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Bulgaria: dirty business in a sunny country

14:00 27/09/2017

A Russian businessman, who organized business in Bulgaria together with local partners, was forced not only to report to the prosecutor's office, but also to seek help from the Russian Embassy, as he and his family began to receive threats.

The regional prosecutor's office of the Bulgarian city of Silistra received a statement from a Russian businessman - that his company's account may have been used by a Bulgarian partner to launder large sums of money. This separate episode can be an eloquent and very negative example of the fact that in Bulgaria, striving for the Schengen and reporting annually to its EU counterparts about a nearly completed victory over corruption, things in this sense still leave much to be desired.

The majority of Russian citizens who have visited Bulgaria perceive this country not only as an excellent resort, but as one of the most  friendly European countries, closest to us in spirit, language and religion. In recent years, thousands of Russians have bought housing in this country, and Russian businessmen are actively investing their money here in the development of various fields of activity. Many local residents in Bulgaria recognize that without "Russian brothers" their life would be much poorer - both materially and emotionally.

The long-standing friendship between the Russian and Bulgarian peoples convinces Russian businessmen that Bulgarian partners can be trusted, and with local government  bodies it is not difficult to agree on assistance, and using the same familiar Russian language - because our languages are really very similar and, in addition, many Bulgarians, who studied Russian even in Soviet times, still speak it well.

Characteristically, some Russian businessmen readily invest money in Bulgarian business, not in the hope of a high income, but primarily because of the closeness of cultures, because of that very feeling of kinship, "brotherhood." Indeed, there is no big profit in Bulgaria, which is considered the poorest country in the European Union. But it is often a moral and spiritual comfort for a businessman who thinks not only about money, about immediate benefits, not only for himself, but for his entire family. And if you also do business with this, which can really help make someone's life better by solving some important everyday problem, it is generally, as they say, "plus 100 in karma". Now there are few such idealists, but in Bulgaria they just meet.

Good thoughts

One of these idealists was a Russian businessman Andrey Varganov. He, who was in love with Bulgaria, wanted to help the inhabitants of this country, whose electricity prices are already quite European, to make their life in winter more pleasant and warm. Considering the fact that many people in Bulgaria during the cold season heat their homes with stoves, where they cannot get firewood, as the saying goes, Andrey decided, on the advice of a priest from the city of Silistra, the Father of Dobri, to try to organize the delivery and sale of coal.

As a partner, the son of a priest, Chudomir Dobrev Ivanov participated.  And they agreed to create a joint company in which one side would be engaged in coal supplies, and the second - with sales. Such a company was eventually registered in the summer of 2014 under the name Alef-A. Both parties registered the same shares in the constituent documents: 50% belonged to Andrey Varganov and his wife, the other 50% - to the family of Chudomir Ivanov. The latter as a resident of the country of registration was chosen as a General manager.

The Russian businessman from the very beginning fully trusted his Bulgarian partner. Including because he had relatives whose honesty is difficult to doubt: father - priest, sister's husband - one of the leading workers in the local police department, one of the close relatives - in the Parliament. In general, such people could not deceive. Therefore, to start the work of the company, Varganov without any doubts contributed about 70 thousand euros to the joint company's account.

The amount was transferred in August 2014 to the Alef-A EOOD account in Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria EAD, which is confirmed by payment documents. Under the existing agreements, during the sale of coal Chudomir had to first compensate Andrey  for the amount paid, and then pay 50% of the income.

Coal was purchased. And further, according to the agreements between the partners, Andrey practically did not interfere in the sales process and the company's work.

And where is coal?

Meanwhile, the amounts received from Chudomir did not compensate for the costs of the company - for 3 years the partner returned only about 19 thousand euros. However, somehow by chance Andrew discovered on the Internet a company registered in September 2015 by Chudomir Dobrev Ivanov - the new company Detelina Trade Ltd was carrying out nothing less than coal trading.

On a perfectly logical question about what is happening, Chudomir replied that his company Detelina does not actually sell coal, but Ukrainian chickens, and in general it is his family affair with his father-priest. And their joint venture "Alef A", they say, did not work at all - no profits, only losses.

The priest himself, the Father of Dobri, unexpectedly reported that he had not been aware of this all this time, knew nothing about the son's activities and was now ashamed of his behavior.

After that, Chudomir Dobrev Ivanov advised his Russian partner not to appeal to law enforcement officers, arguing that his relatives work in local bodies, and if the victim turns somewhere “higher”, it may be connected to him with a risk to his life.

Elusive Money

However, the biggest surprise was expected by the Russian businessman later. At first, Varganov managed to find out that on the balance sheet of Detelina Trade Ltd there is exactly the same missing amount of debt. And then, after a more detailed study of the movement of money on the account of the joint company Alef-A, it was found that in 2015-2016 there were amounts in the amount of hundreds of thousands of euros.

"We do not know what that money is, where it came from.  After the partner informed us that the sales of coal simply did not go, we are afraid that some outside funds illegally obtained through the account of our company were not laundered”,  Andrey Varganov said.  "I suppose we were just framed.  And now we are forced to deal with all this.” “Therefore, after consulting with a lawyer, we wrote an application to the prosecutor's office - both in the local and in the General. And we sent copies of the documents to the Russian Embassy in Sofia.”

The lawyer of the Varganov’s, Konstantin Karanikolov, explained the situation as follows:

- I have made printouts of Alef-A's balance sheets over the years. In 2014, when Mr. Varganov transferred money to the company's account, this amount is for some reason not reflected in the report. My principal believes that she was immediately completely withdrawn from the account. In the years that followed, hundreds of thousands passed through this account, and my trustees feared that the firm was used to launder money received from illegal business. Therefore, I advised them to apply to the prosecutor's office with a statement. Copies of the application have been sent to me by the Prosecutor General's Office of Bulgaria, the Embassy of the Russian Federation, the European Commission and the Patriarchate. And yet: since Chudomir Dobrev Ivanov threatened my trustees, we filed a statement about threats at the place of their residence.

According to information from the Bulgarian media, the Father of Dobri Chakov Ivanov was repeatedly convicted of various frauds: abuse of office, tax evasion, use of corrupt schemes, appropriation of church money, blackmail and racket.

Natalia Rzhevskaya

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Bulgaria: dirty business in a sunny country

14:00 27/09/2017 A Russian businessman, who organized business in Bulgaria together with local partners, was forced not only to report to the prosecutor's office, but also to seek help from the Russian Embassy, as he and his family began to receive threats.
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