Yordan Hristov’s nephew turned out to be the head of a company, which produces gas from Bulgarian fields in the Black Sea. Hristov became known as Borislava Yovcheva‘s husband. Yovcheva is the main protagonist in the notorious “house in Barcelona” affair. Rositsa Velkova, a person close to the formerly-ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), who bought Yovcheva’s Ermanno Scervino boutique in Barcelona, is a representative of a major intermediary in the gas market and works with the company of the nephew whose name is Ivan Yordanov. Another company of the nephew is a supplier for European projects won by companies of Yordan Hristov.
Ideologue of GERB: “I also wanted a Scervino boutique”
“I have good connections in Italy and I wanted to grow a fashion business,” this is how Rositsa Velkova explained to BIRD why she had bought the luxury boutique Ermanno Scervino in Barcelona in March 2020. The manager of the boutique was the former “Miss Bikini” Borislava Yovcheva, who is said to have a child by GERB leader and former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
The store was emptied and closed in a hurry after the Catalan newspaper El Periodico reported on February 20, 2020 about an investigation by the Catalan police into money laundering, in which the name of the Bulgarian Prime Minister was involved. Investigators were interested in a EUR-three million luxury home in Barcelona occupied by Yovcheva, as well as the company Ema BGS SL, owner of the Scervino boutique.
There are doubts about the legal origin of this company’s capital and working capital. Borislava Yovcheva exercised “management and control functions” in the store, according to the Spanish investigators, and the amount invested in Ema BGS SL has reached EUR 2.3 million.
Ema BGS SL became the property of the Bulgarian VBG Energy a few weeks after the BarcelonaGate scandal erupted. Velkova is the owner of VBG, but the day after the acquisition of Ema BGS she sold VBG Energy to Desislava Hristova. The latter is the wife of Svetoslav Spasov, a former adviser to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, a diplomat in Vienna and is also known as Borisov’s personal astrologer.
It is not clear how much the transfer of ownership of Ema BGS SL cost, but the deal is hardly particularly profitable because the Spanish company has accumulated an impressive liability of over EUR 1.2 million for 2015 and 2016.
Asked why she gave up her intentions to develop a fashion business in just one day, Velkova said only that these were “business matters”.
Svetoslav Spasov claimed that he and his wife had separated months before the deal and he did not even know about it, after which he pointed out that Sofia’s chief architect Zdravko Zdravkov was involved in changing the ownership of the luxury boutique.
Otherwise, the most memorable statement of Spasov from his active years in politics is that under the building of the National Assembly in the Bulgarian capital Sofia there are cemeteries and lakes with negative energy, which hindered the legislative process.
In addition to having connections in the fashion business, Rositsa Velkova is a representative of one of the largest intermediaries in the gas and oil trade, the registered in the Netherlands Vitol Gas and Power. The name VBG Energy, the company that bought the boutique, actually means Vitol BG. Vitol Gas and Power BV is registered as a member of the Balkan gas hub, but does not have its own license to trade in gas.
VBG Energy obtained a license for electricity trading from the Bulgarian Energy and Water Regulation Commission (EWRC) on May 17, 2016. According to its current owner Desislava Hristova, the company had experience in gas trading, but also does not have its own license.
BIRD learned that the company Petroceltic Bulgaria, which is the concessionaire of the Bulgarian Black Sea gas deposits “Galata”, “Kaliakra” and “Kavarna”, had had business relations with Rositsa Velkova and Yordan Hristov, the new husband of Borislava Yovcheva. In 2019, Ivan Stoyanov Yordanov, a nephew of Yordan Hristov, became the manager of Petroceltic .
An important client and business partner of Petroceltic was the based in the southern city of Haskovo company Central Gas Supply Haskovo, owned by Yordan Hristov. Currently, Petroceltic is paying off a debt assignment from Haskovo Central Gas Supply.
The industrialist and hotelier Yordan Hristov also became famous over the investigation of El Periodico. Spanish police have found that the Cypriot offshore company Palms Enterprises Overseas Limited, represented by Hristov, had poured millions into the Scervino boutique in Barcelona, and the boutique company was run by his ex-wife Silvia Nikolova, before becoming property of Rositsa Velkova.
After the outbreak of the BarcelonaGate scandal, Yordan Hristov married Borislava Yovcheva, 30 years his junior.
Yordan Hristov told BIRD that his marriage to Yovcheva was a mistake, her child was not his, and the acquaintance with Boyko Borisov only brought him problems. He said he did not know who owned Palms Enterprises. Hristov also said that the store in Barcelona had generated large losses under the management of his new wife.
‘Bankya Gas Lobby’
BIRD contacted Dobromir Hristov, a representative of the United States Fund, owner of Petroceltic Bulgaria. He dismissed suspicions that Yordan Hristov had gained control of Petroceltic’s property and said he no longer had a business relationship with him but sold gas to other customers.
When asked why Yordan Hristov’s nephew had become a manager of Petroceltic, Dobromir Hristov said that at one point he needed a “lobby in Bankya” in order to develop Petroceltic’s gas business.
The explanation for the “Bankya lobby” is simple. Similarly to Boyko Borisov, Yordan Hristov has a house in the Sofia suburb of Bankya and is close to Ivan Sazdov, manager of the tennis club in Bankya. Sazdov is particularly close to Boyko Borisov and managed GERB’s first election campaign. At the time of its establishment, the civil association GERB was registered at 4 “Adam Mickiewicz” street in Vrabnitsa, Sofia, which is the address of the Optical-Mechanical Plant OMZ, owned by Yordan Hristov.
The reason why Petroceltic is looking for such a political lobby is probably due to the fact that the concession for the “Kaliakra” and “Kavarna” deposits expired in 2020 and has not been renewed so far. Meanwhile, the “Bankya lobby” has fallen out of power and should no longer be a factor in any concession issues.
Suspicious European projects
An earlier investigation by BIRD found that Yordan Hristov’s companies have won European-funded projects worth more than BGN 7.2 million and public procurement worth nearly BGN 5 million (see appendix).
It turns out that the company Sof Project Engineering of his nephew Ivan Yordanov is the contractor for three of the projects for a total amount of nearly BGN 3 million.
According to BIRD sources, there are a number of irregularities with these projects for deliveries of machines from Sof Project Engineering to Himmash and OMZ such as hiring fictitious workers to formally justify the multimillion projects, as well as fictitious turnover between companies to evade paying VAT.
The very fact of the family connection between the companies that won the projects and the company that is the supplier of the equipment is sufficient grounds for verification by the European Prosecutor’s Office of Laura Kövesi.
Proving the origin of the funds invested in Yovcheva’s luxurious life in Barcelona is the main problem of Spanish investigators dealing with BarcelonaGate. Under Spanish law, money laundering, for which sufficient data has been collected, cannot in itself be a ground for legal charges. The predicate offense – theft or other criminal origin of the funds – must first be proven.
That is why the inspection of the related business of the people involved in BarcelonaGate and especially of the millions of European subsidies is a key moment in the investigation, which, as it turned out, had already been transferred to Bulgaria.
Annex 1: European projects won by companies related to Yordan Hristov
Himmash AD 836143969
Amount: BGN 1,088,024.
Amount: BGN 299,036
Amount: BGN 93,935
Amount: BGN 844,545.35
OMZ OOD 831641688
Amount: BGN 848,415
Amount: BGN 1,652,171.
Amount: BGN 893,400.00.
Amount: BGN 916,800.00
Perla Tourist AD 102123255
Amount: BGN 326,094
Perla Tourist Invest AD 204126475
Amount: 268 804.27 BGN
Total: BGN 7,231,224 or € 3.7 M
Annex 2: Public procurements won by companies related to Yordan Hristov
Himmash AD participates in 4 orders for a total of BGN 6,329,587.19.
OMZ Ltd. participates in 3 orders for a total of BGN 1,213,193.84.
Perla Tourist participates in 5 orders for a total of BGN 1,569,366.00.
NT Nerotek participates in 1 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 3 orders for a total of BGN 4,921,428.00.
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