Serbia postpones decision on extradition of Bulgarian tycoon Vassilev until 2017

Serbia postpones decision on extradition of Bulgarian tycoon Vassilev until 2017
By bne IntelliNews September 13, 2016

Belgrade’s appellate court has returned a case on the extradition of controversial Bulgarian businessman Tsvetan Vassilev to a lower instance court, broadcaster bTV reported on September 12. The court said more evidence is necessary. 

The move postpones the decision on Vassilev’s extradition until next year. Vassilev has been a fugitive in Serbia since 2014. He is the majority shareholder of bankrupt Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank), through which billions of taxpayers’ levs are suspected to have been siphoned off.

In June, the higher court in Belgrade allowed Vassilev’s extradition, but the tycoon’s lawyers appealed immediately. A previous ruling approving his extradition had been overturned on appeal as well. Under Serbian law, the justice minister will have the final word.

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 As a result, the bank’s licence was revoked and it was declared insolvent in April 2015.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 Bulgarian authorities have charged Vassilev with embezzling BGN206mn (€105mn). In addition, in March Bulgaria’s commission for withdrawal of criminal assets (KONPI) filed a BGN2.2bn claim against the businessman and 26 individuals and companies linked to him with the Sofia city court.

Vassilev has denied any wrongdoing. He alleges that the case against him in Bulgaria is political. In June, it was reported that the businessman was considering asking Serbia for asylum.

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