Honorary Consul of the Maldives Hristo Chepishev, one of the founders of SIC Krasimir Bebov, the drug kingpin Christoforos Nikos Amanatidis – Taki and the brother of GERB MP Rositsa Kirova – Konstantin Varbanov are conducting an investigation by the Seychelles Anti-Corruption Commission for the theft and subsequently laundering of $ 50 million, as well as illegal possession of weapons and terrorism.
In 2002, the Emirates donated $50 million to the Seychelles, which was stolen. Nineteen years later, several people were detained in an investigation into the record-breaking theft, including the wife of former President Frans-Albert René, a former finance minister, a former head of a pension fund, a former head of the largest state-owned enterprise and his wife a prosecutor, as well as a former head of the coast guard. The searches found a large number of illegal possession of heavy and light weapons, a huge number of ammunition for them, as well as live grenades, which adds to the indictment a composition for terrorism.
This is the largest corruption scandal in Seychelles’ history, which has entered the judicial phase. The next hearing will be on December 14.
The arrests came after a regime change in the Seychelles in 2020, when Wavel Ramkalavan was elected president. Until then, former President Franç-Albert René, who stepped down in 2004 after 30 years in power, had come to power in the island republic. The new government of Seychelles began to remove the skeletons from the closet and supported the work of the Anti-Corruption Commission established in 2016. The European Union also sends specialists and equipment.
On November 18, 2021, the world’s richest Seychelseaur, Mukesh Valabji, was arrested., along with his wife Laura, who is a prosecutor. The arrest of the former president’s wife follows. Sarah Zarkani Renee. She was later released on bail, but the Vallabji husbands are still in custody, charged with stealing and laundering the $50 million grant, but also illegally possessing weapons and preparing a terrorist act.
In this explosive dossier there is a thick Bulgarian trace leading to the circles of organized crime and the party GERB, which has ruled the country for the past 12 years, BIRD and ICIJ journalists found, within the framework of the project “Diplomats in the Shadow“.
Shadow Diplomats is a global investigation into honorary consuls led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ICIJ and ProPublica, involving 160 journalists from 56 media outlets in 49 countries. The investigation sheds light on one of the least studied roles in international diplomacy, that of the honorary consul.
This first-of-its-kind global investigation identified at least 500 current and former honorary consuls who were involved in scandals or criminal cases. Some have been convicted of serious crimes or caught using their status for personal gain, others are being investigated for money laundering related to corruption and terrorism, and still others have been criticised for supporting authoritarian regimes.
Who is Mukesh Valabji and what connects him with Bulgaria?
Born in 1960, a former economic adviser to President Rene, in 1984 Mukesh Wallabji headed the largest state-owned company in the Seychelles – Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB), through which all imports into the small island country pass. He left in 2006 to establish the firm Capital Management Group. He owns the luxury resort Zil Pasyon
on the private island of Felisite,
telecom, ISP and cable TV.
But also Valabji owned in Bulgaria (and probably still owns through strawmen) several companies with serious real estate assets, a check of the BIRD.BG in the Commercial Register showed. His partners for this business in Bulgaria are the Honorary Consul of the Maldives
and the founder of the first company SIC Krasimir Bebov.
In addition, during the search of Valabdzhi’s computer, copies of the passports of Christoforos Amanatidis – Taki – number 331150126 and of Konstantin Lyubenov Varbanov – number 331150139. This is clear from the review of official documents in the Valabji case seen by BIRD and ICIJ reporters.
Christoforos Amanatidis – Taki He is considered a major drug lord and was wanted with a red notice by Interpol after his drug distribution group was dismantled. He is believed to live in Dubai, but also has a business in Bulgaria.
Konstantin Varbanov is the brother and partner of Rositsa Kirova – current MP from GERB and former Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly.
Taki and Lyubenov traveled together to the Seychelles in 2006, and subsequently separately several times, according to the documents in the case, which contain a table of the dates of their visits.
Hristoforos Nicos AMANATIDIS
Konstantin Lyubenov VARBANOV
It is noteworthy that from 2007 to 2008 Taki went to the Seychelles, and then Varbanov. This is probably related to the dismantling of Taki’s group by the Bulgarian General Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime (GDBOP) in 2009, his escape abroad and his announcement as wanted by Interpol.
The reason Valabji had copies of these passports is unclear. One possible explanation is that Taki and Kirova’s brother registered companies there with the help of Vallabji. Seychelles is known as an offshore destination and the “Pandora Files” investigation reveals how the system works with the registration of a company in the name of “straw people”. The beneficial owner, however, must declare himself in the register there, leaving a copy of his passport. His name is kept secret, and as nominal owners of the company are placed the names of local persons.
Rositsa Kirova and Konstantin Varbanov have not only a blood relationship, but also a common business in the company “Danube Dredging Fleet Vidin” and other companies.
This is not Kirova’s family’s first contact with the underworld. She was also a partner with Kosovo drug lord Ismet Osmani, an investigation by BIRD.BG revealed. Despite the disclosure of this fact, she was proposed by GERB as Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly and elected.
Another connection of Valabji with Bulgaria is found through the weapons found in his home. During the searches, an arsenal of heavy and light automatic weapons, 40,000 rounds of ammunition, dozens of grenades and even a Dragunov sniper rifle were seized.
These are weapons purchased by a previous Seychelles government under President René, the investigation found. Former Coast Guard chief André Leslie Benoatton, who provided the weapons, was also indicted, while Vallabji and his wife Laura were charged with illegal possession of combat weapons and preparation of a terrorist act.
According to the case, BIRD was able to identify the serial number of one of the weapons – the Makarov pistol with the number BE 393578 which was produced in Bulgaria, at the Arsenal plant in June 1999.
The main defendant is a partner with an honorary consul and a close founder of the SIC
The name of Mukesh Valabji appeared for the first time in the Bulgarian Commercial Register in early 2006, when he became a partner with Krasimir Traykov Bebov and Rumen Ralchev in the company “BS Bulgaria”. In September of the same year, he joined the company “KM.BG” as a co-owner, together with Bebov and Ivo Hristov Vasilev. The two companies did not re-register in the new Commercial Register in 2007 and have not been operating since. There is no real estate in their name.
Born in 52, Bebov is known to have been in the close circle of Todor Zhivkov’s son Vladimir, who was his best man. In 1994, together with Nikolay Andreev Marinov – Little Margin, he founded the company Security Insurance Car (SIK) AD, which grew into one of the major criminal groups of the transition. However, Bebov did not stay on its board for long.
While Mukesh, Bebov and Ivo Vasilev are partners in KM.BG, they make a unique deal. On October 17, 2006, Ivo Vasilev’s daughter bought a property for BGN 100,000. in the village of Lozen, the next day he donated it to his father, and the next day he sold it to Krasimir Bebov for BGN 4.2 million.
Investigators in Seychelles found that Krassimir Bebov had received a direct transfer of $ 3 million from Mukesh Valabji’s account shortly before the deal as a personal loan. The money was deposited in Bebov’s account with Investbank.
Coincidentally or not, exactly a month after this property deal, on November 19, 2006, Taki and Varbanov landed for the first time in the Seychelles.
The tricks with this land and its transfer between the partners in the company reinforce suspicions that Mukesh’s Bulgarian partners are helping him launder money in properties in Bulgaria.
But the big money is not with Bebov, but in construction companies, in which Vallabdzhi is a partner with the Honorary Consul of the Maldives, Hristo Chepishev
. According to Seychelles’ investigative authorities, 27.8 million euros were laundered through them.
Hristo Chepishev was born in 1962, and is a graduate lawyer, restaurateur and construction boss. He lives with the daughter of Krasimir Bebov. His eponymous restaurant in Boyana is often visited by politicians and influential businessmen. A year ago, he became Honorary Consul of the Maldives in Bulgaria in place of the late Borislav Dionysiev.
Chepishev’s business history began in the early 1990s, when he was on the board of directors of Balkanmilk AD together with Multigroup boss Iliya Pavlov. He was a partner from 1996 to 1998 in “TAT” – Ltd. with the shot Todor Tolev, who in 1997 became a partner with Boyko Borisov in the company “TBI – 97” AD. More recently, its name is associated with the construction business through the companies “Buildinvest”, “Sofia Office Center” and “Euro Property”.
According to a secret diplomatic report of the US State Department, published by Wikileaks, SIC (in which Bebov was) and Multigroup (founded by Iliya Pavlov) were leading criminal groups in Bulgaria in the 1990s.
Mukesh Valabji was a partner with Chepishev in the company “Euro Property BG” through a British company. This was declared in the Commercial Register in July 2019 after the obligation under the LMML to declare the beneficial owners of offshore companies arose.
In addition, Valabji is declared by Chepishev as the ultimate owner
These firms in turn own the capital of other firms. Euro Property BG is the owner of Edelweiss 3 – Boyana EOOD and Edelweiss 4 EOOD, Sofia Office Center Building is the owner of Sofia Office Center, Sofia Office Center – 2 is the owner of Sofia Office Center – 2, and Euro Property 88 holds 99% of the capital of Fohar AD, in which managers are Chepishev and Bebov.
All these Bulgarian companies are owned by the British company Euro Property (Real Estate) Co Limited, which in turn is owned by Clareville Capital Opportunity Master Fund Limited, registered in Mauritius, which is owned by Strategic Asset Management Ltd again in Mauritius, with ultimate owner Mukesh Valabji.
In April this year, while Valabji was in custody, several straw persons from the Philippines and Hong Kong were declared the ultimate owners of Euro Property, thus severing the connection with him.
Another curious investment of Valabji is found in Varna, where he became a co-owner in 2019 of the company “Medical Monitoring Center”. She was declared bankrupt and deleted on March 1, 2022. In this transaction, his proxy presented a power of attorney certified by notary Rositsa Rasheva, who was a partner of Hristo Chepishev in the company “Buildinvest”.
Valabji’s main assets are in real estate in Sofia. The Edelweiss and Edelweiss 3 complexes in Boyana generate serious profits from sales of luxury apartments. Only the company “Edelweiss – 3 Boyana” Ltd. has declared over BGN 33 million in sales revenue for the period 2018-2021. In it, Valabji is co-owner with Chepishev through Euro Property BG.
It was this company that sold in 2019 two apartments of the young son of Deputy Chief Prosecutor Borislav Sarafov for the amount of BGN 540,000, as the site Bivol revealed in the “Apartmentgate” saga.
This leads to the paradox of laundering stolen money from the Seychelles through a property investment by a family member of a Bulgarian senior prosecutor.
It is not only Sarafov’s son who has unknowingly joined the criminal act as a third party in good faith. Among the clients of the company of Valabdzhi and Chepishev are also the widow of Bai Mile, the wife and son of former Agriculture Minister Rumen Porozhanov and other famous persons.
A connection with Taki is also found around Edelweiss. The lawyer who represents Christoforos Nikos Amanatidis in Bulgaria for his new companies is Viktor Rashev. In 2016, he was authorized by Chepishev to represent the company “Edelweiss 4” Ltd. This happened at the moment when the company became the property of Valabji through Euro Property 88 EOOD.
Another large-scale investment of Valabji are the two business buildings of Sofia Office Center on Tsarigradsko Shose with a total of 45,000 sq. m. leasable area.
The BRRD contacted Hristo Chepishev for comment on the phone of the Consulate of the Maldives in Bulgaria, to which his assistant replied. We sent questions by e-mail, which his assistant promised to convey. Until the editorial end of the article, no response from Chepishev was received.
We also sent a request for comment to lawyer Basil Hoareau, who represents Vallabji in the terrorism case and is listed in the trial minutes. Prior to the editorial close of the article, we received no response.
Meanwhile, our previous publication on the investigation into money laundering and terrorism, on which Taki and Konstantin Varbanov are proceeding, provoked two parliamentary questions to Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev.
Asked by MP Ivaylo Mirchev, he replied that the Ministry of Interior could not provide information “as it concerns our daily work with our partner services.”
In essence, this answer does not deny that such an investigation exists and the Ministry of Interior knows about it.
But to another question on the same topic, asked by MP Rositsa Kirova, the minister’s answer is contradictory. It claims that the publication of the BIRD.BG does not specify the country in which the investigation is ongoing and the department has no way of knowing in which country what investigations are being conducted.
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