Borislava Yovcheva, the young woman who used to live in the infamous “House in Barcelona”, has gotten a new husband. This is Yordan Hristov, an industrialist and hotelier, close to businessman Ivan Sazdov, and a former tennis partner of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. Hristov shared some very curious things in a conversation with BIRD reporters. He mentioned that the investigation in Spain into Yovcheva’s house and business had been closed. Hristov believes that his marriage to the former model has been a mistake. When asked about his relationship with Borisov, he said that his social contacts with the Prime Minister had only caused him problems and that he is not the father of Yovcheva’s child. Hristov denied having invested money in Yovcheva’s fashion business in Barcelona, leaving open the question of who is behind the offshore company which poured millions into the luxury Ermanno Scervino boutique managed by Yovcheva.
Yordan Hristov came into the focus of media attention because he represents the offshore company Palms Enterprises which has invested EUR 2.3 million in the luxury boutique in Barcelona managed by Yovcheva. This fact emerged from an investigation of Spanish media “El Periodico”, which was published in late February 2020. It refers to a police investigation in Catalonia, launched on an alert by the Bulgarian Civil Association BOETS (Fighter) from 2019. The Association turned to Spanish authorities because publically available documents revealed that Yovcheva lives in a luxury house in Barcelona valued at nearly EUR 3 million. The property has been purchased by Bulgarian businessman Alexander Chaushev, known as the “right hand” of former Lukoil-Bulgarian boss Valentin Zlatev. Chaushev now works for the Bulgarian pharmaceutical company Sopharma.
There are relentless rumors and suspicions that Yovcheva, a former “Miss Bikini”, has had a romantic relationship with Prime Minister Borisov, who is also the father of her child and that he has taken care to secure for her a luxurious life in the Catalan capital. In March 2019, BOETS also approached the Catalan police MOSSOS d’Escadra with the same information and submitted it to Committee for Combatting Corruption and the withdrawal of illegally acquired property (KPKONPI) (sic), while Bulgarian opposition MEP Elena Yoncheva alerted the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office in May 2019.
Hristov represents the offshore company Palms Enterprises, which has invested EUR 2.2 million in a luxury boutique in Barcelona managed by Borislava Yovcheva
According to the findings of “El Periodico”, the Spanish authorities have paid attention to the submitted information and have launched an investigation into money laundering. Yordan Hristov’s name is explicitly mentioned in the Spanish publications. A spokesman for the Spanish police confirmed to several Bulgarian media that there is indeed such an investigation and it is for money laundering but declined providing details citing the secrecy of the investigation.
And the pumpkin becomes carriage…
BIRD recalls that the information about a woman with whom Borisov has had a romantic relationship and had been very nice and generous to her first came to life in the recordings from the #YanevaGate scandal, which Bivol published in 2015. In them, judge Yaneva can be heard claiming that Borisov had bought a “house in Barcelona for a EUR 1.5 million” for a lady for whom he had special feelings. In the course of several investigations it became clear that Borislava Yovcheva was this woman. She is said to be the mother of Borisov’s child.
Yovcheva comes from a modest family from the town of Kulata near the Bulgarian-Serbian border but grew up and went to school in the southern SPA resort town of Sandanski. Her name first appeared in media’s lifestyle sections in 2016 for being a model who had won the “Miss Bikini” title in a beauty contest. Her father Georgi Yovchev has worked as a plumber. In 2008, he took out a mortgage loan to buy an apartment in Sofia. Three years later, the Yovchev family was living a fairy tale life similar to Cinderella’s, as if a sorceress had turned a pumpkin into a carriage and had taken the girl to a ball.
In 2011, Yovcheva’s brother, football player Stanko Yovchev, known by the nickname “The Machine”, left the unknown Greek Pontioi Katerini Football Club (FC) and became a central striker with the highly-popular Sofia-based FC CSKA. His performance there was mediocre and the next season he transferred to Lokomotiv FC based in Bulgaria second-largest city of Plovdiv. In November 2013, he played against “his brother-in-law” Boyko Borisov, Plovdiv media wrote then in their sports sections /see here and here/. Sports journalist Vladimir Zarkov wrote the following on Facebook in 2018:
“HE claims that he does not know Borislava Yovcheva, the model. ***** Strange how he knew her brother Stanko then. And why he ordered an entire football team not to kick his brother-in-law. ****** I saw it with my own eyes on November 18, 2013. In the morning, there was a rally of GERB (Borisov’s party – editor’s note) in Plovdiv, big, big rally. And in the afternoon Lokomotiv welcomed Vitosha Bistritsa (Second League FC from Sofia in which Borisov was a registered player – editor’s note) in a rematch for the cup. Plovdiv won in the first match with 5:0, and the enlightened knew that the rematch would be a solid “two”. ******* And I was surprised that HE became the first person in the world holding such a political post to play in a fixed match. And for the lottery. He entered in the second half. Then Stanko also entered. He was grinning when he told player Aymen Belaid not to kick the new striker too hard as he was going to become his brother-in-law. “Lauta” (football field in Plovdiv – editor’s note) had an audience of 300 people and everything could be heard. ****** After the match, Koko Dinev (Bulgarian businessman and sportsman – editor’s note) personally took Stanko Yovchev to Sandanski as they are both from Sandanski. That’s where HIS (Borisov’s) motorcade went! And HE is not from Sandanski. ***** Stanko’s sister is from there.”
Meanwhile, the family’s mortgage has been repaid ahead of schedule and they relocated to a house for EUR 3 million in Barcelona. In 2015, Borislava Yovcheva became the manager of a luxury boutique in the most popular and expensive area of the Catalan capital. More than EUR 3 million have been invested in the boutique.
It is the origin of these funds that has led to the launch of an investigation into money laundering in Spain.
After the scandal broke out, Borisov repeated several times that he did not have a house in Barcelona but no one had actually claimed such thing. Meanwhile, he persistently avoided answering whether he knew Yovcheva.
For six months, no one asked the Prime Minister whether he was the father of Yovcheva’s child. According to Spanish investigators, Yovcheva is a single parent. The question was finally asked on September 12, 2020, by Bivol journalist Vildan Bayryamova. Borisov denied it but became visibly very unnerved and interrupted his briefing for the media.
This nervousness is common to all protagonists in the story investigated by the Catalan police. Immediately after “El Periodico’s publications, the luxury “Ermanno Scervino” boutique was closed and listed for sale. Reporters filmed the goods being taken out of the boutique’s premises located on the most expensive shopping street in Barcelona, “Paseo de Gracia”. The site for investigative journalism Bivol revealed in an investigation that in recent months the manager of the boutique had been the wife of Iliyan “Matsola” Penev who is from the Bulgarian Danube city of Ruse and is associated with the former Security Insurance Company (SIC), seen as a front for a powerful criminal organization in the 1990s. Penev and Yordan Hristov had a joint business in the 1990s.
At the end of May 2020, it turned out that the house where Yovcheva, her father and her child used to live, had been also listed for sale by a real estate agency. There is no information on the family’s exact whereabouts but they have probably left Spain. And the fairy tale is not over, as Yovcheva managed to marry a much older man, who also happens to be a multimillionaire.
Wedding just a few days before the publication in the Spanish press
The publication in “El Periodico” is dated February 21, 2020. Five days prior to that, on February 16, 2020, Borislava Yovcheva and Yordan Hristov were officially married. Commenting on the publication, the Prime Minister said he had been warned at least a week before its release and had been expecting it. The wedding of Yovcheva and Hristov, 38 years her senior, happened at that same time but their assets’ ownership remained separate, fueling suspicions of a fictitious marriage to distract the public and investigators from Borisov’s role in the Barcelona affair. Regardless of their property relations, Hristov’s wealth is significant. His new wife Borislava Yovcheva can keep leading a lavish lifestyle for many years to come without having to explain the origin of the money.
BIRD managed to find Yordan Hristov in the beach town Primorsko in Bulgarian, where he owns several hotels. The meeting happened in public, on the street and in the parking lot in front of his hotel. He did not hide that he was not at all pleased about this encounter with journalists. When we asked him whether he had been investigated for money laundering in Spain, he tried to snatch the reporter’s phone used to film the meeting. When Hristov noticed that there was a cameraman in the parking lot who was filming what was happening from the sidelines, he verbally attacked him with insults him and forbade him to film him. He then grabbed a plastic parking cone in an attempt to attack the cameraman but it turned out that the cone was tied with a chain to the parking lot’s fence, preventing a physical altercation.
Hristov eventually calmed down, admitted that his initial reaction had been inappropriate and even invited the journalists inside his hotel for a cup of coffee but we declined.
In a conversation lasting an hour and a half, Hristov said some very interesting things.
Investigation is closed?
Hristov became a person of interest to the Catalan police because he is a representative of the Cypriot offshore Palms Enterprises which invested the money in the Ermanno Scervino boutique. It turned out that he is well informed about the progress of the investigation and was adamant that the Spanish prosecutor’s office had closed the “Barcelona house” case.
“The whole story is over there!” he said.
If this is true, the case must have been closed sometimes after June 2020 when the Bulgarian newspaper Sega wrote that they had approached the Spanish police which had confirmed the ongoing investigation.
Following the publications in “El Periodico”, an investigation was also launched in Bulgaria but was terminated on May 12, 2020, while the motives of the public prosecution remain known.
BOETS and its Chairman Georgi Georgiev, which first reported the case to the Spanish prosecutor’s office, said they had not received information that the investigation in Spain had been closed, adding they would have been informed as the senders of the report.
Hristov: My marriage is a mistake, the child is not mine
Yordan Hristov defined his marriage to Borislava Yovcheva as a mistake but declined to provide details whether it had been a personal, business or political mistake.
He also refused to answer whether his marriage to Borislava Yovcheva was fictitious, whether it was concluded under duress and to serve as an alibi for Boyko Borisov in the investigation into money laundering in Spain as the Prime Minister learned prior to the wedding through his own channels about the forthcoming publication and was expecting a public scandal.
The businessman also refused to reveal his wife’s location.
“Please don’t ask me about marriage and who I have f..ked. These are personal thing,” he said.
Hristov also said that he had not been in touch with Boyko Borisov in the last 20 years and that his contacts with him had only caused him problems.
“The fact that I played tennis with him at the time has only hurt me… You want me to tell you at all costs that Boyko Borisov is my best friend and I am his best friend… Let’s say that everyone makes mistakes. Have you not made mistakes? Haven’t you ever f..ked a broad and then come to regret it…? Boyko Borisov has only caused me problems so I don’t give a damn…”
An important detail mentioned by Hristov is that he was not the father of his wife Borislava Yovcheva’s child. But he refused to say who the father was.
“She is not my child, she was born before I knew her mother. These are personal matters and I do not wish to talk about them but I can talk about business.”
About the EU funding and the business
According to the information system of BIRD, companies associated with Yordan Hristov have received over BGN 7 million in European Union (EU) funding. The beneficiaries include the industrial enterprises Himmash and OMZ, but also companies from the hospitality sector. A list of EU-funded projects is can been seen at the end of this article. Companies associated with Yordan Hristov have also won an impressive number of public procurements for nearly BGN 16 million /Appendix 2/.
BIRD’s reporter asked Yordan Hristov whether these winning bids were not the result of his closeness to Borisov and the latter’s tennis partner Ivan Sazdov and whether any of the funds had been redirected to Barcelona. He categorically denied everything but revealed the interesting fact that he had personally gone to former Economy Minister Bozhidar Lukarski to ask for help because he had been blackmailed by some people over a European project.
Yordan Hristov (YH): “I participated in a tender for the supply of machines, these people came and told me they had to win or I would no longer be receiving funds.”
Reporter: “Did you file a corruption report?”
YH: “I went to this minister and I said, and the minister was not from the ruling party! Lukarski was his name, that’s… He was an emblematic minister for me and I went and told him, some guys with Rolexes came and told me… and they actually…”
Here, however, Hristov changed the subject and did not wish to return to it. He repeated several times that all his European projects had been checked by OLAF and everything in them was in order.
“Nothing is missing, not even a penny. You can see all my machines,” he was adamant.
But the bids won by Hristov are not only for machines as nearly BGN 600,000 went to his hotel business. The companies Perla Tourist and Perla Tourist Invest have also received coronavirus subsidies in the amount of BGN 77,866. Borisov recently urged wealthy Bulgarians to “sell their luxury Mercedes automobiles” to pay their workers during the pandemic without having to rely on the government but Hristov, obviously, had not taken this advice to heart.
SIC and Bankya connections
Back in 1997, Hristov became a partner with Iliyan “Matsola” Penev from Ruse, one of the prominent representatives of the SIC group in the Danube city. After a series of scandals and investigations, which he managed to evade, Penev opened a restaurant in Barcelona together with Bulgarian football legend Hristo Stoichkov.
Borisov’s partnership with another emblematic SIC figure, Rumen “The Pasha” Nikolov, in a business with smuggled cigarettes in the Black Sea city of Burgas, dates back to these years.
Hristov’s old connections with SIC remain relevant to date. After the first publications about the miraculous wealth acquisition by Yovcheva and her father, Georgi Yovchev, who has left the management of the company, the woman next to Penev, Miglena Hristova Nikolova, became a representative of the company Ema Bgs SL.
In Bulgaria, Hristov has business connections with Ivan Sazdov, the head of the tennis club in Borisov’s native Bankya. Sazdov is especially close to the Prime Minister and is also a business partner with the latter’s cousin Radoslav Ivanov, who took over Borisov’s security business when he entered politics. In addition, Sazdov has been an activist of Borisov’s Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party (GERB) since its establishment.
According to entries in the Property Register, Hristov, like Borisov, owns a large house in the Sofia suburb of Bankya. It is not next to Borisov’s house, or rather in “Borisov’s neighborhood”, as most of the houses near the Prime Minister’s home had been bought out by his cousin Radoslav Ivanov. But Hristov’s house has the advantage of being next door to Sazdov’s tennis club.
I did not invest money in the boutique
When asked about the investment worth millions in the boutique in Barcelona long before his marriage to Yovcheva, Hristov denied that it was his money.
YH: “I didn’t invest, absolutely did not invest. I did not, I did not.”
Reporter: “Who invested the money then?”
YH: “Why should I care who invested it.”
Reporter: “You don’t care who invested in your wife’s store?”
YH: “Well, this happened before I knew her! What should I do? Before I knew her! She had such losses… Do you understand? There is no money laundering?”
But, to reiterate, Yordan Hristov represents the offshore company Palms Enterprises and the money for the boutique came from it, while his former partner in life Silvia Nikolova was the manager of the company Ema BGS that invested in the boutique. Hristov’s strange indifference to this investment by a company he represents is in stark contrasts with his awareness of the financial losses of the Spanish company of his new wife. According to financial statements, the losses amount to at least EUR 600,000.
Another part of the funds for the water park came in the form of loans from Hristov’s companies, beneficiaries of European funds – Himmash, OMZ, Perla Tourist and yet one more offshore company – Gordon Holdings. The company is registered in the US state of Delaware where registries do not reveal the real owner and is represented by Belinda Lanyon from the island of Guernsey, also known as an offshore tax haven. In 2015, Lanyon was sentenced to prison for money laundering along with her husband Michael Doyle, the BBC reported.
Annex 1: European projects won by companies associated with Yordan Hristov
Amount: BGN 1,088,024.
Amount: BGN 299,036.
Amount: BGN 93,935
Amount: BGN 844,545.35.
Amount: BGN 848,415.
Amount: BGN 1,652,171.
Amount: BGN 893,400.00.
Amount: BGN 916,800.00.
Perla Tourist 102123255
Amount: BGN 326,094.
Perla Tourist Invest 204126475
Amount: 268 804.27 BGN
Total: BGN 7,231,224 or € 3.7 M
Annex 2: Public procurements won by companies associated with Yordan Hristov
Chimmash participates in four orders for a total of BGN 6,329,587.19.
OMZ Ltd. participates in three orders for a total of BGN 1,213,193.84.
Perla Tourist participates in five orders for a total of BGN 1,569,366.00.
NT Nerotek participates in one order for a total of BGN 539,649 .
Komunaltechmash participates in 20 orders for a total of BGN 2,116,729.37.
European Health Insurance Fund participates in three orders for a total of BGN 4,921,428.00.
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