Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor denies Novichok used in poisoning of local businessman

By bne IntelliNews February 11, 2019

Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov denied rumours that the local owner of an arms factory was poisoned by Novichok in 2015, but admitted that at that time one of three Russian secret service operatives linked to the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the UK last year was in Bulgaria, Dnevnik news outlet reported on February 11.

The Russian, known by the name Sergei Fedotov, was in Bulgaria three times from February to May 2015 and one of his trips coincided with the April 28, 2015 poisoning of arms dealer Emilian Gebrev, his son Hristo, and the production manager of the Dunarit arms factory, Valentin Tahchiev, Tsatsarov was quoted as saying following a meeting with Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov and the UK ambassador to Bulgaria, Emma Hopkins.

Bulgarian media have published rumours that Gebrev was poisoned by Novichok and have suggested that this was either a “rehearsal” for Skrpial’s poisoning or was related to Emko’s bid to buy Dunarit.

The Dunarit deal was marred by controversy for months. Most recently, Bulgaria's competition protection body, KZK, said it had launched an in-depth probe into Emko's planned acquisition of local peer Dunarit upon the request of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC).

In January, SAC cancelled an earlier decision by KZK to let the deal move ahead without analysing it. The decision came following a claim by local company Viafot Investment Bulgaria, which operates in the same market segment as the parties to the deal.

In 2016, when Emko notified KZK of the planned acquisition, the anti-trust body decided that it would not look into the deal because the combined turnover of the two companies was below the regulatory limit.

However, the SAC ruled that the deal should be probed as KZK had not taken into consideration the turnover of Dunarit's parent company, Kemira, or two of Dunarit's units, Sana Park Resort Management and Machineinvest-consulting, which will also be acquired by Emko in accordance with the announced terms of the transaction.

According to the court ruling, the regulator also incorrectly calculated the domestic turnover of the two companies.

Meanwhile, Gebrev was charged with money laundering in January as, according to the prosecution, he had to have been aware that Dunarit’s previous owner – the bankrupt Corpbank – had acquired it with money from criminal activity.

At the same time, there are rumours in local media that controversial businessman Delyan Peevski, who is also an MP of the ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS), has strong interest in taking control of Dunarit.

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