice.

It was also found out that already in June 2015 Gebrеv on private account assigned to Finnish laboratory VERIFIN to make a toxicological tests of blood and urine samples. The expert evidence of the tests was made available to the investigating authorities for the first time on 23 October 2018. It confirms that in the submitted samples there were traces of two phosphorus- bearing compounds. The European investigation order was sent to the Finnish authorities with a view to gathering additional information. Many witnesses have been questioned, new expert tests have been commissioned while the ID data of persons who, according to the British investigators of the attempt on the life of Sergey and Julia Skripal, were sent in via international data exchange system. The comparison of the Interior Ministry and DANS databases showed that one of them is Sergey Fedotov who visited Bulgaria in 2015 on three occasions as his second visit was on 24 April (arrival in airport Burgas and departure from airport Sofia on 28 April 2015). Other persons were identified, all of them citizens of the Russian Federation, who accompanied Fedotov during his visits to Bulgaria, as well as other Russian citizens who travelled to Bulgaria with them.

The larger part of their routes were tracked and it was also found out that some of these persons were accommodated in a Sofia hotel located very close to the building where in 2015 was based the office of EMKO. The visitors insisted on being accommodated in the room which allowed direct observation of the building’s underground parking lot. Of special importance to the investigation is the found and confiscated footage of the security cameras installed at the parking lot. The technical expert analysis commissioned to the Bulgarian experts could not retrieve an image suitable for identification that is why the investigators approached the US colleagues asking for legal assistance and a new technical expert analysis was assigned to an FBI laboratory. Two European investigation orders were sent to the British authorities as the first requested all data concerning the Russians involved in the Skripal case and the second requested the comparison of all chemical compounds containing the substance quoted in the report of VERIFIN which was found and identified as Novichok in the course of British investigations. Up to now, there is no information that the European investigation orders were executed.

The Prosecutor’s Office underscores that the pretrial proceedings on the case of Gebrev’s and his two associates’ poisoning do not have a common reason and the actions of the investigating authorities have nothing in common with the lawsuit conducted by the Specialised Prosecution against Emiliyan Gebrev and other persons.  There are two claims against Gebrev in these cases – one is for syphoning off Dunarit armory and the second, for laundering money in favour of Tsvetan Vassilev and his high-ranking Russian patrons, Konstantin Malofeev among them.

The public prosecution is adamant: all claims that Gebrev was denied information about the course of the pretrial judicial proceedings are ungrounded.

Bivol’s lies in Newsweek debunked

The official statement of the Prosecutor’s Office has put to complete rout the lies of Atanas Chobanov, the Russian protégé who poses as the editor-in-chief of the racketeers’ website bivol.bg, concerning the attempt at poisoning of Emilyan Gebrev. Some time ago he flooded with lies the highly reputed US Newsweek magazine. Chobanov who is the son-in-law of Viktor Onuchko, the Kremlin-related longtime correspondent of RIA Novosti in Paris and Brussels, has repeatedly tried to spread lies abroad to curry favour with his mentors, the Bulgarian oligarchs. That particular issue of Newsweek published a material about the alleged poisoning of Emiliyan Gebrev, arms dealer and close friend of the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev. A week prior to the publication, the satellite media outlets of the Capital circle, run by another indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev, were keeping the issue on the boil.

Meanwhile, in Bulgaria the article in Newsweek was used by the shadowy political and economic structures and their media for disinformation and circulating open lies, binding Gebrev’s hospitalization with the Russian interests and the name of lawmaker and publisher of Telegraph Media Delyan Peevski. Namely Newsweek, an otherwise authoritative magazine, used as the source Chobanov. Apparently the US journalists have been misled and did not understand that this outright con artist used them to protect the interests of his master Tsvetan Vassilev. In the outlandish commentary for Newsweek Chobanov said that his reports “seed the idea that the Bulgarian media tycoon Delyan Peevski who has ties with the Russian intelligence wanted to lay hands on the Dunarit defence plant in order to get control over the sales of the Bulgarian weapons to Ukraine.”

However, he conveniently forgot how in March 2015 the fugitive banker brought to Bulgaria the gang of Pierre Louvrier, the Belgian with Russian passport, which attempted to purchase for 1 euro the golden assets of CorpBank bought with the money of the depositors defrauded by the mustachioed fraudster. And behind Louvrier stood the so-called Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev.

Ivan Geshev: The plant was purchased with CorpBank money

„Dunarit defence plant was bought with CorpBank money. This money is the reason for bringing to court the organised crime group headed by Tsvetan Vassilev. Naturally, this plant is part of the assets of CorpBank that was declared insolvent. If the bankruptcy administrators manage to sell it then the proceeds may be used for paying the depositors whose money was not guaranteed.” As early as at the beginning of this year, the newly elected Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev said so. In his words, the Anti-Corruption Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture (ACCIAF) and National Revenue Agency have issued garnishee orders to Dunarit in order to protect the interests of the State. A little later Telegraph newspaper disclosed that in practice before 2014 the defence plant was used as a private “piggy bank” of Tsvetan Vassilev as the loans absorbed by the plant were dished out as loans to other shell companies used as safety fuses. After the bank was shut down these debts were “paid off” via fictitious cessions and offsets. Through the accounts of Dunarit opened in Romania, from which the figureheads drew cash and transported it to Belgrade, and through the transfers to the fictitious counteractants of Dunarit who transferred the money the companies related to Vassilev. So the fugitive banker received the means for his lavish lifestyle in Belgrade and for funding media campaigns in newspapers, on websites and TV channels, generous fees for journalists, lawyers and expensive lobbyists in Bulgaria and abroad.

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