Belgrade defence attorneys of Bulgarian Madoff delay his extradition by chicanery

The hearing of the extradition case of Bulgarian banker Tsvetan Vassilev, indicted for reducing to bankruptcy the fourth biggest bank in Bulgaria, which was scheduled for 28 May, has been postponed, announced the spokesperson for the Supreme Court in Belgrade, Tatjana Tesic, cited by Insajder. After additional information was sent by the competent institutions in Bulgaria, the Supreme Court had to hear out Vassilev, but this has been postponed until 18 June.

“The reason is that the defence lawyers have notified in advance that they cannot attend the hearing as they have other case hearings scheduled,” Tesic said.

The lawsuit on the bank's collapse has been going on since February 2018. The former majority shareholder Vassilev is charged on 144 counts for embezzlement and faces from 10 to 20 years jail time. In an 11,000-page indictment 18 persons are quoted, they are described as organised crime group accused of embezzling BGN 2.6bn, which has “put at risk the banking system and national security of Bulgaria”.

CorpBank fell into crisis owing to those embezzlements and in June 2014 the bank was put under the supervision of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB). The Bulgarian embassy declined comments on Vassilev's case. “We do not comment cases which involve criminal prosecution,” embassy representative Sergey Andreev told Insajder.

Otherwise, the request for extradition is from six years ago. Bulgaria's Ministry of Justice sent it already in September 2014. The proceedings have not been completed as of yet because the Appellate Court remitted the case to a lower court twice.    

Now the case will again be heard by the Supreme Court. On 10 March, Vassilev was heard out in courtroom, but as the prosecutor was absent and Vassilev's defence attorneys asked for additional time, the judge scheduled a new hearing for 23 March. However, it was not held because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people see personal and political connections behind Vassilev's decision to hide out in Serbia. In 2012 he bought a glass factory in Paracin and was proclaimed as saviour, but under his management the debts of the factory soared 70 times. The factory is bankrupt and a suit is filed against Vassilev for deliberately instigating insolvency proceedings. In 2014 he gave RSD 1.2m for the foundation of Dragica Nikolic, wife of then-President Tomislav Nikolic. Nikolic himself said that it happened before the request for extradition was received and explained the donation with his “personal contacts” with the Bulgarian.

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