US starts reviewing Bulgarian tycoon Vassilev’s plea for help

US starts reviewing Bulgarian tycoon Vassilev’s plea for help
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia February 8, 2018

The US State Department has begun reviewing the application of controversial Bulgarian businessman Tsvetan Vassilev to be considered under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a law passed by US Congress that allows the government to impose sanctions in retaliation for human rights abuses and corruption, application under the Magnitsky act.

“Latest info from JWI: the US State Dept't is currently reviewing Tzvetan Vassilev's application under the US Global Magnitsky Act. We are expecting results soon,” Radosveta Vassileva wrote on Twitter.

At the end of January, Vassilev formally received his indictment in the Corpbank bankruptcy case. Before that, the start of the trial was delayed twice as the businessman said he had not received the indictment. The trial should begin this month.

The indictments concern crimes suspected to have been committed in the period January 2008 – June 20, 2014. Vassilev is charged with leading an organised criminal group. One of the indictments is for embezzling BGN2.56bn. Another is for embezzling local and foreign currency worth BGN205.9mn, taken from Corpbank’s vault. So far, Vassilev has denied any wrongdoing.

In June 2014 Corpbank, then Bulgaria’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 (€1.92bn) capital hole. As a result, the bank’s licence was revoked and it was declared insolvent in April 2015. The Bulgarian Deposit Insurance Fund (BDIF) has paid out BGN3.68bn in guaranteed deposits to Corpbank depositors since December 4, 2014.

The prosecutors are also charging two former Bulgarian central bank (BNB) deputy governors and another BNB official, all from the central bank’s banking supervision unit. The banking supervisor is accused of failing to detect and eliminate related party lending.

In March 2016, Bulgaria’s commission for the withdrawal of criminal assets (KONPI) filed a BGN2.2bn claim against the tycoon and his associates. However, the following month, Vassilev reportedly filed two counter claims against Bulgaria with the European Court of Human Rights, claiming his human rights had been violated.

Vassilev lives with his family in Serbia, which does not have an extradition treaty with Bulgaria. Courts in Belgrade have not moved to grant Bulgaria’s request to extradite him.

Vassilev’s representatives claim he was a victim of a plot organised by controversial businessman Delyan Peevski – once his business partner – and Bulgaria's chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov.