Democratic lobbyist Anthony Podesta has signed lobbying contracts worth more than $ 2 million with Bulgarian companies whose owners are associated with the interests of the oligarch Delyan Peevski, sanctioned under the global Magnitsky Act. One of the contracts has not been declared in accordance with the requirements of the US Foreign Agents Act (FARA), a check of the BRRD found. Another was declared to the Senate, but not under FARA. According to operational information from BRRD sources, there were meetings of Podesta with Peevski in Dubai. In Sofia, he started a business with Peevski’s “Trojan horse” – lawyer Momchil Mondeshki.
Anthony /Tony/ Podesta is a well-known lawyer, donor to the Democratic Party and has a warm relationship with the Biden administration. In the past, he has lobbied for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and also failed to declare this fact, writes the New York Times. His clients include Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, the Burmese junta and Saudi officials. His younger brother, John Podesta, is also a prominent figure in the Democratic Party and is Hillary Clinton’s former chief of staff. John Podesta’s emails leaked to Wikileaks have caused a huge scandal in the United States.
In 2017, Tony Podesta’s lobbying firm was going through tough times as she was facing a federal investigation into another Washington lobbyist, Paul Manafort. Investigators are interested in whether he violated the rules for declaring lobbying activities under the Foreign Agents Declaration Act (FARA).
At the time, Tony Podesta was attacked on Twitter personally by former President Donald Trump, who wondered why Podesta was not detained in this investigation. In the end, Podesta was not charged and the case was abandoned by US authorities two years later in 2019.
Due to the deteriorating reputation of his company and the refusal of banks to work with it, in 2017 Podesta closed his lobbying business and devoted himself to his hobby of collecting paintings and sculptures by famous artists.
As such, he also entered the Bulgarian secular chronicle. At the end of July 2021, the famous democrat and lobbyist toured the exhibition galleries in Sofia together with art dealer and gallerist Stefan Stoyanov, with whom he has been close for a long time.
But this episode off the sidelines of power for Podesta seems to be over. He is returning to lobbying with new multimillion-dollar contracts with China’s Huawai and Bulgarian firms, the New York Times reported .
In fact, his visit to Sofia includes discreet business meetings and contracts for a lot of money. What Podesta works with in Bulgaria has in common is that they are related to the business interests of Delyan Peevski, the Bulgarian DPS MP sanctioned by the United States for significant corruption under the global Magnitsky Act.
It is also disturbing that not all contracts of Podesta with Bulgarian companies are declared under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a check of the Bulgarian Lobbyists found in the US registers of lobbyists.
Tony Podesta visits Sofia again in October 2021 after a meeting with Peevski in Dubai. And in November, he registered an official consulting business in Bulgaria together with lawyer Momchil Mondeshki, who is known to be Peevski’s confidant.
The American lobbyist left unanswered our request for an interview sent by email a week ago.
From the “doyen of Bulgarian organized crime” to the oligarch sanctioned under Magnitsky
On July 13, 2021, Podesta signed a contract with the Bulgarian company Protos Energy to “promote the company’s interests with all relevant employees of the US government in the White House, the National Security Council, the Department of Energy, the leadership of the Congress of the House of Representatives and Senate, and the energy committees of both the House and the Senate.”
The contract with Protos worth USD 300 000 is for the period from 21 July 2021 to December, and the payment was made on 21 July from the Protos account with UBB with number 1087 7040 40.
“Protos Energy” is owned by Georgi Samuilov, who confirmed in a telephone conversation with a BRRD reporter about the lobbying contract. He said he hired Podesta to lobby because his energy company, one of the largest in Bulgaria, has an interest in the U.S. liquefied natural gas market. Samuilov declined to disclose further details, but said he had known Podesta for many years.
Podesta declared this lobbying activity in the US Senate lobbying disclosure database on August 23, 2021. On October 20, 2021, Podesta also filed a report showing the sum of $ 500,000. This means that he has received other payments besides the first from Protos.
INSA Oil is one of the largest Bulgarian gas and oil companies and is also owned by Georgi Samuilov.
The pro-Protos lobbying agreement also includes the U.S. Government’s Department of Energy. But in the official database where lobbying contracts under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) are visible, there is no information about Protos Energy or INSA Oil. The requirement under FARA is to request lobbying activities before it starts.
In the 1990s, the owner of Protos Energy and INSA Oil, Georgi Samuilov, worked in the Multigroup holding, described in US State Department reports as “the doyen of Bulgarian organized crime.”
Multigrup leader Iliya Pavlov was shot dead by an assassin in 2003.
In 2009, the former head of the General Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime (GDBOP), Vanyo Tanov, who later became head of the Customs Agency, told parliament that Joro Insa (Samuilov’s nickname) was involved in multimillion-dollar VAT and tax fraud. However, he was never arrested, and the VAT fraud case was never brought to court.
More recently, Samuilov was suspected of being the frontman of the oligarch Delyan Peevski, sanctioned under the global Magnitsky Act. The economic weekly Capital reported that according to numerous sources, the company that bought multimillion-dollar properties from Peevski is controlled by Samuilov.
In June 2021, the US Treasury Department announced that Peevski was involved in “significant corruption” and put him on the sanctions list under the global Magnitsky Act. The State Department also publicly named Peevski in a separate sanctions list.
Asked by phone whether he was in a relationship with Peevski, Samuilov said that he had never met Delyan Peevski and did not know him personally, and that he had nothing to do with the company that bought his properties.
Contract with “Hydrostroy”
Podesta’s second contract, worth 1.2m euros, is expected to be signed in 2009. Hydrostroy AD, owned by Veliko Zhelev.
The contract mentions the same lobbying activities in the interest of Hydrostroy before the US Government as in the contract with Protos Energy. It runs from August 16, 2021 to August 16, 2022 and payments are quarterly. The first payment was invoiced by Podesta on 16 August 2021.
The U.S. Senate lobbyists ‘ database and the FARA database lack information about this treaty.
Hydrostroy is one of the largest Bulgarian construction companies, which prospered under the former government of Boyko Borisov. In 2016, Hydrostroy acquired the company Vodstroy 98, which was allegedly controlled by Delyan Peevski. “Vodstroy 98” was officially owned by Ivan Mirinski.
After Borisov left the prime minister’s post, the new Minister of Interior Boyko Rashkov accused the owner of Hydrostroy (without pointing him out directly) of siphoning money from road constructions.
On October 25, 2021, Rashkov participated in the “Face to Face” talk show on bTV and said that an unnamed businessman had sent 21m euros to the European Union. Lv. in the OAE, linking the origin of the money to a multimillion-dollar road construction scam known as the “Hemus Gate.”
Asked who the businessman Rashkov was talking about, he said: “I can say that this man is “Great” and “Tough”.
Until the editorial end of the article, “Hydrostroy” did not respond to our request for contact with Veliko Zhelev, sent to the official contact email.
Lobbying for a shady Bulgarian arms dealer in Riyadh
However, these are not the only contracts in Bulgaria concluded by Podesta in 2021. Another shady Bulgarian businessman in August 2021 secured his services for an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
It is about Kiril Klenovski, who has been known in the past as the right hand of the VIS boss Georgi Iliev, who was shot dead by an assassin in 2003.
Klenovski, through his company “Water Stone”, is the tenant of the luxury apartment with armored glass in the building above the confectionery “Crystal” on Tsarigradsko shose Str. Aksakov 10. In the past, it belonged to banker Tsvetan Vassilev, and now it is owned by financier Emil Harsev.
Currently, Klenowski, through his companies Water Stone and Riarm, is engaged in the export of weapons and ammunition. His contract with Podesta is through the company “Ryarm” to lobby the Ministry of Defense of Saudi Arabia in connection with an upcoming tender. It was concluded on August 15, 2021 for a total value of $ 400,000, and Podesta can also receive 4% of the commission on a successful deal.
The BRRD has evidence that Klenovsky maintains accounts with the state-owned BDB, from where on August 25, 2021, the first tranche of $ 100,000 was transferred to Podesta’s account with Bank of America.
However, a check in the register of the Interdepartmental Commission for Export Control and Non-Proliferation of Weapons showed that the company “Ryarm” does not have a license to export weapons and ammunition. There is also no license, Water Stone, which means that exports are carried out through other companies, and Klenovsky’s companies mediate the deals.
Contacted by phone for comment, Klenovsky said he was abroad and did not remember this contract with Podesta, as he had many different contracts.
Partnership with “Peevski’s Trojan Horse”
On November 8, 2021, Anthony Podesta and Atty. Momchil Mondeshki established the company “Podesta and Mondeshki ” Ltd. with a capital of BGN 1,000, in which they have equal shares. The main activity of the new company is consulting services in the field of business and management.
The company contract is registered before a notary and Podesta’s translation by his friend Stefan Stoyanov.
Momchil Mondeshki became famous because of the recordings “Yaneva Gate”, in which he discussed with judges Vladimira Yaneva and Rumyana Chenalova schemes for influence in power.
It is clear from the talks that he is particularly close to Delyan Peevski, who had to approve the trustees of the bankrupt bank. In a publication of Capital, he is referred to as “Peevski’s Trojan Horse” because of his role in cashing in the assets of CCB.
Two years ago, Bivol managed to film Adv. Mondeshki at an exhibition in Hanover, but he refused to answer questions, and his security was rude to the film crew.
The BRRD tried to reach out on the phone to Atty. Mondeshki, but he did not pick up the phone and did not respond to the messages sent.
Meetings in Dubai and Sofia
According to operational information of BRRD, the meetings of Podesta in Sofia were held in the hotels “Sense” and “Intercontinental” and were controlled by our and partner services.
There was also a meeting in Dubai, at the Bulgari Hotel on September 30 and October 1, 2021. It was attended by Delyan Peevski, his lawyer Alexander Angelov, Georgi Samuilov and Stefan Stoyanov. This meeting was also supervised by partner services.
In front of BRRD, Georgi Samuilov denied that he was present at such a meeting. We asked the same question on the phone to Stefan Stoyanov. After hearing what it was about, he interrupted the conversation with justification that he was in an important meeting with artists and asked us to send him questions by email. Until the editorial end of the article, Stoyanov did not answer the sent questions.
On October 3, Peevski returned to Bulgaria on a flight from Dubai. This period coincided with the publication of The Pandora Files, with Peevski being the first consecrated politician with secret offshore companies. On October 6, he was summoned for questioning at the State Agency for National Security.
It is not clear what followed from this activity of the services, but in the meantime Peevski gained immunity as a Member of Parliament in the 47th National Assembly.
Who are Peevski’s lobbyists and lawyers in the United States?
In 2017, the company of atty. Sasho Angelov “Aviora Consult” hires the US lobbying company BGR Government Affairs in favor of Delyan Peevski. BGR’s latest contract with Aviora is for $30,000 a month and runs from the end of 2020, but the FARA database is still active.
After Tony Podesta’s problems with American justice in 2017 and the collapse of his business, some of his most prominent staff went to work at BGR.
Separately, Peevski has hired one of the most expensive law firms Morgan Lewis to protect his interests in the RICO case, filed in New York State against Peevski, FIB, BNB and Bulgartabac.
The Bulgarian “Magnitsky”
Delyan Peevski was named by the US government as a person involved in significant corruption in early June 2021. Then the Bulgarian authorities under the caretaker government prepared a Bulgarian Magnitsky list, which included individuals and companies associated with the US sanctioned persons Delyan Peevski, Vasil Bozhkov and Ilko Jeliazkov.
The Bulgarian list also lacks the company “Aviora Consult”, which represents Peevski before lobbyists in the US and through which Peevski’s payments with his lawyers pass.
An investigation by Bivol, based on tax documents , showed that millions personally passed through Aviora Consult from Peevski and the tobacco holding Bulgartabac associated with him.
It is not clear what is the origin of Peevski’s money, who is not registered under the VAT Act and should not be able to operate with such amounts.
So far, there is no evidence that the Bulgarian tax and financial intelligence at the State Agency for National Security (DANS) have taken specific actions to verify and clarify these money transfers. Moreover, Peevski’s companies are selling properties worth millions of dollars, which should not be possible after Bulgarian banks said they were stopping working with the companies on the Bulgarian Magnitsky list.
The offshore companies of Peevski and his mother Irena Krasteva from the Pandora Files were also not included in the Bulgarian Magnitsky list. There are no consequences for “Peevski’s bankers” Tseko Minev and Ivaylo Mutafchiev, who also left Pandora.
However, this inexplicable passivity of the Bulgarian authorities may stop if the US launches another investigation against Tony Podesta for his undeclared lobbying contracts with Bulgarian companies and actions in favor of a person sanctioned by the US for corruption.
Щом сте стигнали дотук, вероятно вече си задавате въпроса как се финансира този журналистически проект.
От създаването си BIRD се финансираше от подаяния в нашето журналистическо чекмедже.
Но на чекмеджето му мина времето. Даже прокуратурата затвори онова Чекмедже, знаете кое…
Нашето финансиране влиза в крак с епохата. Фондонабиращата ни кампания вече се казва
Дарявай за BIRD и мятай павета в блатото с корумпирани политици и други тарикати.
Те тайно премятат пари от твоя джоб в своя. Те размятат безнаказано лукса си пред очите на всички. Няма кой да ги накаже ако се надяваш на държавата.
Мятай, за да ги накажеш ти. Да дариш за разследващите журналисти е гаранция, че гадостите, с които силните на деня те замерят, ще им се върнат.
Можеш да метнеш веднъж, за да ти олекне!
Но по-добре е да мяташ редовно всеки месец и да се чувстваш трайно удовлетворен.
А най-добре е да доведеш приятели и да мятаме редовно заедно в екип. С мощен залп!
*За кръстник на новата ни фондонабираща кампания избрахме другарката Ваня. Благодарим й за вдъхновението!
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