Mediapool Weekly: June 9 – June 15, 2018

Bulgarian MP Delyan Peevski

Delyan Peevski: Clean as a Whistle and Substantial Taxpayer

When we draw the line Delyan Peevski is one of the most probed people in the country and one of the cleanest or has one of the best lawyers. He may very well be one of the most substantial taxpayers.”

This is how the Chair of the Anticorruption Commission Plamen Georgiev described the reason why the Commission canceled its inquirers into Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), media mogul and businessman Delyan Peevski.

The Anticorruption Commission initiated two probes into Delyan Peevski. One was initiated following a signal of his inexpressible wealth and the other – for conflict of interest concerning the media bill that he has tabled in Parliament.

Plamen Georgiev was keen to inform the media of the probes every step of the way. Apparently Peevski has been subject to probes continuously from January 1, 2003 till December 31, 2017 by the National Revenues Agency and there have been inquiries by the prosecutor’s office. Peevski is also listed as a connected person in a penal case against an unknown person.

All this history shows that Delyan Peevski is completely clean before the law.

“According to the National Revenues Agency this person has payed loads of taxes and could very well be one of the most substantial taxpayers in the country”, Plamen Georgiev said.

The Chair of the Anticorruption Commission added that he could not disclose for how long Peevski has paid such tax sums because that was tax and social security secret.

Ironically, Delyan Peevski’s image washing comes on the fifth anniversary of his appointment as Head of the State Agency for National Security (DANS) five years ago. His appointment caused more than a year’s worth of daily protests in Bulgaria, which became known as the #ДАНСWithMe protests, which eventually led to the cabinet’s resignation.

Delyan Peevski became MP for the first time in 2009. Then he declared ownership of two apartments and a house in Sofia, all bought between 2002 and 2004. The first apartment is 220 square meters and has two garages. The buying price – 50’000 leva (25’000 euro). He then acquires a 45 square meter apartment for a little less than 30’000 leva. He later buys a house with a yard totaling at 600 square meters for 77’500 leva.

Since then Peevski has not declared any new property. He did declare, however, what has become a notorious old Opel estimated at 1000 leva. His saving in 2009 were a little over 32’000 leva, which grow to 44’000 till 2011. These vary insignificantly over the next years till 2015 when he declares 17’000 in his bank accounts. The origin of the money – his MP salary.

At the beginning of 2018 Delyan Peevski holds 7,8 million leva, a quarter million USD and some 22’000 euro in Bulgarian banks. He has collected 56,5 million leva from dividend and share sales. He also has money in foreign bank accounts.

For the last three years Peevski’s wealth has grown 4800 times.

One may ask how have the authorities failed to find anything irregular with someone living on an MP’s salary one day and becoming a millionaire the next, besides having a political umbrella. While the latter may or may not be true, it seems that a more important aspect is that Peevsky keeps brilliant accounting, as Plamen Georgiev explained. The Anticorruption Commission has asked for all cost and revenue related documents. The Commission has not found a single inconsistency.

The Anticorruption Commission has also dismissed all claims that Peevski – being a vast media owner – is in conflict of interest in introducing a media bill in Parliament.

The institution’s reasoning is that there is no conflict of interest because the bill, as it is written, does not benefit Peevski’s media in particular. The Commission asserts that no private interest of Peevski is being served through the bill as it has to do with transparency of media ownership. The bill proposes to expand the rule that printed media owners be declared publicly to all types of media outlets, not just printed. It also provides for all income except form advertisement and bank loans to also be public.

The last exception is curious and crucial: Peevski’s bill seeks transparency of media ownership and financing but leaves bank financing in the dark. This is an interesting exception, because Peevski’s own media empire was largely financed by the now-bankrupt Corporate Commercial Bank. In fact, the bill would reveal the income only from donations and NGOs. It also won’t affect government or partisan funding of media outlets.

These pieces of detail have led some observers to stipulate that the bill in fact aims to normalize Peevski’s media as purely market based and legitimate.

The bill is yet to discussed in Parliament.

Tsvetan Vassilev

Tsvetan Vassilev: Peevski is Being Investigated in the US for Money Laundering

Former Chairman of the Supervisory board of KTB Tsvetan Vassilev, who’s extradition proceedings in Serbia are pending, gave a four-hour online interview on a YouTube channel managed by Georgi Stankov, “The Best”. Vassilev fled to Serbia before becoming the principal accused in the case for the liquidation of KTB.

He talked about the “hidden partnership between PM Boyko Borissov and Delyan Peevski”, which in Vassilev’s words “won’t end well for Borissov”. He said that Peevski will not be the first of the two to exit Bulgarian politics.

Peevski-owned media outlets have recently suggested that ex-Prime Minister Ivan Kostov has benefitted greatly from KTB. Asked to comment Tsvetanov rejected the claims and added:

“If anyone has benefited from KTB it’s not Ivan Kostov. It’s DPS through Peevski and Boyko Borissov through Staliyski.”

“The biggest lie spread by [Peevski and his media] and Borissov is that Kostov has ever gotten anything from me. I’ve had meetings with Kostov but we’ve never discussed money.”

He announced during the interview that the US has initiated a second investigation into Peevski of the Magnitsky Act.

“The State Department is leading a second investigation – apart from my application on tha Magnitsky Act – this is a separate investigation - into Peevski for money laudering on a massive scale.”

According to Vassilev the Bulgarian government has been sending its ministers to provide information that would stop the Magnitsky investigation.

“But that didn’t help them. This is why they are so anxious; this is the reason for these attacks.”

Regarding the State Department’s investigation, he added:

“I have strong hope that they will get a heavy blow from there and I think I’m not the only one. I believe we will soon have a judgment on our claim”, Vassilev concluded in an optimistic tone.

Minister of Social Policy Biser Petkov

Minister of Social Policy Biser Petkov Resigned Monday and Ordered Back to Work Tuesday

The Cabinet Press Office released a press brief Monday announcing Minister Biser Petkov “will withdraw from office due to his inability to tackle the tension that has arisen from the parents of children with disabilities’ demands”.

Parents of children with disabilities have been holding tent protests on and off for months, demanding a bill for personal assistance be introduced in parliament. The protesters wear notable black T-shirts captioned “The system is killing us”.

They took to social media:

The Minister’s resignation explicitly means one thing: the bill that will be introduced in Parliament on Monday won’t pass. If they don’t reinstate Biser Petkov – the only one to date who has shown us that he works with up and who almost concluded our most important need, the bill for personal assistance, we will begin organizing a massive protest demanding the government’s resignation”.

Immediately after the press release mothers of children with disabilities declared their support for the Minister. They said in a statement that “he is the only person in Cabinet who supported people with disabilities”.

The mothers threatened “a massive anti-government protest” should Petkov’s resignation be accepted by the Prime Minister.

Two of the largest trade unions, KT Podkrepa and KNSB also voiced their support for Petkov and called for his resignation to be rejected. They issued a letter to PM Boyko Borissov asking him to reconsider.

We find it surprising and even illogical that the only minister that has met multiple times with representatives of these parents, explored their concerns, needs and demands, to take such responsibility.”

They go on to say that not only has he listened to the parents’ needs but worked to achieve results, which the letter mentions.

For us, it is categorically unacceptable for one of the most successful and well prepared ministers of your Cabinet, Mr. Biser Petkov to take sole responsibility for all the problems [related to policies for people with disabilities], stemming from different areas [of government].”

This led Borissov to flip his position. Visibly irritated, he announced to journalists:

I’m leaving Biser Petkov to work if he is the minister the mothers of children with disabilities like. I told Biser Petkov in the morning to go back to work and continue his activities”.

Borissov explained what led to Petkov’s almost-removal. Aparently Petkov has tpld Borissov that in order to do what the parents of children with disabilities demand, government would have to secure an additional 300 million leva on an annual basis.

We had a lengthy meeting … with the ministers of finance, health and social policy. I asked them the simple question: why this public dissatisfaction when there are 80 million more budget money are given this year. The Minister of Social Policy told me that the demands ar such that these demands would cost an additional 300 million per year.

At the same time [public advocate Maya] Manolova says that the bill for personal assistance won’t cost extra. This is why I told Biser Petkov this morning to go to work.

The Minister is staying so I hope this means no more tent protests. If the question isn’t even about money, then let them sit down together [and resolve the issue].

PM Boyko Borissov with Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev

Boyko Borissov Refused a Meeting with Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has refused to meet with Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov, who is on an official visit in Bulgaria. The reason is Ivanov’s open rejection of the historic deal with Greece about Macedonia’s name. Greece announced this week that the two sides have finally reached an agreement on the long running dispute: the new name of Macedonia (or Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as Greece agreed two decades ago to refer to the country) would be the Republic of North Macedonia. Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev also confirmed. Later, however, the Macedonian President announced that he would not be signing the deal.

Following this turn of events PM Borissov said that he won’t be meeting with Ivanov during his time in Bulgaria. Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva has refused a meeting also.

Bulgarian President Roumen Radev criticized Borissov for “denying dialogue”, while Borissov argued that to meet with Ivanov at this delicate time would put Borissov’s government in the middle of an internal, as well as external Macedonian political clash.

Ivanov on the other hand accused Borissov of taking a side in what he called an internal political matter by refusing to meet with him.

PM Borissov expressed his support for the prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia for their efforts to resolve this decades-long dispute, despite mounting resistance by both governments’ oppositions back home.

Tseko Minev

Prosecutor’s Office Notes Yulen’s Lawlessness in Pirin but Will Not Press Charges

For 17 years “Yulen” - the firm awarded the concession of the ski zone in Pirin National Park – has exploited 64% more territory than the concession contract provides. The government has been aware of the fact for the last 8 years. This is the conclusion of the Prosecutor’s Office inquiry, following a signal submitted by the political party “The Greens”.

In 2011 the Ministry of Environment orders the real territory in which Yulen operates to be measured. The probe fund that Yulen has considerably expanded beyond the limits of the contract. Then Minister Nona Karadzova recommends three options: amending the concession, canceling it or forcing Yulen out of the territory outside the concession.

The Council of Ministers in 2011 (PM then is again Boyko Borissov) picks the first option: amending the concession. But there is no explicit decision. The Cabinet takes a lot of time establishing working groups to deal with the problem but fails to do so. The Court of Auditors declares that the government is failing to control Yulen effectively. 7 years later, this March, Yulen themselves filed a proposal for amendments to the concession, which were met with large protests across the country.

The Prosecutor’s Office has concluded that over the past 8 years Council of Ministers has not taken any measures to stop the violations although the authorities were fully aware with the situation. Prosecution will not press criminal charges because it has not found any intent behind the actions of officials.

Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov included the assertions in a letter to PM Boyko Borissov regarding the probe.

In the letter Tsatsarov recommends that the Cabinet take steps to amend the concession contract and make it in-line with the law. Another recommendation is for government to take immediate action to confine the territory that Yulen uses as it is defined in the contract. The territory for which Yulen pais a concession fee is 99.55 hectares but the company actually uses 164.78 hectares.

What the Prosecutor’s Office and the Chief Prosecutor could do is to give recommendations. We cannot overtake functions of the Council of Ministers and sign a contract – such that we believe should look like today.”, the Chief Prosecutor’s Spokeswoman Rumiana Arnaudova told journalists.

She underlined that if her colleagues establish intent by the officials, an investigation will be opened under certain conditions.

In order to press criminal charges against officials, for example for an offence concerning their professional conduct, we must first prove intent and the existence of a particulate objective: profit or violation of some one’s rights. Such information has not been collected at this time”, she added.

Interestingly the Tsatsarov’s letter includes a vast overview of different violations of the concession contract. NGOs have been alerting about these violations for years and people have been protesting them on multiple occasions.

Meanwhile the Prosecutor’s Office is carrying-out another probe – into the Ministry of Sport and Youth and the Bulgarian Ski Federation. The Ministry have subsidized the Federation with over 40 million leva. The Chief Prosecutor’s Spokeswoman said there is “evidence of offences concerning professional conduct, including mismanagement of public funds.

The Chairman of the Federation is Tseko Minev, who is the alleged major shareholder of the First Investment Bank and – also alleged – owner of Yulen (on paper the company is owned by Georgius Georgiu, an indigent Greek citizen) and Vitosha Ski. The bank rejects the claims, while the state and the Bulgarian National Bank refuse to comment.

Rumiana Arnaudova stated that the state prosecution not aware at this time of any connection between Tseko Minev and Yulen but the investigation is still ongoing.

Understandably, prosecutors can’t establish a connection as they have limited their search within the Trade Registry and other information the Bulgarian institutions possess. The ownership of Yulen, however, is well known to be hidden in offshore companies. The Prosecutor’s Office has not requested any legal assistance from Cyprus or the Virgin Islands.


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