About Peevski and a frog protecting its swamp

Delyan Peevski

The frog of fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev – the website Frognews – has started yet another cannonade of mud throwing to protect its swamp. Do not be mistaken, it is a high-end swamp, generously funded by the financial fraudster with money he stole from CorpBank depositors. That explains the zealous reaction. Despite the global pandemic, Vassilev’s puppet website has no qualms about pouring dirt into the news cycle.

What is the particular matter in question? Several days ago, the scandalous examining magistrate with dubious legal expertise Boyko Atanasov complained on Facebook that he had been called in by the Prosecutor’s Office for a questioning in connection with an investigation into him undermining the good name of the judicial system. And since an article published by Monitor was in the case file, Vassilev’s frogs started croaking their old tune – about how the Prosecutor’s Office is being controlled by lawmaker of the opposition party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski. No word about how that same institution erased the Telegraph trademark. Because it would sound schizophrenic – to claim that Peevski somehow both controls the Prosecutor’s Office and uses it to destroy one of his own publications, right?

But such contradictions have long ceased to bother Vassilev and his people. The important thing for them is that Peevski, who is the Bulgarian oligarchs’ main enemy, be defamed. So that the public has no chance to learn who is the real bad guy in this scary film. Indeed, how could Peevski, who has introduced laws aimed at stopping the secondary plundering of CorpBank and whose publications regularly expose the oligarchs’ shady deals, be the good guy?

What is the root problem, though? Boyko Atanasov and the rest of Vassilev’s pawns do not want the Bulgarian public to know that they are main characters in the latest show put on by the fugitive banker on the other side of the Atlantic – this time using the RICO act. Ever since that particular claim in the district court of New York was filed, stories have been peddled in Bulgaria about how Americans were supposedly suing the Bulgarian National Bank, Peevski and a whole host of other public figures and institutions. The truth is that this is Vassilev’s latest attempt to save himself from retribution for CorpBank by pinning the blame for the lender’s collapse on someone else. But saying that outright would garner this masquerade no audience. That is why it is so important that no one finds out that the claim is nothing but Vassilev’s latest sham.

But the masks are now off. In yet another desperate attempt to conceal his Russian ties and draw attention away from his crimes and onto someone else, the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev actually unmasked himself on the so-called RICO case. The claim was filed with the district court of New York in the autumn of 2018 and until recently the financial fraudster was hiding his involvement in this bid to launch a civil law suit on US ground. Officially the first step towards legal action was taken by lawyer Zahari Tomov. It was intended as an attack on all enemies of the indicted banker, with the half-page list of names naturally including the main target – MRF lawmaker and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski.

The poorly patched-up story was a natural continuation of Vassilev’s first attempt to frame Peevski as well as the Bulgarian investigative and oversight institutions in front of the US authorities for the collapse of CorpBank with a claim under the Global Magnitsky Act. The attempt in question has clearly failed, as there has been no movement on his claim for several years now. In the meantime, three different international institutions, including the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), confirmed that the bank’s collapse was engineered by Vassilev himself, who syphoned it off.

The case in the New York court has gone nowhere in the past year and a half, with the clear futility of his malicious reports obviously frustrating the indicted banker and making him come out of the shadows. In July the court ordered for the procedure to be suspended, which likely pushed Vassilev to the desperate move to file another, amended claim and in doing so not only take off the mask by revealing his involvement in the whole story, but shed light on the identity of all of his pawns.

A visit to the PACER electronic system of the US courts shows that on 13 January a statement by Vassilev in support of the claim appeared in the database. In the days leading up to it, the system registered statements by all of his pawns in the media and the judicial system in Bulgaria, who have been trying for years to pass as independent and wronged in order to inundate the public consciousness with their boss’s talking points against Peevski, the oversight institutions, the Prosecutor’s Office and the courts (and more specifically the magistrates who do not yield to pressure created by smear campaigns launched by publications and journalists funded by Vassilev and his oligarchic cronies Ivo Prokopiev, Ognyan Donev and Sasho Donchev).

Statements in support of the claim have also been filed by renowned mouthpieces for Vassilev like Vera Arhundova and Daniel Bozhilov, but also magistrate Boyko Atanasov, Judge Rumyana Chenalova, who was dismissed from the Supreme Judicial Council as a form of disciplinary punishment, so-called investigative journalist Assen Yordanov and about a half dozen more. It is curious to note that all “testimonies” were given as early as the summer of 2019 – in the last week of June and the first week of July – but they were only recently entered into the system. Perhaps because the cohort needed time to regroup for a second attack.

The statements simply parrot the now familiar talking points that have been spread by all those individuals in favour of the defensive strategies used by Vassilev and the rest of the oligarchs in Bulgaria over the past few years.

And so the fugitive banker is repeating his old libels that CorpBank collapsed as a result of a “corporate raid”. It is a false claim that has been disproven by institutions, auditors and courts in Bulgaria and abroad – all of their reports confirm that Vassilev embezzled billions from the bank, turning it into a pyramid scheme and his personal piggy bank.

Most scandalous of them all, however, is the statement given by investigator Boyko Atanasov. For years, he has been openly serving the interests of shadowy players like Tsvetan Vassilev and the rest of the oligarchs – Ivo Prokopiev, Ognyan Donev and Sasho Donchev. Atanasov is also an active participant in various protests and initiatives organised by the indicted oligarchs and their pawns in violation of the ethics code of the judicial system. His name was even put forward by the website Bivol, the NGO Boets (controlled by Tsvetan Vassilev) and the Justice for All initiative, which is linked to Ivo Prokopiev, as a “citizens’ candidacy for prosecutor general”. In his statement to the US court Atanasov says that the case should not be heard in Bulgaria because the US has jurisdiction and because Bulgaria lacks good legislation in terms of combating money laundering and corruption. Atanasov also says that even if the case can be heard in Bulgaria, the court there would not ensure a fair trial (the same thesis is presented by Chenalova in her statement). He says he shares this position as “an expert and a magistrate”, omitting the fact that the ruling on the jurisdiction of a case has to come in due process from the competent authority, which is not Atanasov. The point about lack of fair trial in Bulgaria is in violation of all ethical norms laid out by the Judicial System Act.  

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