Capital Project

State Security agent Sasho describes how parallel state created by Kostov and his oligarchs works

Ivo Prokopiev

Do you remember The Matrix, the hit film that at the turn of the 21st century showed a dystopian world in which people can be held captives? The first installment in the series came out in 1999 – by that year, former PM Ivan Kostov, the godfather of Bulgaria’s murky privatisation process, had already created his first oligarchs. In the real world, he had laid the foundations of a parallel state that would become his mechanism of controlling the behind-the-scenes clique for years to come. And that has continued to this day even though lack of voter support got him out of politics nearly two decades ago.

Beyond timing and theme, there is no real connection between the project created by Kostov and the film, but the similarities are uncanny, including the point that every system has a bug. Agent Smith was it in The Matrix. In the parallel state constructed by Kostov that bug is also an agent, only a real-life one – Iliyan Vassilev, aka Agent Sasho of the State Security.

You need someone to spew lies on your behalf and offer himself as a vessel for your messages? Agent Sasho’s services are available, but only to certain people. People who are in the close circle of his mentor Ivan Kostov. For years, he has been providing said services to fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev and oligarch (also indicted) Ivo Prokopiev, and now he is doing so for the latest businessman to be taken to court – Vasil Bozhkov. Agent Sasho turns up whenever there is a scandal concocted by indicted and charged oligarchs against the state’s efforts to punish their crimes.

And so amid revelations of the past couple of days that Bozhkov paid for airtime on the convenient bTV platform so that viewers of the national TV network can wake up and go to bed with his claims coming from the TV set, Agent Sasho weighed in on Facebook. He tried to convince people that the state is being controlled by opposition lawmaker Delyan Peevski (publisher of Telegraph Media). Such an allegation might be absurd, but it is no surprise. The individuals we mentioned earlier, the people for whom he is speaking, are trying to give him platform through all the cogs in their slandering machine in order to draw attention away from their crimes and blame the state of the country on someone else, while absolving themselves of all responsibility. And who is better for the role of a scapegoat than the man whose legislative initiatives stemmed their shady schemes, the same schemes that the outlets in his media group have been exposing for years? But we all know how “innocent” those people really are. It is not just the Prosecutor’s Office that is aware. Just ask the CorpBank depositors defrauded by Tsvetan Vassilev; the employees of the mining company Kaolin, a leader on the Balkans before Ivo Prokopiev acquired it for cents on the dollar; the resort town of Merichleri, whose death toll is staggering because of the local operations of the “businessman concerned for society”; and the people whose fates are the reason why the gambling tzar Vasil Bozhkov was hit with charges on 11 counts covering the entire spectrum of the Penal Code.

The surprise here is that in an attempt to justify their pay, people who sell their services like Agent Sasho have started unintentionally describing their own mentors. This deviation in their behaviour is observed in the past couple of weeks. After another State Security agent, Ognyan Stefanov, inadvertently painted the similarities between his sponsor Tsvetan Vassilev and Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, now Iliyan Vassilev is doing the same with his mentor Ivan Kostov and the former premier’s favourite oligarch Ivo Prokopiev by effectively profiling the Capital Project in a piece entitled “Multigroup Project – the Bulgarian Cabal”.

You do not believe this? Well, let us see. Here is what we find in the piece: “The network actually in power includes politicians, businessmen, financiers, magistrates, media figures and other figures of social, political and business significance. Just as it was envisioned by the State Security and the nomenclature of the Bulgarian Communist Party in the late 1980s, it operates through, but also parallel to the public institutions.”

There could be no better description of the parallel state engineered by Kostov, modelled after the strategy of the Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, and carried out by the Capital circle. This project has so far spawned three GMO political organisations (the latest one, Democratic Bulgaria, is headed by Hristo Ivanov, one of Prokopiev’s strawmen in the government who failed his mission).

A whole network of magistrates serves the interests of the behind-the-scenes clique – both domestically and abroad. Lozan Panov, the head of the Supreme Court of Cassation, and the Union of Bulgarian Judges are the main mouthpieces in Bulgaria. As for abroad, this role is played by the Bulgarian representative to the Strasbourg Court, Yonko Grozev, who has been known for years to protect the interests of his shadowy mentors instead of those of the Bulgarian public.

And there is the network of dozens of NGOs receiving grants and public subsidies ostensibly to uphold the interests of society, but actually using the money to manipulate it.

There is also a horde of pseudo-journalists who have sold their professional integrity and voice in order to spread talking points dictated by the mentor figures in this project – Kostov, Prokopiev and company. These are people who pose as journalists, but in reality play the role of paid minions of the oligarchy. The bTV scandal confirmed that. But the revelations about the TV network’s ties to indicted and charged oligarchs, the secret arrangements between the head of bTV Florian Skala and the gambling tzar Vasil Bozhkov as well as their joint trips to fancy destinations are the latest examples of the way in which the so-called “mainstream” media machine, created with money from the criminally conducted privatisation process and maintained with funding from currently indicted and charged individuals, serves the oligarchy’s interests instead of society’s.

Examples are provided on a daily basis. While the country was still processing the revelations about the contracts through which bTV received millions of levs from the Bulgarian Sport Totalizator, i.e. the state lottery, and the terms skewed in favour of Vasil Bozhkov, Prokopiev’s Anti-Corruption Fund once again showed its loyalty to the oligarchs by setting smokescreens for the gambling tzar. The fund, which was founded exclusively by Capital circle members, filed a report with the prosecutor general asking that his office looks into Bozhkov’s statements on Facebook. As you can imagine, the report in question does not say a word about the behind-the-scenes games Bozhkov played at the expense of the state. But that is exactly the mechanism driving the Capital Project – creating a parallel reality, whose end goal is for society to be governed not by the people it has elected, but by the shadowy figures that have been stealing from it for years. The person behind the controls of this machine is Ivan Kostov, who was pushed out of politics with gusto by the voters in 2001. He is helped by the oligarchs he created himself.


Look who’s talking

Who is Agent Sasho? Duplicity and disenchantment are two modern characteristics of former agents like him. Back in the day, he swore fealty to State Security by accepting to become its operative “on the basis of ideological, moral and political reasons” because he was supposedly raised with those beliefs. As of 1981, he was already working at the International Relations Department with the Permanent Presence of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BZNS), more specifically dealing with cases under the Most Developed Capitalist Countries tag. Until the regime shift in 1989, Iliyan Vassilev was among the most trusted people of Angel Dimitrov, then-secretary of the BZNS, responsible for the organisation’s international relations. Later, he became a member of the pro-communist wing of the BZNS – a move that he coordinated with the First Main Directorate of the State Security, as his recruiter Senior Lieutenant Hristo Hristov wrote in his personal file.

According to journalist Violeta Radeva, who used to work for the official newspaper of the BZNS, Agricultural Flag (Zemedelsko zname), in a Facebook post from last year Agent Sasho wrote he was advised to lend his story as a dissident to a series of compilations dedicated to the anti-communist movement in Bulgaria that functioned prior to the events of 1989-1990. He also claimed that the true story of The Tenth of November has been erased. What arrogance, what shamelessness! It is the agents who tried to erase their connections to the State Security. As so many of his colleagues, Agent Sasho eventually switched allegiances and turned right-wing, reinventing himself as a prominent anti-communist. He won the heart of former PM Ivan Kostov, who appointed him ambassador to, wait for it… Moscow.

A more careful read of his personal file shows that Sasho was among the most valuable secret associates of the First Main Directorate. He was protected by the Directorate’s top secret electronic system called Vega, reveal documents declassified by the Commission for Dossiers, a copy of which Telegraph Media obtained. He used to spy on the UK and collect valuable information about NATO, the US and the UK. Today, he is among the former agents who are mouthpieces for Prokopiev and the Bulgarian Madoff trying to cover up their bosses’ schemes and thefts and constantly telling us how to live. He is part of the communist nomenclature and its affiliated State Security agents who pulled the strings of the country’s transition to democracy with the sole purpose of staying in power, albeit behind the scenes.  

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