Belgrade court approves extradition of Corpbank majority shareholder to Bulgaria

Belgrade court approves extradition of Corpbank majority shareholder to Bulgaria
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia June 9, 2016

The Belgrade high court has approved the extradition of Tsvetan Vassilev, the owner of bankrupt Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank), to Bulgaria, daily Dnevnik reported on June 9.

Vassilev is the majority shareholder of Corpbank, through which billions of taxpayers’ levs are suspected to have been siphoned off. In June 2014 Corpbank, then the country’s fourth largest lender, suffered a bank run that deprived it of liquidity. It was put under central bank administration and an audit showed a BGN3.75bn (€1.9bn) capital hole. As a result, the bank’s licence was revoked and it was declared insolvent in April 2015.

The businessman has been a fugitive in Serbia since September 2014. A previous ruling approving his extradition was overturned on appeal. Vassilev is considering asking Serbia for asylum.

The court’s ruling came after in March Bulgaria filed claims against Vassilev with the Sofia city court. The BGN2.2bn claim was filed by Bulgaria’s commission for withdrawal of criminal assets (KONPI) against Vassilev and 26 individuals and companies linked to him.

On December 1, the Sofia city court imposed precautionary measures on BGN603.7mn of assets owned by Vassilev. However, the businessman’s lawyer Konstantin Simeonov stated on December 2 that KONPI does not have the right to take away property. Vassilev has denied any wrongdoing.

In a related note, on March 11 the parliament adopted in its first reading amendments to the law on bank insolvency, proposed by lawmakers from the opposition DPS. The amendments require a confidential report prepared by international forensic firm АlixPartners to be published. The consultant was hired in June 2015 to investigate the assets of Corpbank, and the result was a report dated September 23.

In May, the report was revealed and showed that about BGN750mn – BGN800mn  in receivables of Corpbank can be recovered within 12 months.

АlixPartners found that some BGN2.55bn out of the bank's total credit portfolio of BGN4.82bn had been lent to entities reportedly linked with Vassilev. The forensic firm said that such loans usually have very limited, if any, potential to be recovered. There are “strikingly many connections” between Corpbank’s borrowers, the document said.

When the consultant reported its estimate of the amount likely to be recovered, it added that the amount could be increased if court cases are initiated against Vassilev and third parties.

Vassilev’s lawyer has filed a claim against the high court’s ruling with the Belgrade court of appeal.