Hristo Ivanov scandal rocks mobster minions’ ranks

The gaffe exposed the entire behind-the-scenes network of his mentor, Prokopiev

Hristo Ivanov (L) and Dimitar Lambovski

The simultaneously tragic and funny Facebook live broadcasted Sunday evening by Hristo Ivanov, former justice minister placed at that position by oligarch Ivo Prokopiev and current leader of the latter’s party Yes, Bulgaria, revealed his ties to not only the oligarchy but one of the  founders of the 1990s protection racket group SIK and current businessman and banker Mladen Mihalev-Madzho. The episode sent shockwaves through both the behind-the-scenes clique itself and its minions like Ivanov.

That is because it shed light on the interconnectedness between the protesters out in the streets, the indicted and charged oligarchs, their network of supposedly independent NGOs, and the “investigations” aimed at toppling the legitimate leadership of institutions in Bulgaria.

The scandal erupted Sunday evening, when Pinocchio, as Hristo Ivanov has been dubbed due to his penchant for lying, decided to go for a PR stunt at the key Eagle’s Bridge intersection in Sofia, which was blocked by protesters at the instructions of the oligarchs. However, the authors of this latest reality show gimmick, intended to revitalise the image of the leader of indicted kaolin king Ivo Prokopiev’s GMO party, could not have anticipated that it will backfire and air their dirty laundry in front of their own “fans”, causing an avalanche of angry comments on social media and demands for explanation.

While strolling across Eagle’s Bridge and spouting familiar talking points spread by his boss Ivo Prokopiev’s mainstream media machine, Ivanov is stopped by a “supporter”. The person turns out to be former National Movement for Stability and Progress lawmaker and current businessman and owner of a private graveyard Dimitar Lambovski, whose name has been linked to the SIK group. He asked someone accompanying him to snap a picture of him and Ivanov, saying: “Take the picture. Let’s have something to remind him of us for when he becomes prime minister.” Pinocchio puts his arm around him and starts telling him something. “Oh, I turned my phone off because that guy called Madzho,” Lambovski responds, but he is quickly cut off by Ivanov: “Hold on a second, we are doing a (Facebook) live…” But Lambovski is determined to say everything he has on his mind. “Let me tell you, he called Madzho… but I ducked him,” Lambovski continues. “Hush,” Ivanov urges him to be quiet, signaling that he is mic’d up. Finally, the two go their separate ways, but not before arranging to meet up later. But then, presumably having discovered that he did not get his photo with the candidate for every major public office position these days – from prosecutor general to premier – Lambovski comes back. “The camera guy didn’t do a good job. Let’s take a couple of snaps,” he tells Pinocchio and puts his arm around him. Then the two part ways, making plans to talk later. “Can you spare me two minutes later on,” the former lawmaker asks Ivanov, to which he responds: “Yes, I can!”

This tragic and at the same time ridiculous moment is the latest evidence that Hristo Ivanov, who is trying to pass as a completely independent candidate for office, is nothing but a puppet of shadowy actors, including but not limited to oligarch Ivo Prokopiev, who is on trial for the EVN scam and faces money laundering charges. The former justice minister is obviously no stranger to the protection racket groups of times past either, which only goes to show that his “Out with the thugs!” calls are a camouflage for trying to get those same people in power.

The Eagle’s Bridge incident was also the latest proof of the behind-the-scenes ties between Yes, Bulgaria and NGOs posing as independent, even though they are entirely composed of former operatives of the Capital circle. One example is the Anti-Corruption Fund, the producer of an entire series entitled The Eight Dwarfs, whose sole purpose is heaping lies on the oligarchy’s main enemies without providing any facts. The series is entirely based on “witness” claims, most of which have been officially refuted by the Prosecutor’s Office. In the third episode of this fantasy series, none other than Lambovski is the main source, which is yet another sign that the parallel state built by Prokopiev and his mentor, former premier and author of the criminally conducted privatisation period Ivan Kostov, and perpetuated with the help of indicted and charged oligarchs, was designed to serve the shadowy clique. That includes the protests that have been paralysing Sofia for weeks amid calls for government resignations.

The incident set Facebook on fire, with both regular users of the social media outlet and people who openly admit to having played extras at the protests asking why would someone report his conversations with Madzho to Ivanov, why Pinocchio wants that to remain a secret and how is the former justice minister and current candidate for office linked to people from the protection racket groups.

Instead of answering the wave of questions, Pinocchio, after having been reminded by one of his own – cartoonist Hristo Komarnitski, who is on the payroll of natural gas baron Sasho Donchev – that he needs to provide some sort of explanation, tried to present Lambovski as a mere “acquaintance” despite the obvious deeper connection there. He dug an even deeper hole for himself by saying they actually met after The Eight Dwarf series, in which the former lawmaker participated, thus admitting to his own involvement in the narrative created by the Anti-Corruption Fund under the conduction of their common mentor, Ivo Prokopiev.

 

Prosecutors accuse Ivanov of a systemic pressure on Themis

 

The Prosecutors’ College of the Supreme Judicial Council has come out with a declaration accusing Hristo Ivanov of malicious attacks against the Prosecutor’s Office, attempts at gross violation of the judicial system’s independence and exerting systematic pressure on magistrates. The declaration was adopted in relation to statements made by Pinocchio and published by the Bulgarian desk of Radio Free Europe (RFE), which has been captured by the indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev. The comments targeted prosecutor Boryana Betsova, who is investigating audio recordings presumably featuring the voice of PM Boyko Borissov, and the country’s top prosecutor, Ivan Geshev. “The accusations of lack of morality and professionalism among prosecutors, corruption and criminalisation, abuse of power, political dependencies and manipulated conclusions of prosecutorial investigations as well as the unlawful demands for Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev to resign violate the independence and undermine the credibility of the Prosecutor’s Office and the judicial system,” reads the declaration, which was supported by Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. He reminded that over the past few months charges have been brought against numerous oligarchs, adding that he does not know of an EU country where the judicial system has been subjected to a political attack by a party in this manner.

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian desk of the RFE launched itself into a crisis management PR campaign to cover up Hristo Ivanov’s blunder with an interview with him. In it, Pinocchio shamelessly tries to pin ties to Mladen Mihalev-Madzho on the enemies of the behind-the-scenes clique. The RFE not only failed to ask him about his own ties to the former founder of SIK, but helped him repeat the old mantra that the Prosecutor’s Office should be “overhauled”. If anything, the Madzho scandal showed that such an overhaul would be aimed at giving the shadowy clique, the protection racket groups and the indicted oligarchs ultimate control over the institution. That would take us back to the early 1990s, when bats and not laws dictated the rules. With its actions, the Bulgarian desk of the RFE proved yet again that it operates as an extension of the indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev’s mainstream media machine, even though as a media outlet it is funded with American taxpayers’ money. The same source of funding the so-called Anti-Corruption Fund is using to make its The Eight Dwarfs fantasy series, which is based on claims made by Ivanov follower and former lawmaker now hiding from Madzho – Dimitar Lambovski. The question is how much longer are US institutions going to allow for reality in Bulgaria to be swapped with outright propaganda in favour of the behind-the-scenes clique, a campaign essentially funded with American taxpayers’ money.

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