Tsvetan Vassilev’s attorney launders money for oligarch Malofeev
Lazar Karadaliev with third charge, this time for involvement in a crime groupMonitor News Agency , Sofia
Law firms, among whose members is one of the attorneys for Tsvetan Vassilev’s defence, have been linked to money laundering operations for a Russian oligarch on the list of people sanctioned by the US and the European Union. The news came from Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev in an interview for bTV. According to the investigating authorities, the oligarch in question is the infamous Konstantin Malofeev. The Russian has serious ties to the Bulgarian Madoff, with a slew of evidence of their close business relations emerging publicly over the past few years.
Malofeev was keen on acquiring from Vassilev some of the golden-geese companies bought with CorpBank money – the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, Dunarit, Avionams, NURTS and First Digital. First they attempted to execute their plan via Belgian pseudo-investor with Russian passport Pierre Louvrier and when that failed – they gave it a second try with Russian Dmitry Kosarev. In 2015 Malofeev tried to acquire ownership and control of the TV channels TV7 and News 7 through another pawn of his and Vassilev’s – Nikolay Malinov. According to unconfirmed information, Vassilev and Malofeev met several times in Belgrade in the time that the banker has been hiding in Serbia from the Bulgarian justice system. There are witness testimonies alleging that Vassilev has strong Russian connections that are protecting him. The latest news smashes to pieces the Bulgarian Madoff’s public attempts at making himself out to be a victim of a “conspiracy” as well as the manipulations with which he is inundating the US administration in his Global Magnitsky Act claims.
In addition, the close relations between the fugitive banker and Malofeev have now been confirmed by the fact that Vassilev’s attorney Lazar Karadaliev has been charged with laundering money for the Russian oligarch. The lawyer, who normally shies away from the spotlight, personally attended the hearing at which the court considered in absentia a measure for the fugitive banker. The lawyer’s name also appeared in the Prosecutor’s Office’s released summary of the indictment of Tsvetan Vassilev. Karadaliev is specifically named as a person who received BGN 210,000 in cash in 2014 at the order of the fraudster. The money was intended to be spent on “preventive action” on lead witnesses in the CorpBank draining case. This is why Karadaliev is now a defendant, with the case materials featuring evidence that the lawyer tried to use the law firm to hide proof of the bank’s syphoning off from the investigators. He is also charged with involvement in a crime group engaged in transporting and storing excise goods for duty labels. According to Geshev, the law firms searched at the end of December 2018 have bene connected to money laundering services for a Russian oligarch on the EU and US sanctions list.
“In this particular case, we are talking about an organised crime group dealing in money laundering. We have reason to believe that some of the transactions under investigation ended up in offshore companies owned by a Russian oligarch on the EU and US sanctions list. We have international responsibilities too. Cognizant of the potential ramifications and despite feeling an element of urgency, we petitioned the court for a search warrant giving us access to certain law firm offices and personal homes, specifying exactly what we were looking for. As a result, a member of this law firm, attorney Karadaliev, now has a third charge in as many cases,” said Ivan Geshev, adding that the case concerns embezzlement and laundry of millions of euro. The abovementioned individual is attorney Lazar Karadaliev, who represents fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev. The lawyer is a defendant in two other cases that are about excise goods and not disclosing materials in the CorpBank case. “We have evidence incriminating this person and we have taken the necessary action. We found what we were looking for during the searches. We discovered a contract that is the basis for the money flows to the Russian oligarch I mentioned earlier,” elaborated the deputy prosecutor general.
“In Bulgaria, there are no people out of justice reach. When there’s evidence of crime committed anyone can be brought to court. Defence lawyers, prosecutors and MPs – all can be searched. So, why couldn’t we search lawyers’ offices too?” Geshev commented. He added that, in his opinion, the protest petition being prepared by lawyers to contest searches in their offices “is based on insufficient information in most cases, as for those who file it, it is a question of defence tactics, as being on the attack is the best form of defence.”
Dangerous Russian ties also surfaced in another major law suit against an indicted oligarch. Geshev also announced that Nikolay Banev, the businessman charged with draining privatised enterprises, secretly communicated with Russian lobbyists when in jail and together they planned to launch a media and political campaign in defence of Banev. “Mr Banev cannot win my compassion. Some days ago, a mobile phone was found in a pack of juice in his cell and he does not have the right to use such being under arrest. Our expert review has confirmed communication with Russian lobbyists, unofficial representatives of the Russian Federation. This means treason. He was promised Russian lawyers’ defence in the European Court of Justice and a media campaign in his defence in Russia. Launching a hybrid war was also discussed. There were even talks about media war against the Prosecutor’s Office, as a name of a certain Bulgarian journalist was being mentioned who is ready to spark it all off,” he said.
“There is written case evidence regarding the designated sums. We are expecting results from our colleagues in Switzerland. At some moment there was BGN 1m in Switzerland. We alerted the respective Swiss authorities as soon as we could. Today, we will inform Minister of Justice Tsetska Tsacheva, presenting the evidence available to us and we believe that they will be helpful to her. We extend our thanks to the Ministry of Justice for its cooperation,” Geshev said. He added that four enterprises are being probed as part of the case.
“The Banevs were declared as wanted long before they were apprehended. We carried out a certain procedure in that regard. Our services do not care for defendants’ excursions. Another option was to wait until they come back but if they did not you would have said, “Why didn’t you take them in custody in France since you knew their whereabouts,” explained the deputy prosecutor general when asked why the authorities did not wait until the Banevs came back to Bulgaria themselves but detained them in France.
It is a significant detail that Nikolay Banev and Tsvetan Vassilev have common business interests. The paper mill in Kostenets is proof of that. They even share defence lawyers. In one of the law suits against him Banev is represented by attorney Hristo Botev, who is among the team of lawyers defending the fugitive banker.