Former Bulgarian Defense Minister and former Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov registered an offshore company in the Seychelles through a Swiss intermediary. This happened in August 2013, a few months after Mladenov left Bulgarian politics and a week after he became the United Nations (UN) special envoy to Iraq. On August 2, 2013, Mladenov was appointed as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. Afron Enterprises Ltd. was established on August 9.
BIRD contacted Mladenov, who explained that after the end of his ministerial term he intended to start a consulting business but the opportunity to work at the UN changed his plans and he forgot about the registered company. “This firm was never active and no money transactions have been made through it,” he added.
“I have always respected journalists and their efforts to get to the truth, and I have worked with them in the interests of transparency. That is why yesterday I talked to Mr. Chobanov from BIRD.bg and I thank him for his responsiveness and desire to clarify things.
The registration of the firm which appears under my name has never been active and never operated financial transactions.
In 2013, after the end of my mandate, I wanted to start freelancing, start fresh. I decided to register a firm, through which I would work. I contacted Swiss financial consultants and started a correspondence.
Then, I was given the offer from the UN and my plans changed.”
The embarrassing fact, however, is that the company was established a few days after Mladenov joined the UN. His appointment was officially announced by Ban Ki-moon on August 2, 2013 but all documents prove that the company was established on August 9, 2013. This date was entered personally by the already appointed UN Special Representative as shows the scanned contract with the Swiss company SFM Corporate Services SA for company registration.
Asked about this discrepancy, Mladenov could not recall how the registration process went but said it began before his UN mandate.
The documents from the Pandora Papers show that SFM invoiced EUR 600 per year to maintain the registration, which was active until 2018. Nikolay Mladenov, himself, assured that he had contacted the company and had received a document that it has not been active since that year.
UN: We know nothing about Afron Enterprises
BIRD approached the office of the UN Secretary General and asked whether Afron Enterprises was included in the property declaration submitted by Nikolay Mladenov. By statute, all employees of the global organization must declare their assets, but these documents are confidential.
The answer signed by the spokesperson of the UN Secretary General shows that the organization knows nothing about this company and that it has not been declared.
Following his mandate as UN Special Representative in Iraq, on February 5, 2015, Mladenov was appointed United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. In December 2020 the Security Council approved United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’s proposal to appoint Mladenov as the new UN envoy for Libya. However, on December 21, he withdrew from the position citing personal and family reasons.
There are nearly 200 people connected with Bulgaria in the Pandora Files
The Swiss intermediary SFM Corporate Services SA is one of 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.
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.
Publications in more than 150 media outlets around the world began on October 3rd, revealing secret deals and hidden assets of more than 330 politicians and high-ranking government officials, including 35 state leaders from more than 90 countries and territories.
Current and former leaders highlighted by the investigation include King Abdullah II of Jordan, the prime ministers of Côte d’Ivoire and the Czech Republic, the presidents of Ukraine, Ecuador, Kenya and Gabon, close to President Putin, former presidents of El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay and Honduras, former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and many others.
BIRD.BG is the Bulgarian partner in this investigation.
There are two Bulgarian politicians whose names appear directly in the Pandora Papers – Delyan Peevski and Nikolay Mladenov. In addition to them, there are 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.
It is possible that relatives or proxies of politicians are also among the Bulgarians with offshore companies in the Pandora Papers and this is the subject of a further investigation.
Щом сте стигнали дотук, вероятно вече си задавате въпроса как се финансира този журналистически проект.
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This post is also available in: Български (Bulgarian)