bTV caught in a cobweb of Bozhkov and Bulgarian Madoff

Both oligarchs used the services of the international fraudster Barak Alon

One of Bulgaria's national TV stations got caught in a real oligarchic cobweb. Three oligarchs at odds with the justice system managed to spread their tentacles, reaching deep into it: Vasil Bozhkov, charged with inflicting damages to the state treasury to the tune of BGN 700m, indicted fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev, and Ivo Prokopiev - an oligarch with two pending cases indicted for privatisation-related affairs.

The influence of the gambling boss over the national broadcasting service was exposed to Telegraph Media by his former partner Tsvetomir Naydenov. He disclosed that behind the influence of Bozhkov in bTV stood the international fraudster Barak Alon who put in touch the gambling tsar with the CEO of bTV, Florian Skala.

“I've heard from the Skull (Vasil Bozhkov's nickname - editor's note) that the meeting took place in Courchevel last year and Barak Alon introduced him to Florian Skala. Bozhkov boasted of being on friendly terms with Florian who was the executive director of bTV,” Naydenov told Telegraph Media.

It is not by chance that the name of Barak Alon pops up. It became publicly known in connection with the investigation of another indicted oligarch, Tsvetan Vassilev. In the summer of 2014, when the scandal with syphoning off CorpBank, which operated as a financial pyramid, rocked Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Madoff took refuge in Vienna first. Tsvetan Vassilev had dinner in a deluxe restaurant in the Austrian capital. The international fraudster Barak Alon who syphoned off two banks in the Czech Republic and Hungary kept him company at the table. Alon is an Austrian citizen, he was the advisor of Tsvetan Vassilev and CorpBank. The name of the fraudster can also be found in the leaked lists of guests who visited Vassilev in his Sofia office. Moreover, his name is associated with a series of financial scandals.

In the remote year 1999, a huge financial scandal erupted in the Czech Republic. The biggest bank in the country, Komercni Banka (Trade Bank) was on the brink of bankruptcy. The reason for it was the unprecedented fraud involving counterfeited bills of credit used for draining over $330m from the then state-owned bank. The money was transferred to the accounts of Alon's company. In January 2003 Alon landed up in jail. But not in the Czech Republic.

The international fraudster was arrested at the border with Hungary. The reason were the charges pressed by Budapest for syphoning off the local Postbank via a scheme similar to the one used in the Czech Republic but with the help of Trigon Bank, registered in Austria and owned by Barak Alon's father. Later Alon was extradited to Austria, stood trial and even spent some time in jail.

His close friend is Ernest Geiger, then head of the Third Directorate of the Criminal Police Office in Austria who was implicated in an affair with cover ups of brothels' operations. Markus Bernat, freelance journalist contributing for the otherwise authoritative Austrian newspaper Der Standard, kept them company. Bernat authored articles defending the interests of the two indicted oligarchs, Tsvetan Vassilev and Ivo Prokopiev. These are the actual “dancers” in the Viennese waltz of the Bulgarian Madoff.

This is exactly why the name of Alon shows that it was not the first time when Bozhkov and Tsvetan Vassilev used common pawns for implementing their criminal schemes. According to Naydenov, the gambling tsar wanted to get control over broadcasting in Bulgaria to ensure media comfort for himself. 

“He was close with Didier Stoessel (former CEO of Nova TV - editor's note). He said that we cannot make a breakthrough in any television because they were occupied by his people. Barak was kind of a mediator. The Skull told me that Barak was working for him. But I do not know whether it was true. Once the Skull wanted to buy Nova TV too, and Didier arranged meetings with the owners for him. Maybe both Florian and Barak arranged the Skull's meetings with the owner of bTV or with his representative. He was working towards it in order to ensure media comfort for himself so that TVs could not impede his business. Apart from the fact that the TV has a big advertising contract, it could give protection. He courted the executive director, took him around, procured girls and women for him, arranged trips to the islands in the summer and to Courchevel in the winter for them, threw parties to entertain him. So he behaved and kept control over them. Advertising contracts are another issue. When he can make profit from you, he is very nice, this is his usual conduct,” Naydenov related, revealing the abhorring scheme for gaining control over the mainstream media.

His words show something else - the interests of Bozhkov and Vassilev are interwoven with the interests of Prokopiev. The latter himself inadvertently admitted in the shorthand records of ARGO-gate that he controls the mainstream in Bulgaria through his figureheads among the journalists. The brightest example of such control is precisely bTV where through Director of News, Current Affairs and Sport Venelin Petkov, Prokopiev is pulling strings and ensuring platform for promoting his theses.

bTV played an important role both at the start of the investigation of the CorpBank affair, and five years later when the justice system came down on Vasil Bozhkov. The two oligarchs are using a convenient media platform for spreading damaging information about their enemies and making attempts to evade retribution for their own criminal affairs.

From the early morning on 15 May when yet another episode in a series of attempts to incite a revolt against the state was played out (see below - editor's note), the united oligarchs' favourite TV station bTV has been filling the air with information about some fictional chats between indicted Vasil Bozhkov and a man nicknamed Vladi Goranov. On air, the TV was trying to imply that this chat is authentic. The media, which is part of the mainstream controlled by indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev, sent a reporter to the Parliament to look for MPs who would comment the dubious chats. All this is done with the only purpose to manipulate the public opinion and stir a scandal.

The vaudeville-style attempt of the oligarchs at inciting a revolt against the state was also commented for Telegraph Media by the gambling tsar's former partner Tsvetomir Naydenov. “I saw what was posted on Facebook. It's outright ridiculous. It has not an ounce of evidence. Who is the girl quoted in it? She may just as well be one of the hundreds of his mistresses. Her name does not appear in this conversation on any occasion. Neither is it clear whose the phone number is, no matter that the quoted name is of the finance minister. I don't see any reason for being concerned about anything, even if it was a conversation with Vladislav Goranov,” commented Naydenov who sent a warning signal about Vasil Bozhkov to the Prosecutor's Office.

“It could well be a falsification because the Skull is a cheater. He can falsify anything. He committed frauds already before 10 November 1989. Just like he cheated at cards and dice games when gambling, he can do anything,” Naydenov assured. To the question why Bozhkov attacks and mars the reputation of the finance minister, Naydenov answered: “Because Goranov quite rightly revoked his license for evading taxes.”

Naydenov added further that the oligarch who fled to Dubai hiding from justice deserves eight capital punishments.

“Because of the Skull, the National Assembly has to restore capital punishment, the court has to sentence him, and then it can be again recalled. He is the only Bulgarian criminal who deserves it,” Naydenov said flatly.

Only a week before that, on the friendly air of bTV, the indicted Bozhkov tried to undermine the government hurling accusation against Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov who allegedly advised him not to pay nearly BGN 700m in taxes for his gambling business. The accusations were immediately disproved by both Goranov and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov who said that those were nothing but tall stories and that Bozhkov launched an attack in an attempt to save his skin. Despite that, Bozhkov's interview betrayed that his aim is to destabilise the state. It is an old adage that when a finance minister is toppled the rest of the cabinet members follow suit, that is why the gambling boss delivered a pre-emptive blow, experts are adamant. The subsequent series of embarrassing TV events staged by both Nove Holding, owned by Bozhkov, and Tsvetan Vassilev's “mule” Sasho Dikov, show that the key goal of the conspirators is namely “decapitation” of the state.


The media stopped broadcasting the briefing of the National Operative Staff to give the floor to Bozhkov

bTV feigned some technical reasons for muffling the briefing of the National Operative Staff which reported about the coronavirus situation, so bTV could be the first to broadcast the news about the posts of the indicted gambling boss Vasil Bozhkov on Facebook. The TV station, which is sliding down to the level of a cable TV at a blistering pace, is part of the mainstream of indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev and is turning into a flagship media of the indicted oligarchs.

While the main information channels in Bulgaria are focused on the issues related to Covid-19 and cover the briefings of the National Operative Staff, bTV manages to push through the interests of gambling tsar Vasil Bozhkov via its national broadcasting service. The favourite media of the oligarchs, which is directly subordinated to Prokopiev, is tirelessly following and broadcasting the activities of Bozhkov who is hiding out in UAE. Last Friday, the same TV again broadcast a telephone interview with the gambling boss.


Oligarchs come out with a news police-style Vladi Goranov scenario

The new episode of the revolt against the state, staged by the oligarchs, that has been running for a week now, on 15 May went on with a police-style scenario - Vladi Goranov. Vasil Bozhkov, the oligarch indicted with 11 counts who is being probed for syphoning off BGN 700m in evaded taxes, again attacks the establishment and again his target is Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov. Last week Bozhkov attacked Goranov with smearing reports, and he even announced on air that the purpose of his endeavour is to make the minister resign. The attack came prior to a second protest rally organised by another Kremlin's scarecrow of the oligarchy - Kostadin Kostadinov, aka Kopekin. For this new attack was used a Facebook page run most probably by Nove Holding. Two SMS chat boxes were posted on the social media platform that allegedly featured a conversation between Bozhkov and a person quoted as Vladi Goranov. The telephone numbers used in this communication are not shown, so there is no chance of finding out if it is a real conversation between these two people. The very chat boxes, if they are authentic, show that the two discussed the gambling business of Bozhkov, but without Goranov's alleged advice to Bozhkov not to pay taxes - a claim which the gambling boss made last week. Later into Friday, sources of the finance ministry reported that Goranov will not comment on Bozhkov's allegations.

“Dear colleagues, owing to increased media interest resulting from the allegations circulated today on the part of Mr Vasil Bozhkov, the Ministry of Finance reminds that during a briefing at the Council of Ministers on 8 May, Minister Goranov commented on them and stated his position regarding the claims of Mr Bozhkov. That is why we declare that the Minister of Finance will not give any other statements concerning the claims and public activities of the abovementioned person who owes BGN 700m to the state treasury,” the press office of the ministry wrote.

The very attack comes after the attempts of the oligarchs to spill blood at the square in front of the Parliament were foiled, and the indicted Vasil Bozhkov announced that he will not stop his attacks against the state. The news came after for two consecutive days the gambling boss together with Tsvetan Vassilev tried to undermine the government, first through the circus-like performance of the journalist on call Sasho Dikov, and then by sending their Kremlin-paid cohort to rally in front of the Parliament. Now Bozhkov decided to resort to the tried-and-tested KGB methods - to launch an attack with damaging information. Several hours after the protest rally staged by the new Russophile Kostadin Kostadinov - Kopekin in front of the Parliament was dispersed, Bozhkov's company Nove Holding sent a letter to the media saying that the accused will file a report with the Bulgarian and international institutions. It doesn't say what his complaints are, but it is noted that on Friday at 8.00am on the Facebook page of Bozhkov a “small part of evidence compiled for the report” will be posted.

A similar threats-riddled scheme was employed several years ago by the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev who syphoned off billions from CorpBank. As soon as it became clear that he would have to answer for the heist of the century, he started spreading messages through journalists on his payroll that he would produce “evidence” against his enemies. The attack was joined by his paid minions from the NGO Boets, whose leader Georgi Georgiev was photographed with Vassilev, holding a black-colored document folder in Belgrade. However, the diversion tactics of the fugitive banker failed and so the Bulgarian Madoff has now obviously directed his efforts towards toppling the cabinet in cooperation with Vasil Bozhkov, the two of them paying for protesting rallies with the money they stole.


The gambling tsar follows in the footsteps of the Bulgarian Madoff, saying that people are “dumb”

Visibly unnerved by the failure of his SMS ploy, Vasil Bozhkov lost control and published an angry commentary on his official Facebook page. Nine hours earlier, he posted there his chats with Vladi Goranov, which were announced by the company of the indicted oligarch, Nove Holding, as “sensational proofs” of corruption.

Apparently mad about the frustrated police-like scenario, Bozhkov released a lengthy post in which he in brief calls all people “dumb” because they don't know the difference between taxes and charges. And claims that he owes nothing to the state treasury. However, the investigating authorities disprove his words and press charges against him for defrauding the treasury with BGN 700m.

Another oligarch sought by the justice system, Tsvetan Vassilev, employed the same tactics some time ago. After for a certain time he was threatening that he will publish “scandalous evidence” of corruption in Bulgaria and damaging reports about his enemies, he eventually took a U-turn and was forced on the defensive. From his deluxe hotel in Belgrade, Vassilev started to send lengthy messages to the society, saying that people didn't know a thing about finances and tried to convince them that he almost helped the depositors whose money he plundered.


New arrests at the protest rally of Kopekin for breaking the coronavirus quarantine

One man was arrested during the protest rally organised by Kostadin Kostadinov - Kopekin in front of the Parliament. The man was detained for breaking the quarantine, Telegraph Media learnt from the police. Currently about 400 people take part in the revolt incited by the indicted Kopekin. It is worthy of note that well-fed guys with tattoos are coming to the centre of Sofia in flocks.

A little earlier, the Regional Health Inspectorate alarmed the units of the Interior Ministry and Sofia municipality, warning that the protest may become a hotbed of contagion. Such events are a blatant violation of all anti-epidemic measures imposed by Health Minister Kiril Ananiev. The major requirement is to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people in one place and close to each other.

The grossest violation of anti-epidemic measures took place on Thursday when thugs and protesters from the circle of fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev were called up to shout in front of the Parliament. Hundreds crowded in the square standing at centimetres' distance from each other as some of them were apparently seeking to spill blood.

According to operative information, now the order is the same - to clash with the law enforcement authorities and provoke bloodshed. The revolt against the state is funded by the Bulgarian Madoff who stole BGN 5-6bn from CorpBank, and by another indicted oligarch, Vasil Bozhkov, who defrauded the state treasury, evading taxes worth BGN 700m.

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