Oligarchs unleash sociologist and millionaire Raychev to protect their money

Latest opinion polls show that 66% of Bulgarians approve of coronavirus measures

The oligarchs are putting to work their entire arsenal of weapons to pressure the state into easing the measures taken against the spread of the new coronavirus. To that end, the leaders of the behind-the-scenes clique in Bulgaria have called on the services of a small army of paid mouthpieces tasked with convincing society that the crackdown on movement of people is unnecessary and that efforts should be focused primarily on saving the economy. The reason behind this concerted attack is the behind-the-scenes clique’s desire to save its businesses, built on our money, putting our health at risk in the process.

The tone was set by the indicted oligarch from Razgrad Ivo Prokopiev, who deployed his internet trolls and the publications of his Capital circle to inundate social media with the message that the economy needs to be saved with priority over people’s lives. Then on Sunday one of the behind-the-scenes clique’s favourite spokespeople, sociologist Andrey Raychev, appeared on a Bulgarian National Television programme to call for relaxing of the measures.        

The entire world is battling the coronavirus contagion, the number of confirmed cases has topped a million, while Bulgaria is praised both from the nation and foreign partners for its measures and success in containing the spread of the virus. Against this backdrop, Raychev, a sociologist with communist past and millionaire (thanks to CorpBank money), said on national TV that “the whole coronavirus thing is grossly exaggerated”. Raychev was adamant, “We will quickly forget about the virus, but the (economic) crisis… We are causing great economic damage that will soon be felt.”

He promptly attacked the head of the Military Medical Academy Gen. Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, who chairs the National Operative Staff, accusing him of exploiting people’s fears. “Gen. Mutafchiyski is the Bulgarian Joan of Arc. He is the father figure who scares children each morning and exploits their fears. We should get rid of his presence as soon as possible,” said Raychev, proving exactly what kind of sociologist he is by showing clear disregard for the opinion of Bulgarians.

The latest opinion polls show that 89% of respondents support the work done by Gen. Mutafchiyski, while 66% approve the measures in place. Some 15% even believe that the measures are insufficient, while only 17% deem them excessive. Raychev went so far as to attack doctors on the front lines. The entire Bulgarian pubic is doing whatever they can to help the medical workers fighting the contagion, while public confidence in the medical community is growing daily. And yet this sociologist and millionaire says they wield “too much power”. “The medical workers have too much power. When you visit a doctor, they have to become your parent and take over decision-making for you. But nowadays these functions have become outsized. Humankind is breaking its economy right now,” Raychev lamented.

This is far from the first time the sociologist has taken a swing at the medical community. Nearly two years ago, he threw a hand grenade into the public discourse by comparing doctors to the Roma minority in an attempt to say that they habitually “cheat and steal”. Why would he pick a moment of unprecedented global crisis, in which all hope for survival is focused on medical workers, to try and undermine public confidence in them? As always, the answer comes down to money. This particular case also involves strong ties between Bulgarian oligarchs, more specifically Ivo Prokopiev, Tsvetan Vassilev, Ognyan Donev and Sasho Donchev, on the one hand, and Andrey Raychev and Kancho Stoychev (the other half of the paid sociological duo better known as the Kanchovs), on the other.

For years the two have been making public appearances, solo or in tandem, strictly to promote the theses of the leaders of the behind-the-scenes clique in the country. For example, right before the latest elections for European Parliament Raychev used the platform provided to him by bTV to assert that “the nation is united behind the idea that life in the country is extremely unfair and crappy” and forecast that “these European elections will serve as snap elections”. The results of the European elections and the fact that they did not trigger snap general elections in the country disproved his words. His thesis directly served the interests of indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev as well as the parties created by former PM Ivan Kostov and advertised in Prokopiev’s publications – Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria and the party led by failed minister of justice Hristo Ivanov, Yes, Bulgaria. That public appearance by Raychev, as well as many similar ones over the years, has a logical explanation.

The connection between the people involved in this sinister oligarchic equation goes back decades. So much so that today few remember that the Kanchovs used to own the daily newspaper Sega before they sold their shares to natural gas tycoon Sasho Donchev around the turn of the century.

Relatively more recent but rather lucrative is their collaboration with Tsvetan Vassilev, who is currently being tried for syphoning off billions of CorpBank. It was exposed through their partnership in Scientific and Technological Service, a company specialised in stem cell technology. The majority stake used to be held by Central TechnoInvest, which is on the Prosecutor’s Office’s list of 80 companies used by Tsvetan Vassilev to drain nearly BGN 4bn from CorpBank.

Formally, the owner of Central TechnoInvest is TTS IME VEST, which is also on that list of shell companies but is also a CorpBank borrower with €30,837,671 in outstanding loans. The scheme that the ex-banker employed to service the two prominent sociologists is familiar: a shell company takes out an unsecured loan from CorpBank, transfers the money to another company, which in turn enters into partnership with the “right people” who reap benefits from the money of the duped depositors. The sociologists, for their part, readily assume the role of mouthpieces for Tsvetan Vassilev. Of course, this service is rendered in exchange for generous remuneration.


The empire of the Kanchovs

The Kanchovs, who officially introduce themselves as “happy pensioners” after ostensibly moving on from sociology in 2013, are actually millionaires. Andrey Raychev has had interests in 32 companies and sat on the management boards of 27. Kancho Stoychev has been involved with the management of 44 companies and owned 37. It is hard to fathom how they even found the time to poll regular people for their opinion. In addition to stem cells their businesses are in fields like construction, dining, advertisement, publishing and media. But the crown jewel is undoubtedly golfing. They own the glitzy golf complex BlackSeaRama sprawling across 1,000daa (100ha) between Kavarna and Balchik. The financial investment in the complex totals over €35m. Some time ago Raychev shamelessly declared Bulgaria’s transition to democracy completed. In other words, those who managed to put their hands on banks, entire plants and natural monopolies during the cabinet of Ivan Kostov, aka the Commander of the opaque transition to democracy, are the new capitalists of Bulgaria. It is worth noting that Raychev, who has communist roots, does not say a word about this highway robbery carried out under the mentorship and with the blessing of Kostov.

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