Military intelligence in clutches of Prokopiev and Vassilev

Kostov and the behind-the-scenes clique controlled by him have turned the agency into a private-interest department

The former head of the Military Information agency Gen. Plamen Angelov and the incumbent Gen. Svetoslav Daskalov

A textbook KGB-style operation has been launched by the indicted oligarch-publishers and their mentor former PM Ivan Kostov. This was prompted by the charges that the Prosecutor’s Office brought up against the former head of the Military Information agency (editor’s note – the military intelligence) Gen. Plamen Angelov and the incumbent Gen. Svetoslav Daskalov a week ago for issuing 504 approvals for the highest-level access to NATO and EU classified information in violation of the law.

The attack is designed to envelop the revelations about wrongdoings in the agency in a thick mist of disinformation by attaching them to the sworn enemy of the shadowy players in the country – lawmaker of the opposition party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski – in order to cover up what is actually going on in the military intelligence. And the truth is that for decades now the agency has been operating as a state within the state under the control of the Capital circle of Prokopiev and his associate Tsvetan Vassilev.

Under the conduction of their mentor Ivan Kostov, the indicted oligarchs have been using the agency for years to serve their own agenda through their puppets Boyko Noev, who is serving solely the interests of Tsvetan Vassilev, and Rumyana Bachvarova, who has been the Capital circle’s political mole in the government ever since GERB came to power. These two pawns grant the oligarchs access to valuable secrets – gathered not only by the Bulgarian intelligence officers but by those of their partner agencies in NATO and the EU too – secrets that they could then use for extortion and smearing campaigns against their opponents in the country and overseas. The behind-the-scenes clique started gaining increasing control over the agency in the latter half of the 1990s – when Boyko Noev was minister of defence. The goal of the latest salvo of fake news against Peevski and dragging him into the story about Military Information without a shred of evidence supporting such connection is confusing the public so that the truth about the oligarchy’s and its creator Ivan Kostov’s stranglehold on the country’s military intelligence does not surface.

And so, in the days following the Prosecutor’s Office announcement about the charges against Angelov and Daskalov every single cog in the oligarchy’s Fake News Factory was put to work. Led by Capital, Frognews and Banker, the media outlets owned and financed by the indicted Ivo Prokopiev and Tsvetan Vassilev published in unison an entire series of articles with basically the same talking point – that the violations committed by the former and current directors were of technical nature, that Peevski was behind the Prosecutor’s Office decision to bring them to court, and that the purpose of those charges was to help him gain control over the agency. A horde of established mouthpieces for Kostov assisted in this operation. Again in obvious unison, the TV air and social media were inundated with “expert opinions” on the topic voiced by Atanas Atanasov, the scandalous head of the State Agency “National Security” during Kostov’s cabinet and current leader of Kostov’s party Democrats for Strong Bulgaria; former minister of defence (also during Kostov’s term in office) Boyko Noev, who former MP Anton Todorov says used to be a GRU agent; and Ilian Vassilev, former ambassador to Russia (again during Kostov’s term in office) and agent of the State Security with the alias Sasho. All three promoted the same talking point, albeit in different aspects, with Noev and Vassilev even trying to insinuate that the alleged attempt to take the reins of the agency was on behalf of Russia. Naturally, they were all cited by the abovementioned media outlets financed by Ivo Prokopiev and Tsvetan Vassilev.

Attaching the name of MRF lawmaker Delyan Peevski to every single reshuffle or upheaval in a government structure is nothing new for the behind-the-scenes clique’s propaganda machine. On the contrary, it is one of its staples in spreading disinformation – used to help the oligarchs hide their shady deals and interests by purposefully putting the public on the wrong scent. This is an oft-used method despite the fact that Peevski is an MP from a party in opposition and that none of the assertions is backed by facts simply because they are all lies.

Over the years the same method has been employed by the oligarchy’s mouthpieces and media outlets to allege that Peevski controlled the Prosecutor’s Office and the court system – all talking points that were dispelled by actual facts. A month ago, a prosecutor form the Sofia District Prosecutor’s Office ordered the Patent Office to erase the trademark of Telegraph – the best-selling daily newspaper in the country, which is issued by Telegraph Media, which is in turn owned by Delyan Peevski. Just 10 days ago, a Sofia City Court judge directly linked to the grant-funded Union of Bulgarian Judges sentenced the newspapers Telegraph and Monitor for essentially telling the truth about the criminal record of Elisaveta Panova – the wife of the head of the Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov, who has turned the institution into an instrument wielded by Ivo Prokopiev and Tsvetan Vassilev. Both cases clearly showed that the judicial system in Bulgaria has truly been seized but by the oligarchs, who are using its tentacles there to slander, condemn and pressure its enemies – the people who uncover and fight against their crimes – and in many of the instances project their own offences and secret dependencies onto those innocent people. Such is the case with the propaganda talking point that Peevski has Russian ties. Unlike Ilian Vassilev and Boyko Noev, the oligarch-publishers Ivo Prokopiev and Tsvetan Vassilev and the entire gang’s mentor Ivan Kostov, the lawmaker has no such dependencies. Against this backdrop, the only thing true on the military intelligence topic is the inadvertent admission of Ilian Vassilev that Military Information is a state within the state. However, what none of them admits is that the two recently indicted generals and a number of the former heads of the agency were all people tied to the circles around Kostov.

Why is the military intelligence so important to Kostov and his oligarchs? Well, mainly for two reasons. First, it is one of the few state agencies whose bosses have the power to request surveillance with special intelligence means. Second, and far more importantly, it handles information from Bulgaria’s NATO and EU partners’ agencies. Put in simple terms, whoever controls Military Information has access to the secrets to not only the Bulgarian military intelligence but to those of the NATO and EU members as well. This comes with an extra – the director of that agency is among the few heads of Bulgarian institutions with the power to grant someone access to said classified information. It is because of violations of this procedure that Angelov and Daskalov were charged. As you can imagine, the huge volume of invaluable intelligence gathered by the agency would be of great interest to countries outside of NATO – like Russia, which has been trying for years to use its pawns in Bulgaria to get ahold of NATO secrets. The most recent public manifestation of these Moscow aspirations was the military plant Dunarit, which twice became the subject of a secondary plundering attempt by the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev and his Russian patron – the oligarch with Kremlin ties Konstantin Malofeev. Even though both attempts failed spectacularly, the military plant has been under the control of arms dealer Emiliyan Gebrev, a Tsvetan Vassilev crony, for the past two years. Gebrev owes his ascend to Ivan Kostov and is a family friend of Boyko Noev.

You may be wondering why the duo of Vassilev and Gebrev would want Dunarit? Aside from the obvious fact that the plant has been treated for years as an ATM by the fugitive banker to pay for his lavish lifestyle in Serbia, Dunarit has know-how and markets that any arms dealer would want to have access to. And while that might be Gebrev’s obvious interest, the tandem’s Russian partners value Dunarit because it makes products in line with NATO standards and therefore has all the specifications of ammunitions used by members of the military alliance. It also has information about the various orders taken by Bulgaria and the rest of the NATO countries. It is the stuff that intelligence services of non-NATO countries, let alone Russia, dream of. Imagine how much more data is gathered by the Military Information agency and how huge the risk of it being abused is when the agency operates as a state within the state. Half of the management-level staff, former and current, has a history with the State Security and the Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. (Editor’s note – following years of the agency’s directors refusing to abide by the law and let the Secret Files Committee investigate the people who held senior positions in the institution, last year the details, or at least some of them, were finally handed over. The inspection showed that of the 62 scrutinised individuals 38, or more than half, had affiliation with the Intelligence Directorate during the Todor Zhivkov era.) The agency is led by people appointed with the blessings of oligarchs, whose connections to Russia are real and proven.

Such is the case with one of the generals indicted by the Prosecutor’s Office – Svetoslav Daskalov, who was at the helm of the Military Information from 2016 until his retirement in 2018, when his deputy Plamen Angelov became his immediate successor. Daskalov’s wife Valentina is directly linked to Ivo Prokopiev’s Capital circle, as she is a co-managing director of Inovent Holding, one of the companies of Prokopiev’s associate Teodor Zahov. Daskalov was nominated for the appointment by the then minister of defence Nikolay Nenchev (also close to the Capital circle) and there is talk that he also had the protection of another person close to the Capital circle – deputy prime minister and minister of interior at the time Rumyana Bachvarova. Her son-in-law, by the way is a favourite of Galya and Ivo Prokopiev – their puppet journalist Rosen Bosev. It is hardly surprising then that Bosev authored one of the anti-Peevski articles about the situation in the Military Information agency that were built on the oligarchs’ talking points and published over the past week. It is also no surprise that the media financed by Prokopiev and Vassilev is trying its hardest to thwart any chance of the agency getting out from under their control and returning to its original mission – to protect the interests of the state and the public and not those of the behind-the-scenes clique defrauding Bulgarian citizens. The question is why the state even allowed an agency so key to the national security to play the role of an instrument in the oligarchy’s hand for so many years?

Head of agency fed confidential info to businessmen

An officer of the Military Information agency was commissioned to an EU country to be a driver of a prominent businessman and to feed information to him. Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev reported it in connection with the probe into the incumbent and former heads of the Military Information service with the Ministry of Defence Gen. Plamen Angelov and Gen. Svetoslav Daskalov. The two generals are charged with giving access to classified information without sanction.

“The claims that in this agency the prosecution carries out some actions related to purely operational work are nothing but purposeful lie. The investigations are focused on two tasks – to find out how the budgetary and non-budgetary funds are spent. As yet there are no charges of financial misconduct. However, there is information about breaches in security,” Geshev reminded.

He added that the case looks nefarious but it is still investigated whether there are component elements of a crime.  

“It is not normal that Bulgarian citizens pay your salary and the head of the Military Information department orders to a representative of this service commissioned to a friendly EU state to brief a businessman, i.e. to acquaint him with the problems concerning his business interests, and this representative of the Military Information to be his driver for several days. If it is not an offence to a Bulgarian officer it is an offence to the citizens of Bulgaria,” Ivan Geshev said commenting the investigation.      

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