Former lawmaker and Bulgarian media mogul Delyan Peevski is linked to three offshore companies but they are not listed in his property declarations. The evidence is found in the Pandora Papers, an international investigation that sheds light on the global intertwinement of political power and secretive offshore finance.
On November 19, 2013, the subsidiary of the offshore services provider Trident Trust in Switzerland tasked an employee to draft the change of ownership of the company Felina Trade & Investment Inc.. It is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) at the request of the Liechtenstein company Jura Trust AG.
The ownership documents have been sent as attachments to an internal Trident Trust email. They show that on November 12, 2013, Felina’s capital of $50,000 was transferred from Lassandra Corporation, registered in the BVI, to the Panamanian Inversiones Y Servicios Piedra Azul SA
Most of the directors of the companies in question are unknown citizens of the BVI and Panama. But in one of the documents confirming the change of ownership Delyan Peevski is mentioned as Felina’s director.
At that time, Peevski was a Member of the 42nd National Assembly (Parliament) from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), the party largely representing the Bulgarian Muslim minority and had a brief stint as director of the National Security Agency (DANS). His scandalous appointment at the post by Parliament with the votes of DPS and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) triggered months of street protests against their coalition government led by Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski.
The date when the lawmaker became director of the company is not clear since but his submitted in 2014 annual tax declaration for 2013 contains no trace of Felina in it.
In fact, Peevski cannot declare the Felina director’s position because declarations filled in by Members of Parliament (MPs) include such a column. The Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly explicitly prohibit MPs from participating in management or control bodies of commercial companies and cooperatives. Upon taking office, each elected representative shall fill in a special declaration that he/she does not hold “incompatible” positions.
MPs can own property in commercial companies, but they must declare it. The Pandora Papers prove that Peevski has violated this legal requirement.
For years Delyan Peevski had been declaring only two apartments and a house with a yard in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, as well as an Opel automobile valued at BGN 1,000. The first light on the MP’s assets was shed by his declaration from 2016 (for the previous 2015), when he listed himself as the owner of several Bulgarian and foreign companies. Upon joining the 44th National Assembly in 2017, Peevski announced ownership in three foreign companies and in one Bulgarian company.
In 2019, the MP declared he had owned only one company that in 2018 – Proof Method Marketing. But this does not correspond to the real state of his assets.
The Pandora Papers show that Peevski has failed to declare $100,000 in shares in Verum International Limited. It was registered in the Seychelles in 2016 and its owner is the Dubai-based IGWT Limited, also owned by Peevski. On July 1, 2018, Peevski personally signed a document declaring himself the real owner of the shares of Verum, respectively of IGWT, and at the same time transferring them to attorney Alexander Angelov. The set of documents also includes a copy of his passport.
On September 21, 2018, Angelov sent instructions to the registration company Alfa Consulting to liquidate Verum International Limited. The company was permanently deleted a few months later, in May 2019.
There is no trace of Verum International and its $100,000 capital, nor of IGWT Limited, in any of Peevski’s declarations from 2016 to 2019. The concealment of data in a declaration before the Committee for Combatting Corruption and the withdrawal of illegally acquired property (KPKONPI) (sic) is at least a reason to initiate legal proceedings for a full inspection by the anti-corruption body led by former Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov.
However, whether the concealment of the offshore companies is also a documentary crime under Art. 313 of the Penal Code is a controversial issue. In the past, DPS politician Hristo Bisserov and the former Director of the National Revenue Agency (NRA) Maria Murguina have had legal charges pressed against them for undeclared property under this article. Both have been acquitted by the court.
So far, Peevski has been repeatedly checked by the prosecutor’s office on various tipoffs, but without any consequences. In June 2021, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned him under the Magnitsky Act for his extensive role in corruption in Bulgaria. The former MP is challenging the sanctions, and the DPS party continues to defend him publicly in front of Bulgarian and European institutions, claiming that there is no evidence that he is involved in corruption.
Our attempts to reach for comment Peevski, attorney Angelov or Peevski’s American lawyers failed.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) placed Delyan Peevski on the list of the 300 most influential people included in the Pandora Papers. According to his “Pandora” profile, he is an oligarch, a one-time media mogul, and a former member of the Bulgarian Parliament sanctioned in June 2021 by the US Treasury Department. The ICIJ cites Bivol’s investigation showing that Peevski is considered the symbol and embodiment of the “deep state” in Bulgaria for being a frontman of former officers and agents from the Communist secret services (the State Security), close to the DPS and the BSP, who represent the backstage rule of Bulgaria and control huge assets.
Who is Peevski’s lawyer?
Attorney Alexander Angelov is the son of Paraskev Paraskevov. The latter a staff officer from the State Security and a former Deputy Minister of the Interior in a 1990s BSP government in charge of National Security.
Paraskevov’s signature appeared in documents from the registry of foreign lobbyists in the United States as a representative of the law firm Aviora Consult, which hires lobbyists to protect Peevski’s interests.
Aviora Consult is owned by his son Alexander Angelov. An investigation by the site Bivol, citing documents from the NRA, shows that this law firm funnels millions from Peevski’s personal account, which are used to pay for various services in his favor such as expensive lobbyists in the United States and media support, among others.
Another Bivol investigation based on the Panama Papers proves that Angelov is the ultimate beneficiary of two offshore companies linked to Delyan Peevski’s interests. These are Viafot Ltd., claiming ownership of the Dunarit weapons factory and Doreco Limited, which is an instrument for lending and transferring assets worth hundreds of millions to proxies.
According to documents from the Commercial Register, Angelov represented key enterprises from the business empire associated with Peevski and his mother Irena Krasteva such as the printing house Rodina, United Bulgarian Newspapers, the newspaper Standard and others. According to fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev, the former majority holder in the failed Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), Angelov directly represents Delyan Peevski’s interests in the privatization of tobacco manufacturer Bulgartabac and in other transactions financed by CCB.
What is known about Peevski’s secret companies?
Apart from the data available in the Pandora Papers, there is close to nothing that is known about these companies. It is not clear what assets are controlled through them and whether bank accounts or real estate, whose ultimate beneficiary would be Peevski, are registered to them. Apparently, the connection of Felina, Verum and IGWT with Peevski had not been detected by the United States authorities in June 2021 when they imposed financial sanctions on the former media mogul under the global Magnitsky Act.
Lassandra Corporation, registered in the BVI, is a classic front company owned by Jura Trust AG since 2003. It has been reported that it holds shares in other companies as a nominal owner for clients of Jura Trust from Ukraine and Hungary.
The Panamanian Inversiones Y Servicios Piedra Azul SA is currently inactive but it is the same shell company that conceals the actual owners.
No details are known about the subsequent fate of Dubai’s IGWT Limited, which is registered in the Ajman Free Zone. IGWT can also be interpreted as an abbreviation of the inscription “In God We Trust” seen on the US dollar.
There is an active company in Bulgaria named IGWT CORPORATION Ltd. It was established in 2010 in the second largest city of Plovdiv with a capital of BGN 100 and is owned by the Israeli citizen Aaron David Zaku. According to the Commercial Register, in the past the company has participated in the capital of real estate companies, hotels and medical laboratories. No formal connection is found with Dubai’s IGWT Limited, nor with any of Peevski’s popular proxies. The company owes BGN 683,540.99 to the NRA, according to data as of July 2021.
A check in the Bulgarian Commercial Register showed that the offshore companies Felina Trade, Verum International do not own shares in Bulgarian companies. It seems that they do not directly control assets in Bulgaria.
A company Felina – Bulgaria for the production of lingerie had existed until 2013, which was owned by the Swiss Felina International. However, a check in the Swiss register did not reveal a connection with Felina Trade from the BVI.
What is in the Pandora Papers?
The Pandora Papers contain confidential information from 14 offshore service providers, the so-called Secrecy Brokers, enterprises that set up and manage shell companies and trusts in tax havens around the globe. Trident Trust and Alfa Consulting, which registered Felina and Verum respectively, are among them. But the data show that other companies also work with Bulgarian clients. The previous major leak, known as the Panama Papers, contained files from only one company – the now-liquidated Mossack Fonseca & Co.
ICIJ has obtained more than 11.9 million financial records, containing 2.94 terabytes of leaked confidential information from these offshore service providers. For nearly two years, ICIJ organized and led an investigation that grew to encompass more than 600 journalists in 117 countries and territories. This is the ICIJ’s largest ever investigation on the offshore world unlocks financial secrets of politicians, billionaires and the global elite
ICIJ shared the files with 150 media partners, launching the broadest collaboration in journalism history. Their publications began on October 3. They reveal the secret deals and hidden assets of more than 330 politicians and high-level public officials in more than 90 countries and territories, including 35 country leaders.
Current and former leaders who have owned secret companies and trusts, as revealed by the Pandora Papers investigation, include King Abdullah II of Jordan, the prime ministers of Côte d’Ivoire and the Czech Republic, the presidents of Ecuador, Kenya and Gabon and the former presidents of El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay and Honduras, the former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and many others.
BIRD.BG is a partner of ICIJ in the investigation and combs through the information about nearly 200 persons with Bulgarian citizenship or living in Bulgaria, who appear in the Pandora Papers. They include two politicians, one of whom is Peevski, big financiers, lawyers, people involved in multimillion-dollar fraud schemes, but also entrepreneurs with legitimate business and no visible political protections, who have registered offshore companies and have declared them before the Bulgarian authorities.
Globally, the amounts hidden in offshore destinations, for which data are available in the Pandora Papers, are estimated at several trillion US dollars. In the Bulgarian segment there are data for large-scale damage to Bulgarian taxpayers worth at least BGN 1 billion.
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