Oligarchs Bozhkov and Vassilev in a Kremlin script against the state

The Bulgarian Madoff sends his puppet Sasho Dikov to deliver the shares of FC Levski to the Council of Ministers headquarters

The fugitive oligarchs Vasil Bozhkov and Tsvetan Vassilev have made a comical attempt at attacking the state via KGB methods. The two openly joined forces in the latest attack on the government, and PM Boyko Borissov in particular, by exploiting the drama surrounding FC Levski, the football club Bozhkov ran into the ground. The instrument of destruction used in this case is Sasho Dikov, journalist on call and long-time town crier for the Bulgarian Madoff.

The goal of the malicious operation, which was obviously carefully planned, was to destabilise the country on the eve of the state of emergency being lifted and allow the oligarchs to escape looming justice for the dozens of shady deals they have done. Presently, Bozhkov faces charges on 11 counts for a plethora of crimes covering the entire spectrum of the Penal Code - from financial crimes for hundreds of millions of levs to rape and ordering murders. Tsvetan Vassilev has been hiding in Belgrade for nearly six years in a bid to escape legal repercussions for syphoning off CorpBank.

In addition to the two fugitives, the farce also featured oligarch Ivo Prokopiev, the aforementioned pawn Sasho Dikov, various cogs in the mainstream media machine of the behind-the-scenes clique as well as the Kremlin flavour of their illegal scheme, currently headed by the leader of the political party Revival, Kostadin Kostadinov, aka Kopekin. The attack had all the characteristics of a mafia job and started several days before its crescendo on 13 May. (See the chronological order of events below - editor's note.)

The mechanism put to good use was the mainstream media controlled by Ivo Prokopiev. As the oligarch himself admitted several years ago in the shorthand records of the secret ARGO-gate meeting, he controls the mainstream outlets in the country through puppet journalists and uses their national platform to serve his agenda. The television station bTV, whose news and social commentary programmes are shaped by Prokopiev, was chosen as the stage for the farce. This past Friday, a phone interview with Vasil Bozhkov was aired. In it, the indicted tsar of gambling tried to undermine the cabinet by accusing Minister of Finance Vladislav Goranov of advising him not to pay nearly BGN 700m in taxes accumulated by his gambling business. The accusations were denied by Goranov as well as by PM Boyko Borissov - both described them as fabrications and an attack launched by Bozhkov in order to save himself. What Bozhkov's interview managed to reveal, though, was that his goal is to destabilise the country. It is an old adage that when a finance minister is ousted, the entire government soon follows. It explains why the gambling tsar targeted Goranov, experts say. The ensuing string of disturbing TV appearances (of Nove Holding, owned by Bozhkov, and of Sasho Dikov, Tsvetan Vassilev's minion) show that the main goal of the indicted conspirators is to cut off the head of the state.  

This is why on the morning of 13 May Bozhkov's holding announced that FC Levski's shares have been signed to the name of PM Boyko Borissov. It is interesting to note that this was supposedly done on 8 May - the day that bTV aired its interview with the gambling tsar. The “mule” chosen to transport the package of shares, Sasho Dikov, is known as a member of the pack of journalists working on call for Tsvetan Vassilev. His appearance at the doorstep of the Council of Ministers headquarters with a package in his hand is an old mafia trick intended to publicly show that the two bosses have joined forces against their common enemy. Both the Bulgarian Pablo Escobar and the gambling tsar hiding abroad are aware of the meaning of this gesture.

Meanwhile, media outlets reported that the farce took place a day before an anti-government protest was scheduled to take place outside the National Assembly, the whole event prepared a long time ago by the pro-Kremlin political party Revival. Bozhkov's goal was simple - to push radical fans of the football club to join Kopekin's demonstrations by signalling to them that Boyko Borissov is personally responsible for the grim fate of FC Levski. Using Sasho Dikov as the messenger is not coincidental, but rather symbolic. He is a dead giveaway that not only Bozhkov but also the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev is behind the planned coup attempt.

For years now, Sasho Dikov and his TV channel Eurocom have been mouthpieces for Vassilev. According to some reports, the former head of CorpBank is secretly funding the TV channel.

Sasho Dikov is the bridge connecting Tsvetan Vassilev and Vasil Bozhkov in their respective hiding places - Belgrade and Dubai. That has been made official now. In a statement made after his public stunt of trying to hand the package of FC Levski shares to Borissov failed, Dikov essentially admitted that he, together with Vassilev and Bozhkov, had something else that would supposedly compromise the cabinet, and it would be used against “a minister”.

On the other hand, the organiser of the Thursday protests, Kostadin Kostadinov, aka Kopekin, is among the sponsors of Eurocom. The entire tangle of connections leads to Kremlin oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, who has been banned from entering Bulgaria for a period of 10 years because of his involvement in a separate plan to capture the state with the help of Tsvetan Vassilev. The financial fraudster Vassilev and arms dealer Emiliyan Gebrev are partners in a campaign to steal the Dunarit military plant, bought with the money of CorpBank depositors under the nose of the state, and to gift it to the Russians. As their machinations remained fruitless, the two devised a scheme in which Gebrev was to take control of the plant and help channel its finances to Vassilev and his Russian mentors, Konstantin Malofeev among them.

Another noteworthy detail is that the anti-government plan clearly bears the fingerprints of “serious legal assistants”. Those legal minds have managed to create a complicated case in several aspects - from instigating bribery to an attempt to set the prime minister up for a “conflict of interest” charge. According to the leading legal expert Prof. Ognyan Gerdzhikov, at the moment Borissov is not an owner and shareholder, even though his name is now on the shares, making him their holder under Bulgarian corporate law. For him to become an owner of FC Levski, there first needs to be a shareholder meeting attended by the premier himself. There, and only with his express permission, his name can be added to the list of shareholders. That has not happened yet. At this point, the shares have unilaterally been signed to the name of Borissov by Georgi Popov. PM Borissov is yet to actively get involved with any of this, which is why he does not face conflict of interest, Gerdzhikov is adamant.

Thanks to the fact that Borissov nipped in the bud the theatre that Vassil Bozhkov and his messenger Sasho Dikov organised outside the Council of Ministers headquarters, the shares were effectively returned to the football club. Minister of Sports Krasen Kralev and Sevdalina Arnaudova, head of the press office of the Council of Ministers, went outside to meet Dikov and the throng of journalists. Arnaudova addressed Dikov and advised him to take the documents to “a different Balkan country”, referring to Serbia where the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev is hiding.

“In order for a transfer of the shares to take place, both sides have to agree to it. Clearly, one of the parties does not wish to receive them. We see this as an attempt to politicise the fate of FC Levski, which is wrong. The prime minister cannot own any sports club. There are obviously others who would like to own the shares. If they do not confirm their wish publicly, it is only right that the shares go to the fans of the club. They have repeatedly expressed their desire to take the fate of FC Levski into their own hands,” Kralev said.   

 

Skier on call

Scandalous journalist Sasho Dikov for years now has been the media serviceman of another fugitive from justice - Tsvetan Vassilev, who reduced to bankruptcy CorpBank and stole billions from its depositors. He is part of Vassilev's squad for “shooting down” inconvenient people, which comprises Frognews run by State Security agent Ognyan Stefanov, Vassilev's media concubine Lyuba Kulezich, the indicted for financial frauds Sonia Koltuklieva, bivol.bg which is tied up with Kremlin propaganda as well as the NGO Boets which is set up specially for peddling influence. 

It is not by chance that Vasil Bozhkov, who is investigated on 11 charges, has chosen sports journalist Sasho Dikov to be his courier. The man of the Bulgarian Madoff was sent to deliver the shares of FC Levski to the Council of Ministers but Prime Minister Boyko Borissov refused to accept them. It turned out that Bozhkov's secretary Yoana Hristova Cholakova knows Dikov very well. More than that - she is a niece of Sasho Dikov's ex-wife, Anya Pencheva. The prosecution brought charges against Cholakova for being a member of an organised crime group headed by Bozhkov. She was an administrative director in FC Levski and sat on the supervisory board of Holding Patishta (Roads Holding) engaged in infrastructure construction under public procurement contracts. The holding has stopped functioning now. Besides, she was among the closest associates of Bozhkov.

“To this day, Yoana's mother and father are my most significant people. She is a wonderful girl and I will not give up on her by any means,” Dikov himself admits.

Kopekin probed for drained subsidy

Leader of Vazrazhdane (Revival) party, Kostadin Kostadinov, aka Kostya Kopekin, came under prosecutors' scrutiny because of embezzled party subsidy worth BGN 1m. The regional prosecutor's office in Varna started pre-trial proceedings for malfeasance on an especially large scale, grand embezzlement. The prosecutors launched a suit after watching a story on Nova TV. It presented facts showing that Kopekin all of a sudden bought a villa on the sea shore for BGN 215,000 while his wife purchased an apartment for BGN 100,000, given that according to documents both rely on salaries only.

Now the investigating authorities have to find out if the leader of Vazrazhdane embezzled the party subsidy worth BGN 1m. All facts concerning the acquisition of real estate and the involved persons, as well as the flow of funds on the party accounts, such as receipts and transfers to other accounts, made public in the inquiry shown on TV, will be thoroughly checked.

Media service on demand

The key element of the so-called mainstream of indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev - the bTV newscasts - once again were activated in order to defend the accused gambling boss Vasil Bozhkov. The main squad for “special commissions” in the media are Venelin Petkov, Director of News, Current Affairs and Sports at bTV, and his two proteges, Anton Hekimian, host of the morning programme, and Svetoslav Ivanov, host of the Sunday talk show “120 Minutes”. That is why it is no wonder that the two of them were again used as a convenient platform for defending Bozhkov and fulfilling his plans for destabilising the state.

Already at the start of the investigation against Bozhkov, the media became a comfortable outlet promoting his defence theses, for weeks the information on the case has been concealed while the Prosecutor General spokesperson, Siika Mileva, has been blatantly and unprecedentedly censored. The fact of insolent censorship of a top state official has been admitted by Mileva herself.

The coalition between bTV and Capital is represented by three of Prokopiev's court TV journalists - Venelin Petkov, Anton Hekimian and Svetoslav Ivanov.

The trio dutifully sticks to the agenda of Prokopiev and other oligarchs, no matter whether they have to defend Lozan Panov, the spouse of the Black Swan, or to slander someone inconvenient. At the same time Dnevnik, Capital and bTV brazenly censored a former partner of Bozhkov, Tsvetomir Naidenov. He himself revealed it several months ago. The businessman said that he gave an interview to two of Prokopiev's media outlets but for 60 days it has not been released for no particular reason. In turn, bTV was keeping low profile for 45 days waiting for the scandal to erupt and only then covered it, albeit the balance was apparently tipped in favour of Bozhkov.    

Chronology of the farce

8 May - Indicted businessman Vasil Bozhkov, who is hiding out abroad, came out with a flagship interview in the morning programme of bTV. With it he attacked the state point blank and made an attempt at “shooting down” Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, announcing on air that he received orders from the minister not to pay nearly BGN 700m in taxes for his gambling business. In two separate statements, Goranov and Boyko Borissov declared that Bozhkov's claims are a bid to promote the defence thesis on the part of the defendant and have nothing to do with the truth. Bozhkov himself didn't provide any evidence in support of his accusations.   

10 May - In the programme “120 Minutes” basketball coach Titi Papazov said that he will take the shares of FC Levski. He stated that he has to receive them via a courier from Dubai where the owner of the team Vasil Bozhkov is hiding from justice.

12 May - In a letter sent to the media by Vasil Bozhkov's Nove Holding it was announced that on 13 May the financially troubled FC Levski will have a new owner. The holding reported that the shares arrived in Bulgaria and on Wednesday morning Bozhkov was to announce the “new majority shareholder, give the details concerning his decision as well as say where the transfer will take place, scheduled for 9.00am of the same day”.

13 May - Again in a letter to the media, Nove Holding announced that 87% of FC Levski's shares will be sent to the Council of Ministers. The letter said that the shares are endorsed and will be delivered at 9.00am to Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. 

13 May, 9.00am - In front of the Council of Ministers building, sports journalist Sasho Dikov showed up. In keeping with his usual showy style, he brought the shares in a paper case but was not immediately allowed into the Council of Ministers and had to wait to be admitted. “I took the shares 20 minutes ago from a man tasked by Nove Holding to give them to me. Yesterday, at 1.00pm, Mr Bozhkov called me from Dubai and asked if I would like to give the shares to Boyko Borissov, and I agreed,” Dikov explained to the journalists.

13 May, 9.15am - In front of the Council of Ministers building where Sasho Dikov and the journalists were waiting, Sports Minister Krasen Kralev showed up together with Sevdalina Arnaudova, Head of the Government Information Service. They said that what is going on was some kind of political circus, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov did not agree to have the shares, so there was no way for him to accept them. Shortly after, Dikov said that “he will call up the people from whom he took the shares of FC Levski and will return them to those people”.

13 May, 12.00pm - The executive director of FC Levski, Pavel Kolev, had accepted the shares of the football club and had said he would deposit them at the Club. This was announced by Sasho Dikov. He also said before journalists that at 9.41am he received an SMS from Bozhkov who ordered him to give the shares to Pavel Kolev, after the refusal from the Council of Ministers, and to ask him to “take care of them”. Kolev, however, cannot automatically become the owner of the shares.

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