Reshetnikov and Malofeev plot creeping coup in Bulgaria with over BGN 1bn from Tsvetan Vassilev

Nikolay Malinov charged with espionage; Reshetnikov banned from entering the country

Tsvetan Vassilev

A creeping coup designed to engineer a geopolitical shift in direction by Bulgaria and transforming the country from a pro-western state with EU and NATO allegiances to a Russian satellite has been plotted by the Kremlin oligarch Konstantin Malofeev and the Soviet GRU agent Gen. Leonid Reshetnikov.

The engine of the Plan Bulgaria, as the project was dubbed, on the ground was Nikolay Malinov, former Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) lawmaker, former publisher of the BSP’s newspaper Duma and current chairperson of National Movement “Russophiles”. Over €500m (BGN 1bn) worth of assets have been transferred by fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev for the purposes of the coup. The information was revealed in a joint statement by the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Interior and the State Agency for National Security (SANS). The leadership of the three institutions provided details about the 9 September operation, in which 11 raids were conducted, Nikolay Malinov was arrested and almost all leaders of the Russophiles movement questioned. Following an investigation launched on 3 July 2019 and conducted by the Specialised Prosecutor’s Office and SANS, Malinov was indicted on Tuesday under the Crimes against the Republic section of the Penal Code. The charge is under Article 105, Paragraph 1, which provides for 5-15 years of imprisonment for anyone who serves the interests of a foreign state or organisation.

Following his indictment, Malinov was released on bail, set at BGN 50,000 by the court, He is not allowed to leave the country. Meanwhile, SANS has banned Reshetnikov from entering Bulgaria for a period of 10 years. Malofeev is already on the sanctions lists of the US and the EU due to his financing of separatists in Ukraine and so he has been persona non grata for Bulgaria for some time.

Nikolay Malinov allegedly worked in service of two organisations affiliated with the two Russians and masked as NGOs, Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov said. The organisations Malinov partnered with are based in Russia – the Double-Headed Eagle Society and the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS). Both Reshetnikov and Malofeev are in the management of the Double-Headed Eagle Society, and the former also served as head of the RISS from 2009 until the beginning of 2017.

“Over the course of the investigation, a money laundering scheme was exposed. It was also used to transfer funds. Using that scheme, money was poured into initiatives threatening the national security of the country. There is evidence pointing to the involvement of Nikolay Malinov, and he has been indicted,” Tsatsarov explained.

His deputy Ivan Geshev noted that as part of the investigation it was established that the former BSP lawmaker took on tasks in service of the aforementioned organisations in exchange for payment. According to the evidence gathered during the raids and interrogations, Malinov accepted such tasks from Reshetnikov and Malofeev from January 2010 until his arrest on 9 September 2019, their main goal being steering the geopolitical course of Bulgaria towards Russia.

One of the key pieces of evidence discovered by the investigators is a 2015 memo written by Malinov in Russian to present information to the aforementioned Russian organisations. Entitled Project Bulgaria, it contains five points outlining a plan to affect the EU and NATO allegiances of Bulgaria: setting up NGOs, acquiring companies strategic to the country’s economy, controlling websites, owning a TV channel and a centre for analysis and creating a political party that must become an “undeniable factor” and give the plotters control over a “huge electoral group”.

To that end, Malinov reveals, “we have taken action to gratuitously transfer assets worth over half a billion euro by the indicted in Bulgaria Tsvetan Vassilev to Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeev”. He also notes that “those assets should not fall into Bulgarian hands because the Bulgarian state will find itself in possession and control of them”.

Nikolay Malinov was the person who introduced Tsvetan Vassilev to Malofeev – something that the Russian oligarch himself confessed to in an interview. According to him, the two have even met in Belgrade, where the fugitive banker has been holed up ever since the CorpBank scandal broke out and it emerged that he had syphoned off billions of levs from the lender whose collapse he engineered. Numerous times over the years, we, the Telegraph Media publications, have sounded the alarm on the Bulgarian Bernard Madoff’s several attempts to steal, with the protection and active involvement of Malofeev, the few lucrative assets financed with CorpBank loans and pledged as collateral in favour of the bank. The first time was in 2015, the same year that the memo was dated as. It was then that the “€1 gang” of Pierre Louvrier stepped onto the scene. Louvrier is a Belgian with Russian passport and direct ties to Malofeev and the former head of his security and current leader of the Ukrainian separatists Igor Girkin-Strelkov. Through Louvrier, the Kremlin oligarch and the fugitive banker tried to steal the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC), Dunarit, Avionams, NURTS, First Digital and GARB under the nose of the state. After that attempt failed, several others were made. Through Nikolay Malinov, the crime group tried to put a hand on TV7, a recipient of about BGN 300m in CorpBank loans. That particular scheme also failed, as did the Russian oligarch’s plan to take control of the BTC through another of his figureheads – Dmitry Kosarev. Yet, Tsvetan Vassilev continues to hold the reins of Dunarit, despite the lack of legitimate grounds for that, via arms dealer Emiliyan Gebrev. The military plant is serving as a piggy-bank for the fugitive banker and his patron Malofeev.

In the memo found by investigating officers, Malinov de facto describes all the steps and reasoning behind them that resulted in those attempts at plundering on the part of the Kremlin gamesmen. The report clearly says that a serious support is needed to make a breach in the national infosphere through founding an authoritative TV channel or news agency for which heavy investments are necessary. Another accent in the staff report was the recommendation for purchasing Vivacom Company with the assistance of the Russian foreign trade bank VTB and an investor who would buy the company but at the same time it had to “remain under foreign control, not Bulgarian.”

Among other accents in the report is the instruction concerning the development of a political party which had to become an overpowering factor in the Bulgarian parliament and to work towards the change in the geopolitical orientation of Bulgaria. According to Malinov, the apologists for these ideas in Bulgaria cannot manage to achieve these goals by themselves, without the help of Russia, and this help has to come in the form of “purchasing the profit-yielding branches of the Bulgarian economy.”

Malinov also notes that the contact between Malofeev and Vassilev was established on the recommendation of Reshetnikov. “As regards Reshetnikov and Malofeev there is evidence that they have been working in cooperation for years and were both members of various organisations, such as Double-headed Eagle, Katehon think tank and St. Basil the Great charity foundation,” Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev said.

In the staff report Malinov also says that in the period from January to March 2015 an agreement was reached to transfer the assets as follows: in the sphere of telecommunications – Vivacom company, in the defence complex - Dunarit armory and Avionans (Malinov notes that Dunarit is the second largest ammunitions manufacturer and Avionans has good reputation in repairing works.) In the media sector there were different TV channels, including TV7, News 7 and Super 7. This TV group was quoted as taking the fourth place in Bulgaria according to its market share. There is also evidence in the case that in 2015 the company controlled by Malinov received funding amounting to millions of euro from a Cyprus-based company controlled by Malofeev for financing the attempts at getting hold of the Bulgarian media.

The general was disranked after a futile attempt at coup in Montenegro

Reshetnikov was relieved of his post as head of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI) after the failed coup plot in Montenegro in October 2016. The plot was devised to forestall the Montenegrin NATO membership in 2017 but it was staved off. Reshetnikov stepped down from his post shortly after it following the orders of President Putin. Only several months ago the Montenegrin court convicted in absentia two other Russian agents, Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov for an attempted coup. It turned out that one of them visited Bulgaria several times. Then the authoritative publication Insider commented: “the veterans of the intelligence services should not be directly involved in the scientific work of a research institute, but actually RISI takes an active part in the “applied activities.” It also turned out that Reshetnikov has been working in tandem with Malofeev for a long time and both worked in close cooperation trying to interfere in elections in the Republic of Serbia.

Igor Girkin-Strelkov, former chief of security for the Kremlin oligarch is among the four defendants who face charges as instigators of downing the Malaysian Boeing.

US: We back the efforts of Bulgaria towards protecting its sovereignty

The US fully supports the efforts of Bulgaria aimed at protecting its sovereignty from malicious influence. This opinion is quoted in the statement by the US embassy in Bulgaria occasioned by the revelations concerning the attempts of Malofeev and Reshetnikov to steer Bulgaria back into the Russian fold with the help of Nikolay Malinov and Tsvetan Vassilev. The statement was posted on the Facebook page of the diplomatic mission and it clearly says that the US is familiarised with the investigation of the Bulgarian law enforcement authorities of the alleged espionage case.

GERB asks about the meeting between Ninova and Reshetnikov, Radev awaits irrefutable evidence

“We all feel concerned and hope that Bulgaria will repel this cyber-attack against the state, we have to trust the people whose duty is to safeguard the national security and to wait till the dust settles. We would say that one question has been pending for two years now: was there a meeting between Mrs Ninova (chairperson of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Kornelia Ninova – Ed.’s note) and Mr Reshetnikov? These are the questions that will be answered now. So the MP of the ruling GERB party Spas Garnevski commented the accusations against Nikolay Malinov and the disclosures of the investigating authorities as well as the commentary of the BSP which says that it was a provocation and a bid to distract the attention from the “scandals stirred by the government.”

Garnevski noted that in this particular case everyone has to retain the sense of national responsibility and everyone is interested in raveling all this matter out. His colleague Toma Bikov in turn said that the charges are very serious and “could not be brought if they were not grounded in serious evidence.”

President Rumen Radev also commented on the disclosures and qualified them as the “impotence of the government to cope with the acute problems of the country” and “panicky attempts at seeking the enemy both in the country’s past and present.” In reply to the statement of Reshetnikov made several years ago that with Ninova they discussed his name before he was nominated by BSP for the president of Bulgaria Radev said: “I expect to see the irrefutable facts confirming the accusations of espionage. I was elected by the votes of two million Bulgarians and such insinuations are an offence to these people first and foremost.”

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