Transparent distraction tactic

Or how the king of HPPs Ivo Prokopiev pinned his own attempts to take over the EWRC on Delyan Peevski

It is 28 June 2017. The Prosecutor’s Office brings charges against two former chairpersons of the country’s energy regulator EWRC (at the time Energy and Water State Regulatory Commission), Angel Semerdzhiev and Svetla Todorova, for abuse of official capacity. Semerdzhiev was at the helm of the watchdog from 2011 until 2013, while Todorova’s term lasted from 2014 until 2015.

Semerdzhiev has been charged with criminal inaction that could lead to tens of millions of levs in damages for the state resulting from a lawsuit filed by natural gas tycoon Sasho Donchev and his company Overgas. Todorova, on the other hand, has been accused of tampering with natural gas transmission prices to the benefit of Overgas.  

On 2 April 2015 the National Assembly appoints Ivan Ivanov as the new head of the EWRC – a former Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB) lawmaker and one of the most loyal people of Ivan Kostov, founder of the DSB party and the oligarchy in Bulgaria. What follows is years of controversial and downright outrageous decisions, whose crescendo has come in the past few weeks. In June, despite the huge drop in the price of natural gas, the EWRC increased the price of central heating services. The explanation – it was a preventive measure.  

What do these cases have in common? It is not just the resulting public scandals. No, they reflect actions to the detriment of all of us, Bulgarian citizens, and against the country itself. Actions benefiting the behind-the-scenes clique and Ivan Kostov, who used his term as prime minister to divide the energy industry into pieces that he then gave to his own creations, the oligarchs. Even after his ousting, he helped them mark their territory and monopolise the industry through pawns planted in key positions along the chain of power so that they could continue syphoning off the energy sector.

Do you remember how, until just a few years ago, Overgas was helping itself to two feeding racks at the same time? Do you also remember the costly supplemental fee to promote HPP generation of electricity (aka the green fee) serving the agenda of another favourite of Kostov – the kaolin king Ivo Prokopiev? Well, none of this would have been possible without some “help from friends” in the parallel state built by Kostov. And that includes people at the EWRC. This story is a public secret in the industry. As it is well known that that same group is doing whatever it can to take control of the next iteration of the EWRC. The procedure for selecting its members has been launched, but because the presumed frontrunner for the chairman position nominated by the parliamentary majority – Plamen Mladenovski, presently head of a directorate in the EWRC – took himself out of the running, the procedure will now be restarted in the autumn.

Against this pretty clear-cut backdrop, however, Ivo Prokopiev, who is on trial in relation to an energy deal, owns HPPs, and is an oligarch with business interests in the electric cars sector, pinned the struggles within and over the control of the EWRC on lawmaker and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski, using to that end the latest article in his weekly Capital’s fake news series. “Peevski has forced his way into EWRC too. The billion-lev energy sector is eyed by politicians as the next target to take over,” writes the author of the article. To make the conspiracy theory even juicier, he adds that Mladenovski withdrew his name from consideration because of alleged aspirations of Peevski and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) to handpick the new members of the commission.

No evidence is provided. The entire piece relies on the approach “some woman said”, this time around disguised as “independent sources”. No evidence is provided because there could be no evidence, as the whole story not only defies logic, but runs contrary to facts and reality as well. Lawmaker Delyan Peevski has never owned companies or had any business interests in the energy industry. The opposition party MRF has no means of dictating appointments in public institutions, be they regulatory commissions, considering that both the government and the National Assembly majority are controlled by other political organisations.

As for the explanation that the energy sector is being eyed by politicians for possible takeover – it is a lie too. Because the energy sector is not being targeted, it has long been captured – by politicians linked to Kostov and his oligarchs, and on behalf of Kostov and his oligarchs. Ivo Prokopiev knows that perfectly well because he positioned himself in the energy sector many years ago. It has also been years since Capital started regularly running lobbyist texts on energy topics posing interest to its boss. These are not articles about the outrageous decisions of the EWRC to make our heating bills rise despite the steep drop in natural gas prices. In other words, these are not articles that serve the best interest of the citizens, but that of Prokopiev, the one who pays for the articles.

Attaching Delyan Peevski’s name to all of this is nothing but the latest transparent diversion tactic employed by Prokopiev and his machine for manipulations and libel in a bid to draw attention away from the aspirations of the indicted kaolin king, his oligarchic cronies and his mentor Ivan Kostov to rein in yet another iteration of the EWRC by putting one of their puppets at the helm of the commission. Similarly, Capital, once again without any evidence, pinned on Peevski the appointment of one of the incumbent executive directors of the Bulgarian Development Bank (BDB), Filip Panayotov, when personnel changes were being made at the top of the BDB. Panayotov has strong ties to the Capital circle and through him Prokopiev is trying to put his hands on the BGN 700m the state earmarked for assistance for citizens and companies hit by the coronavirus-related crisis. Just like the proverbial thief calling for the thief to be caught, Prokopiev is pushing the buttons of his mainstream media machine and blaming someone else for his own schemes, obviously in the hope of covering his own tracks. His arrogance may know no bounds, but retribution for his crimes will come sooner or later. 

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