Bulgaria to Try Exiled Tycoon Over Bank Collapse

Bulgaria to Try Exiled Tycoon Over Bank Collapse

By Mariya Cheresheva

Bulgaria’s special prosecution has pressed charges for the plunder of the Corporate Commercial Bank in 2014, listing suggestions about why the main defendant – the bank’s owner, Tsvetan Vasilev – is now in exile in Serbia.

The indictment was filed with ihe Special Criminal Court in Sofia on Thursday.

Among those accused of appropriating 2.8 billion leva (around 1.4 billion euros) from the assets of the bank, which collapsed in 2014, are the former deputy governor of the Bulgarian National Bank, Tsvetan Gunev, auditors from the central bank and employees of the CCB.

“Due to the huge scope of the appropriated funds and the influence it had on the economy and society, the ‘CCB model’ constitutes ... the largest economic and public ‘financial fraud’ that has occurred in modern Bulgarian history,” reads the prosecution's 150-page resume of the indictment, published on its website.

The prosecutors note that Vasilev lives now at an unidentified address in Serbia, recalling that Bulgaria has sought his extradition multiple times under a European arrest warrant, but the “strange absence of any answer by the competent Serbian judicial authorities”.

The trial will be launched with Vasilev in absentia, therefore.

The indictment lists a number of assumed reasons why the tycoon has chosen to go into exile in Serbia, among which are his desire to buy shares in an unnamed bank in Serbia, the purchase of the Serbian Glass Factory company as well as contacts with Serbian “political circles”.

According to the prosecution, Vasilev has made payments to offshore companies “from the Serbian side” through local consultants – Nihat Korajic and Trilerium LTD.

The prosecutors have made it clear that this is only the first in a series indictments related to CCB’s collapse. Others still in progress relate to Vasilev's alleged “funding” of politicians, journalists and media projects, media and other personal projects.

Vasilev’s private bank, Corporate Commercial Bank, collapsed in 2014 in by far the biggest bank collapse in the history of Bulgaria. Since it failed, the controversial businessman has lived in Serbia where he has other business interests.

In 2006, he bought the Serbian Glass Factory company, in the town of Paracin. It employs over 800 people and is one of the backbones of the local economy, but is currently facing bankrupcy.
The Balkan Insight

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