Oligarchs who stole BGN 30bn attack donors
The country would not have been in this state if what they plundered was still in the public coffersTelegraph , Sofia
There are two types of people: donors – people who help those in need without looking for something in return; and plunderers – people who will never be seen donating and whose every last wad of cash is stolen from the Bulgarian citizens. Two things characterise the second group. First, they bark a lot – to drown out the calls for retribution for their crimes; to divide, as they feed off of divisions in society; and to draw attention away from their shady deals. Second, pressed to answer inconvenient questions, they tuck tail and whine about being victims.
This scum of parasites, which has been sucking the lifeblood out of the state for decades, stole BGN 30bn during the privatisation process alone (according to then-Prosecutor General Nikola Filchev). And they did not stop there. They continued to rob us of both our money and our health. They tore our plants to the studs and sold the metal for scrap. They left tens of thousands of families on the street. They destroyed entire cities. And they continue to defraud us today with overpriced drugs, electricity and natural gas. You probably know who we are talking about. There are a bunch of people involved, but the monster is four-headed, with four oligarchs at the top – Ivo Prokopiev, Ognyan Donev, Tsvetan Vassilev and Sasho Donchev. And then, of course, there is the person who helped made them oligarchs by gifting them the most lucrative assets of the Bulgarian economy – former PM Ivan Kostov.
In the past few weeks of crisis, at a time when the Bulgarian people are more united than ever in the fight against the new coronavirus that is taking tens of thousands of lives across the world, the difference between the aforementioned two types of people was brought to light. While the former are supporting relief efforts however they can, the latter are desperately thinking how to preserve what they stole. Through their media outlets and puppet mouthpieces, paid with money stolen from Bulgarian taxpayers, the oligarchs are calling for (their) businesses to be saved over human lives. At the same time, they are attacking donors for helping society and for uniting instead of dividing it. To be more specific, there is one main target. He has been their sworn enemy for years because of his efforts to thwart their shady deals, while his publications continuously expose their crimes. But now he is an even bigger thorn in their side. You probably know who we are talking about – lawmaker and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski. They are attacking him because he is not like them. Because unlike them, he is at the forefront of supporting the fight against the new coronavirus and is protecting our health and not someone’s shady deals. They are throwing dirt and fake news at him. And since they have run out of ideas, they keep up their media speculations that the source of the money he is donating is unclear. The problem of these liars is that they have no idea how to spin the facts. For years, the lawmaker’s money has been public domain. Every year, he files a property statement, as required by the law, so his financial situation can easily be checked on the internet – on the website of the Anti-Corruption Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture (ACCIAF), for example, which stores statements filed by public figures in the country. Peevski is also among the most frequently audited person in Bulgaria, with every inspection yielding the same result – all of his property was obtained perfectly legally.
The same cannot be said for the aforementioned oligarchs. It is worth reminding who stole what because if the money they stole was where it was supposed to be, in the state coffers, there would not be need for donors to help institutions tackle COVID-19. If even a small part of what was plundered had been returned, the state would have enough money for ventilators, personal protective equipment, etc. Instead, the thieving oligarchs are protecting what they illegally acquired, leaving the healthcare gasping for air in the name of them getting even richer out of the crisis.
Ivo Prokopiev’s cash cows – Kaolin and Damianitza
When it comes to the indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev, it is enough to remind that the claims filed by the ACCIAF against him alone are to the tune of BGN 200m. It was him who recently became the first to argue that the economy is more important than people’s lives. And while he is trying to convince us that it is better to let the new coronavirus continue its deadly rampage unchecked, you will never hear him say a word about other subjects like his mining company Kaolin, for example, which was given to him on a silver platter when he was only 28. He will not talk about Damianitza either – the winery was gifted to his business partner Filip Harmandzhiev. These two massive thefts are a stark example, worthy of being in an anti-economics textbook, of how Ivan Kostov and his handpicked “investors” in privatisation deals plundered the fruits of the labour of generations of Bulgarians. Prokopiev’s media outlets – the flagship weekly newspaper Capital, its sidekick website Dnevnik and the website Mediapool, owned by Ivan Kostov’s one-time spokesperson Stoyana Georgieva, will never tell you that at the time it was announced for sale Kaolin had an estimated value of BGN 31m, but was eventually acquired by Prokopiev for cents on the dollar. Similarly, Kostov gifted Damianitza to the so-called Capital circle – the laughable sum of $60,000 was paid for the largest winery on the Balkans, even though the 2.4m bottles on the inventory alone cost $4m. After the end of the privatisation process, Prokopiev found a new way to cheat us out of our money – through overpriced electricity generated by HPPs. Nowadays he claims that the Kaolin deal was above board, that the promised investments of BGN 120m were real, and the state’s attempt to hold him responsible is an abuse of power. He also claims that the revelations about the way he acquired Kaolin and wiped out what used to be the resort town of Merichleri are delusional. Perhaps now you understand why this person had no qualms about urging institutions to forego strict coronavirus measures for the sake of the “suffering” businesses.
Ognyan Donev – pharmaceutical tycoon under the wing of Ognyan Doynov
The evaded BGN 63m in taxes of oligarch Ognyan Donev, for which he is indicted, are a drop in the ocean having in mind the way he established monopoly over the pharmaceutical industry in Bulgaria. This, by the way, is a very lucrative business in times of coronavirus crisis. At the age of 29 Donev already had Doctor’s degree in economics, he defended his doctoral dissertation in Berlin and soon after was shot into his first top posistion in public administration – councilor at the Council of Ministers. Apropos, he was counselling not just anybody but the most powerful figure in the Bulgarian economy at that time – Ognyan Doynov who became his patron and benefactor. His first step to accumulating millions-worth wealth Donev made in 1998 when he privatised a state-owned enterprise Unipharm. There were two other candidates for Unipharm privatisation, one from France and the other from Slovakia, but the situation was just like that with Kaolin – a serious Western investor was turned down in order to make use of the employee buy-out plan (EBO) and enable the oligarch to lay hands on the enterprise. The same has happened in this case too. The lion’s share of money for the murky privatisation carried out by oligarch Donev came from Libya.
CorpBank – BGN 4bn pocketed by Tsvetan Vassilev&Co
Five years after the biggest “bank robbery” in the modern history of Bulgaria – the collapse of the CorpBank financial pyramid, fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev still keeps all for himself BGN 5-6bn. He lavishes the money of the stung CorpBank depositors on flashy lifestyle in Belgrade paying to lawyers, magistrates in service of the oligarchs and, of course, to the media and money-hungry journalists who uphold and promote his talking points and try to present him as a “victim” of his own plunder.
In the opinion of the Specialised Prosecutor’s Office (SPO), if the lender did not go bankrupt in 2014, then two years later it would have ruined the whole state opening a budget gap worth BGN 8bn, an astronomical sum for Bulgaria. “In practical terms, the CorpBank model is the biggest economic, public and financial fraud that has ever happened in the modern Bulgarian history,” reads the indictment of the SPO. About 100 companies are involved in the complicated financial scheme devised by Vassilev via which he syphons off the bank, as his own companies, or the Firm, as he calls it, are the first in this crime ring which drains the depositors’ financial resources. The mafia-style ring is comprised of 18 persons. The evidentiary material consists of over 1,360 volumes and the voluminous indictment takes 500 pages in total. The fugitive banker is charged with embezzlement of BGN 2,4bn drained from CorpBank. According to the Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev, Vassilev embezzled over BGN 4bn.
Sasho Donchev and the natural gas tap
Sasho Donchev is the only man in this group who is not indicted. This, however, does not mean that there is nothing he can be held accountable for by the society. Suffice it to remember that his company Overgas for a long time was at the input and output of the gas pipe and Donchev was wringing money out of the thin air. Under Kostov’s rule he virtually monopolised natural gas supplies to the consumers. And how come that he managed to reach this position? There’s hardly any need reminding that it became possible thanks to his close connections with Russia (which in fact holds true for the other three as well). In Donchev’s case it was the irremovable gas oligarch Rem Vyakhirev who took him under his wing. Donchev catered for his and the Kremlin’s interests and betrayed all of us, the state and primarily the citizens. It is clear that Sasho Donchev won’t have mercy on you and will go on sponging on you as he has been doing for decades sucking out millions from public funds.
And now let’s see where flows part of the money plundered from the state and us all? It is spent on generating fake news, every day, every hour and every minute, serving the interests of the oligarchy and flooding with torrents of mud the oligarchs’ enemies. There are thousands of examples but here is a fresh one.
The laundry for stained conscience
The ardent defender of the plunderers crime group is the lifelong spokesperson for Ivan Kostov – Stoyana Georgieva. In her laundry for guilty conscience called Mediapool she non-stop spews out lies about lawmaker and publisher of Telegraph Media Delyan Peevski, as in recent days the aim of this unending campaign was to discredit his donations.
The start for the task-oriented lies was given by the article in Prokopiev’s newspaper Capital, which Mediapool extended. It claims that Peevski took loans from the Bulgarian Development Bank (BDB). The quoted figures are random and vary every day. For instance, on Monday they quoted some BGN 150m (as well as the names of people with whom Peevski has never had common business) and on Wednesday the slanderous site wrote that “the exposition to the business of Peevski has grown to BGN 250m.” If Mediapool keeps lying at this pace within a week the quoted sum may soar to BGN 30bn – just the amount of money stolen during Kostov’s privatisation. Only it is high time the money was returned where it belongs, the state treasury, instead of being spent on lies.