CorpBank credit files fixed post factum

During the approval process, a requirement for 10 signatures was disregarded and the money was lent solely on the basis of the inspector’s signature

Tsvetan Vassilev

Habitually, CorpBank first extended loans to corporate borrowers controlled by Tsvetan Vassilev and only then came the justification of the money and the preparation of the loan agreements. The latter were just a formality. This was revealed by Biser Lazov, the lead witness in the case looking into CorpBank’s engineered bankruptcy, in his testimony before the Specialised Criminal Court.

Lazov was chief accountant to a large group of companies controlled by the fugitive banker and collectively known as The Firm. Over the course of years, the lender was systematically drained through loans given out to those companies, which were then immediately transferred to a third party under the instructions of Vassilev. “The loan agreements were prepared afterwards. They represented nothing more than a measly cover-up provided by the bank so that it was not immediately apparent at the time that the money was lent without grounds. Everyone knew about it and remained unconcerned because these were Tsvetan Vassilev’s affairs and we were his employees. The people who signed those agreements are here. Let them contradict me,” said Lazov at the latest hearing on the case, at which he answered questions posed both by the defendants and their lawyers. Lazov also said that he personally witnessed the head of CorpBank’s Crediting Directorate Georgi Zyapkov sign a so-called inspector’s order for the extension of a loan without the required 10 signatures that should precede his. “His signature is supposed to be the 11th and the last one, preceded by that of a credit inspector, one verifying the review of documents, etc. But Zyapkov signed without those and it was only after that that files were prepared for some of the loans, not all,” Lazov said.

According to the witness, Tsvetan Vassilev used to visit the office of The Firm every day after finishing work at CorpBank and often made scathing remarks about the bank’s directors in front of Lazov and other people. “It was unpleasant to hear him insult people who was helping rise just as he was pushing them down and humiliating them. Vassilev openly mocked Zyapkov, sometimes called him names and made fun of his last name (it is derived from the Bulgarian word for “gape at” – editor’s note), saying that it was brilliant. In the same manner he talked about Georgi Hristov, Orlin Rusev and Alexander Pantaleev. Whenever we asked him why he was still keeping them on the job, he never answered and nothing changed,” Lazov said.

During the hearing, one of the defendants, former CorpBank executive director Georgi Hristov, took on the role of an interrogator and asked Lazov why he came to him after visiting Vienna. Several hearings ago, Lazov explained that he met with Vassilev in the Austrian capital shortly after the bank was closed in June 2014. “I met with you and told you, ‘We have all been duped, our boss has betrayed us. I intend to tell the truth.’ To that you responded, ‘I do not know. I am not sure. I will go relax for a couple of days in Vitosha Mount.’ That respond stunned me. You went to Vitosha and I – to the investigative authorities,” said Lazov. Following his Vienna meeting with Tsvetan Vassilev, where Biser Lazov found out that the banker hand no intention of returning to Bulgaria and taking responsibility for his actions, Lazov shared what he heard and saw with his colleagues in The Firm as well as another executive director of CorpBank – Orlin Rusev. “Rusev told me, ‘’I applaud you and I am going to Sozopol (a Black Sea resort – editor’s note),” Lazov recalled. He was adamant that irrespective of how highly ranked employees were under the management of Tsvetan Vassilev, the fugitive banker always had the final say.

“I never had executive powers. I could not even let a driver go. No matter what our name tags said, we were nothing more than servants,” Lazov explained. He also recounted a difficult conversation, interspersed with insults hurled at him by Tsvetan Vassilev, after which Lazov declared he was leaving. “I said, ‘Mr Vassilev, this is not working for me. I am leaving.’ The next morning I was preparing to go to the office and collect my things, when his secretary Svetlana Bahchevanova started calling me at 8.15 a.m. and telling me that he wanted us to meet at The Firm. There, for the second time ever, he described to me his business philosophy, how we were one big family and no one should quit,” Lazov said.

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