Pentagram of fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev
Stolen money, malicious reports, racketeering and bad applesMonitor News Agency , Sofia
For centuries, the pentagram (the shape of a five-pointed star) has been a symbol associated with Satanism, a geometrical figure with demon forces pulsing at the heart of it. And even though it is not that difficult to imagine Tsvetan Vassilev in the role of a wizard (who performs magical rituals against the Prosecutor’s Office and the judicial system in his desperation), over the past few years the fugitive banker has been resorting to a much more mundane tool in his fight against the rule of law – money.
The amount he stole from CorpBank is measured in billions and it is helping Vassilev not only live a life of luxury in Belgrade but secure the services of social and public pariahs ready to sell their soul to the devil for a couple of nickels.
Vassilev has no other cause beyond constantly presenting his own crimes as someone else’s and the collapse of his own bank, which sucked in the savings of Bulgarians like a black hole, as “innovative banking”. However, no one is buying his lies anymore. The international consultancy AlixPartners, the relevant parliamentary committee, the auditors from Deloitte, Ernst & Young and AFA have all said their peace on the matter, as did the Bulgarian state through the Prosecutor’s Office and the Anti-Corruption Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture (ACCIAF). They all have proven with facts and documents that Vassilev is a leader of an organised crime group, which syphoned off the bank via more than 200 shell companies ran by figureheads. And that he should be brought to court for his crimes.
The biggest financial fraudster in Bulgarian history has been hiding from the judicial system since 2014. He lives in Belgrade, where his connections to local politicians and Russian oligarchs ensure him a carefree existence to this day. Besides for securing his personal comfort, the money Vassilev embezzled is used to pay media mouthpieces who parade themselves on Facebook or obscure websites ran by “journalists” on Vassilev’s feeding rack. Their mission is one – to libel the Prosecutor’s Office and Vassilev’s enemies, produce fake news and participate in street protests in exchange for generous and regular financial stimuli.
And if until recently there was no evidence directly tying Vassilev to figures like Vera Ahundova, Rumyana Chenalova, Boyko Atanasov, Assen Yordanov and Kolyo Paramov – all of them shamelessly posing as a “independent experts” and “fighters for justice” – the latest smokescreen created by the fugitive banker, the RICO claim in the US, finally unmasked all of them. Let us remind that following the fiasco with the Global Magnitsky Act claim, Vassilev devised another smear operation, together with attorney Zahari Tomov.
The two engineered the filing of a bogus claim in the district court of New York, which once again blames others for the collapse of CorpBank and makes ridiculous assertions about the Bulgarian National Bank, Bulgarian and foreign banks and companies as well as Vassilev’s sworn enemy, MRF lawmaker Delyan Peevski, whose legislative initiatives paved the way for the CorpBank insolvency estate to be replenished, while his newspaper have continued to expose the truth about the heist of the century.
Even though Vassilev and Tomov have been trying to hide the truth about their relationship, a journalistic investigation conducted by the daily newspaper 24 Hours last year showed that the two became partners back at the beginning of 2014. It was then that Tomov received $300,000 from Nikkomers, one of Vassilev’s shell companies. The fee, nominally presented as a loan, was Tomov’s reward for participating in a scheme that embezzled €3.5m of CorpBank depositors’ money. It is only a matter of time before the RICO smokescreen crashes ignominiously too and fades into obscurity, just like everything else created by Vassilev so far. Until that happens, society will continue to be bombarded with propaganda messages by the financial fraudster’s mouthpieces. To make sure there is no confusion as to who is who in this game of fake news, let us reveal the whole truth about the fugitive banker’s so-called declarers in this case on US soil.
At the centre of the pentagram is naturally Vassilev himself, while the five points of the star are people who wrote pathetic “expert” statements submitted to the US court at the end of 2019 and who exemplify the kind of people who defend the financial fraudster. From everything mentioned earlier, it is clear that Tsvetan Vassilev’s pentagram surrounding the RICO claim is nothing more than a collection of criminal interests, witnesses on call, stolen money, racketeering and “bad apples”. The five witnesses for the fugitive banker in this case – Rumyana Chenalova, Vera Ahundova, Kolyo Paramov, Boyko Atanasov and Assen Yordanov – can never be seriously considered “independent experts” or “proven professionals”, as they shamelessly present themselves. If ten more “experts” like them turn up in the New York court to try to deceive it (the PACER electronic system of the US courts shows that similar convenient statements have also been filed by Daniel Bozhilov, associate of Ahundova in the NGO We, the Citizens; Dimitar Yanakiev, Maria Nakova, Chavdar Angelov and Zahari Tomov), the outcome will not change. Vassilev’s old tricks may still get media coverage in Bulgaria from the websites of former State Security agents and indicted oligarchs, but his smear operations abroad are doomed to failure. And the reason for it is that the litmus test for fake news in the US is much more accurate than in Bulgaria, not to mention that the US judicial system has long grown accustomed to the tricks of financial fraudsters like Bernard Madoff and Tsvetan Vassilev.
Vera Ahundova – State Security agent
In 1983 Ahundova was recruited as an agent for the communist security agency State Security. Under the alias Ana Hranova, she worked for three State Security departments, including Sixth Department, which was tasked with combating ideological divergence and oppressing Bulgarian citizens espousing democratic ideas during the socialist era. In other words, Ahundova was an operative of the criminal communist regime. Following the political shift of 1989, however, her dossier was destroyed to hide her past as an agent from the general public.
Thanks to the Law on Access to and Disclosure of Documents and Announcement of Affiliation of Bulgarian Citizens with the State Security and the Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian Army, the Commission for Dossiers announced her name as a former State Security agent in a series of decisions (including Decision № 2-185/29.05.2013 and Decision № 2-168/17.04.2013).
It turns out that Vera Ahundova was inserted as a member of the Board of Directors of Bulgaria’s second largest oil refinery, Plama Pleven. The goal undoubtedly was to privatise the company and plunder its assets. That is exactly what happened – the company went into administration and never resumed operation. Actually, Ahundova was revealed as an agent of the communist State Security namely because of her involvement in the management of Plama Pleven, since the company had unsecured loans for hundreds of millions of dollars from MineralBank and BalkanBank. These loans were never repaid and the two banks, similarly to CorpBank, collapsed. All of these facts have long been public knowledge. What is more important is that Vera Ahundova is a close acquaintance of Tsvetan Vassilev. The NGO she founded, We, the Citizens (part of which is another “declarer” in Daniel Bozhilov), practically has as its mission to help the Bulgarian Madoff escape justice.
The “bad apple” Rumyana Chenalova
Chenalova, who has become a symbol of judicial system corruption, has a biography that is more than interesting. She started as a prosecutor with the District Prosecutor’s Office in Stara Zagora, but resigned after it emerged that she unlawfully ordered an arrest. After leaving the Prosecutor’s Office, she became an attorney, but once again embroiled herself in scandals. One of them involved Makedonia Tabak 2000 Export Import, in relation to which she was investigated by the Macedonian police and prosecutors. As it turns out, in January 2004 Chenalova recognised on behalf of the company debt owed to two other companies – Bighar Overseas (SSwitzerland) and Pictor Co Limited (Cyprus) for a total of nearly $2.5m without the Macedonian business actually having such liabilities. Chenalova’s name also made headlines in relation to a criminal case against a former prosecutor of the District Prosecutor's Office in Stara Zagora. With the help of special intelligence means, it was established that her law firm was frequently visited by magistrates and that the conversations held between them revolved around handing and receiving various sums of money. Chenalova also represented a company that was involved in one of the biggest schemes for syphoning off EU funds in Bulgaria – the SAPARD case. Rumyana Chenalova returned to the judicial system in 2008 and was immediately assigned as a judge to the biggest court in the country – the Sofia City Court. She heard criminal cases and her name was involved in several massive scandals that shook the judicial system. It was revealed that while running for chairperson of the District Court in Stara Zagora, Chenalova had many phone conversations (over 30) with Krasimir Georgiev, aka Krasyo the Black, who lobbied for certain appointments to high-ranking positions in the judicial system. As punishment, she was demoted by the Supreme Judicial Council. In her capacity as a judge, she heard the SAPARD case for fraud and embezzlement to the tune of €7.5m, even though she used to be attorney for one of the companies involved. She acquitted one of the defendants and handed negligible sentences to the rest, while her motives were later described by courts of higher instance as full of “vague conclusions and generalisations that do not reflect the evidence presented and are therefore unfounded and arbitrary”. At the end, all the defendants were acquitted even though the individuals in the same scheme in Germany had long been sentenced to jail and serving time.
In another controversial case, Solo, Chenalova acquitted the defendant Iliyan Todorov on two counts of murder even though another member of the panel of judges signed the verdict with a dissenting opinion and insisted that the killer be sentenced. Chenalova released Todorov from custody right after the verdict was read. Later, the Supreme Court ruled that he was guilty, but by then Todorov had ran away. Thanks to her, the killer has been in hiding for the past 10 years. Radmila Vazharova, mother of one of the victims, Kiril Vazharov, called Chenalova “accomplice in the crime”.
In 2012, Chenalova was transferred to the court’s Commercial Department and it was exactly there that she became famous as a symbol of corruption in the judicial system. The violations she committed during court hearings are so many that they can hardly be described. The most outstanding example is the case involving French company Belvedere which occasioned the statement by then ambassador of France Xavier Laper de Kaban who publicly called Rumyana Chenalova the “rotten apple” and accused her of activities aimed at stealing a French company. Chenalova was relieved of her post in court and at the end of 2015 was dismissed on disciplinary grounds for numerous violations in her capacity of a judge. Following many lawsuits she brought against the Supreme Judicial Council, at the end of 2019 the Supreme Administrative Court confirmed the legitimacy of her dismissal. Meanwhile, the prosecution started criminal proceedings against her, including for malfeasance in office and document crimes.
Quite expectedly, after she was fired Chenalova started to pose as a victim and frequently made use of the media close to Tsvetan Vassilev (mainly Frognews run by State Security agent Ognyan Stefanov) as well as those of the Capital circle which helped her in waging a media war against the Prosecutor’s Office. In 2015, the notorious “rotten apple” made available to bivol.bg, whose owner is Asen Yordanov, the illegally-made recordings (which, as it transpired later, she made with a Dictaphone herself). The site has been using them for several years for generating public scandals until it became clear that the recordings are manipulated.
After Chenalova was dismissed from court she did not work officially but, on the other hand, it turned out that she uses an office, property of Georgi Georgiev, best man of Tsvetan Vassilev who obtained millions-worth credits from CorpBank. More than that – “the rotten apple”, symbol of corruption in Bulgaria is now posing as “champion of justice” in public. Ironic as it may sound.
Agent Yakov – Kolyo Paramov
On 12 June 1979, Paramov, who then worked as a teacher in a remote village near the border, was recruited as an operative (resident) of the communist secret services under codename Yakov. He was in charge of the counterintelligence activities dealing with “escape abroad” and was probably a snitch of the services reporting prepared escapes to Greece of people who sought to save themselves from the communist regime. After the fall of the regime in 1989 he was used by the former Communist Party as a Member of Parliament, head of service and chief auditor in the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) during the rule of Jean Videnov.
While Paramov was working in the BNB, state funds were syphoned off through refinancing of private banks. Subsequently, these banks handed out billions of unsecured loans and this resulted in a total collapse of the banking system, a bankruptcy of dozens of financial institutions and hyperinflation, whilst the population lost their savings. In the following years, Paramov worked as a financial advisor and tried repeatedly to make a comeback to active politics through membership in different parties, but without success. He was a close friend of Tsvetan Vasilev, gave a number of interviews in his defence and claimed that CorpBank was well-managed. This has totally compromised his pretense to being a "financial expert" because the fact that the bank operated as a financial pyramid was officially confirmed by international auditing companies, by the Bulgarian Parliament and the investigating authorities.
Boyko Atanasov – the pet investigator of the oligarchy
Boyko Atanasov is a close analogy of Rumyana Chenalova. The difference between these two lies in the fact that although the personnel file of the magistrate is full of penalty notes he is still working within the system. The favourite investigator of the Capital circle and Tsvetan Vassilev is with the National Investigative Service since the remote year 1997. He is also famous for his incessant attempts to place himself as head of various departments within the judicial system but to no avail. His last bid was running for European Public Prosecutor’s Office but his hearing before the Supreme Judicial Council has turned into a farce and parody because his English level was far below that of a second-grader. The court’s HR officers have repeatedly taken disciplinary actions against him, including for unethical behaviour and systematic delays of the cases under his supervision (some inspectors have found out that criminal cases for years were gathering dust in his office, while Atanassov failed to take any action towards detecting and proving the criminal offences).
The blatant incident of human rights violation covered by the mass media and related to Atanasov surfaced when the inspection by the Prosecutor’s Office found out that the pretrial proceedings on a concrete case (investigative procedure No. 53/2002) were not completed due to “pointed refusal on the part of investigator Atanasov to perform his duties”. As a result of his inaction, that criminal proceedings did not end in time, and the defendant Sevda Borisova gave birth to a child in a detention facility.
The journalistic inquiry into Atanasov carried out in 2016 has established that one probe alone launched under Ordinance No. 3923 dated 21 December 2004 of the management of Sofia Investigative Service stated several flagrant instances of professional slackness. It tuned out that Atanasov for years has been neglecting the cases entrusted to him while the criminals were at large and finally their cases were sent to the Prosecutor’s Office with the remark “close the records on the case”. In violation of the Judicial System Act and the Code of Ethical Conduct of the Bulgarian magistrates (prohibiting any political activity and actions that can undermine the prestige of the judiciary) in the last years Boyko Atanasov is in fact engaged in the political activity. On a regular basis he takes part in protest rallies along with the representatives of various strongly politicised NGOs, such as, for instance, NGO Boets of Tsvetan Vassilev’s close associate Georgi Georgiev and members of political parties. He also appears in TV programmes and gives interviews trying to discredit the Prosecutor’s Office without any reason or facts. The last scandal he was involved in is from last month, when Atanasov published on his Facebook profile a letter from the administrative director of the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office, in which he was invited to give explanations to the Inspectorate of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation. Immediately a campaign was launched in his defence on the sites run by Tsvetan Vassilev, Ivo Prokopiev and Ognyan Donev, in which the invitation for explanations was interpreted as "repression".
But while for the other "declarants" of Vassilev, apart from the moral reasons, there is no formal ban on defending him, then the declaration of Boyko Atanasov on the Rico case is a flagrant violation of the principles of independence and impartiality, as it clearly indicates the presence of a conflict of interests.
Either Atanasov didn’t read the Code of Ethical Conduct of the Bulgarian magistrates or he has conveniently forgotten what he read.
Because according to this code, and according to the Judiciary Act, a magistrate must refrain from any action that could compromise his integrity publicly, and his actions and conduct outside the office must protect and validate in the Society the notion of judicial independence. A magistrate should not submit to any influence, be it direct or indirect, of any power – public, private, internal or external in its relation to the judicial power. In the code there is an explicit ban on participation in any partisan or political activity, on intervening in political or business influence peddling, it is absolutely out of the question that a magistrate can use his official position in order to serve private interests. Instead of complying with these principles, Atanasov blatantly violated them to serve the interests of Tsvetan Vassilev in this case.
Racketeers pass the baton to each other – Asen Yordanov
The journalistic inquiries have long found out that owner of bivol.bg Asen Yordanov is an ordinary racketeer, no matter that he pretends to be a journalist. The scheme is well known – his wife Alberta Alkalay runs an advertising agency, Image Advertising, which blackmailed the local mayors and made them conclude service agreements, otherwise they became subjects to media attacks on bivol.bg. The mayors of Pomorie – Ivan Aleksiev and of Tzarevo – Georgi Lapchev have testified to this before. It turns out, however, that besides being a racketeering site, Bivol also has close ties with Russian propaganda in Europe. The site’s manager Atanas Chobanov lives in France (and was probed into by the French prosecutors for abusing the welfare system), whereas his wife is Russian national Maria Onuchko. She works for Russia Beyond, property of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official press organ of the government of the Russian Federation, as part of this same media platform is Russki Denvnik published in Bulgaria by the family of Nikolay Malinov. Malinov himself was arrested in 2019 on charges of spying for Russia. During the search in his home documents were discovered linked with Tsvetan Vassilev and related to the transfer of assets of the bankrupt CorpBank in favour of Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev.
We would like to remind that in 2015 Vassilev, instead of restoring the money stolen from CorpBank, tried to give out for € 1 the assets worth BGN 2 billion, including BTC, Dunarit, Avionams, NURTS, GARB and First Digital, to the Belgian with Russian passport Pierre Louvrier.
It turned out, however, that Louvrier was not an "investor" which he pretended to be, but was a figurehead of Malofeev. In addition, the media published photos illustrating the close relations of Louvrier with the leader of the separatists in Donetsk – Igor Girkin – Strelkov and the scandal which erupted became the reason why Vassilev had to "return" the assets.
A few months later, another Russian - Dmitry Kosarev appeared on the scene, who tried to replace Louvrier in the scheme, but was also exposed as a servant of Malofeev.
Moreover, a scandalous contract between Kosarev and Vassilev leaked to the press, in which the two agreed to divide the money from the sale of the assets plundered from CorpBank.