Bulgarian Journalist Ivan Bakalov: Like Other Balkan Leaders PM Borisov Will Be Sentenced in Court Some Day
A new book appeared on the Bulgarian print market in October 2011, but local media, with very few exceptions, stubbornly keep silent about it.
From its title - "In the Shadow of Boyko Borisov," the reader can certainly guess why...
The cover of the book "In the Shadow of Boyko Borisov." Photo Ivan Bakalov. The book describes things from the past and the present of Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, which, for one reason or another, were and are hushed, or mentioned briefly and manipulated by the media. This is the main reason for its appearance. In it, the author, career journalist, Ivan Bakalov, makes an attempt to verify some unknown or less known facts about Borisov; to separate rumors and conspiracy theories from the credible. As Bakalov writes: "There are too many questions around Borisov and few answers; there are layers of myths and legends, along with obvious scandalous circumstances."
The book focuses on Borisov's relations with the media, his alleged links with mafia groups from the recent past and with today's TIM, with the Serbian mafia, with certain business circles and interests, including banker Tsvetelina Borislavova - his girlfriend with whom he officially lived together until 2011 and is a partner in a number of firms, with people like the CEO of Lukoil Bulgaria, Valentin Zlatev, and now-former President, Georgi Parvanov, with the Communist party elite, including the clan of Communist dictator, Todor Zhivkov.
The book is being translated into English and the publishing of the English version is forthcoming.
Ivan Bakalov is a graduate of the Journalism Department at the Sofia University. He had worked as journalist in the "Sega" (Now), "24 Chassa" (24 Hours), "Novinar" (News Reporter) and other Bulgarian dailies. Editor and publisher of the informational, reference magazine "Mente i Originali" (Cheats and Originals). Since March 2007, publisher and editor-in -chief of the online edition e-vestnik. He has authored the books "The Plots against Todor Zhivkov," and "At the End of Our Streets Are Spars" – the latter is a collections of travel notes and black and white photographs from his summer 2009, 5500-kilometer car trip across America.
Why did you decide to write this book?
Media keep silent about many unpleasant things from the past and present of Borisov. In the book, I have collected more or less known facts that have been shoved under the rug by media. Even now, many people, when they read the book, they say: "I did not know about this." For example - facts like the one that PM's mate in life, Tsvetelina Borislavova, had survived a bomb attack in 1998 - are not widely known. Or that a company, in which she participated with Borisov and Rumen Nikolov AKA The Pasha (editor's note: one of the alleged bosses of the crime group SIC in the 90s) had been exposed for illegal manufacturing of cigarettes.
If local media were free, I would not write this book – everything would have been published by them. I have gathered whatever can be gathered on Borisov, so that people can see it all together. Of course, there is much more left that had not been included in the book. There is enough material for a sequel, but much effort is needed to verify everything.
Another reason to write this book is the appearance of another one before it – "The Secret Project Boyko Borisov," labeled a "political thriller," which is presented in the "conspiracy theory" style. It includes some true facts, but at the end – it is complete conspiracy. There shouldn't be only one such book about this man – Borisov. Plus another one, humorous, created by the script writers of the popular late night talk show "Slavi's Show."
Did anyone pay you for this? Who is the publisher?
I published it myself; I registered a publishing brand name – e-press. I got a loan for the printing and have already repaid it. It is not that expensive to publish a book in Bulgaria. I had two proposals in principle, from two publishing houses, but they came when the book was in an advanced stage and I had already organized its printing. I chose to publish it on my own. It sells relatively well. Of course, no one is advertising it; people ask me non-stop where they can find it to purchase it – some bookstores don't dare to sell it or to display it on the shelves.
How and from where did you gather the information in it, the documents, the pictures?
The documents from the company "Teo International," where Borisov was partner with Rumen Nikolov AKA The Pasha, Ivo Kamenov from TIM and others, have been officially downloaded from the Registry Agency and published by the site for investigative journalism Bivol.bg, and not in any other edition. I believe that this was the sole reason which prompted the Parliament to pass amendments to the law in order to restrict access to the registries of the Agency. All media could have published these documents, but they did not want to. In 1995, this company was exposed for illegal manufacturing of cigarettes; there was a tax probe conducted with the help of the police; the case was described in newspapers, but there were and aren't consequences for the owners. Borisov was not popular then – meaning – this is not some concocted slander to compromise him; at the time he was "Mr. Nobody," how would someone predict that he would be Prime Minister one day? There are other documents as well – about the Masonic Lodge. They were provided for two newspapers, but never published, because they affect Rumen Nikolov The Pasha, who is close to Borisov. The Pasha's signature can be seen on a Masonic declaration of oath; it matches his signature on documents from the "Teo International" company.
The pictures I collected from colleagues, fellow press photographers; they have many unpublished ones from Borisov, from the recent past; their editions did not release them.
From right to left: former Interior Minister,Rumen Petkov, former President, Georgi Parvanov, and Boyko Borisov, enjoy a sports game. Photo by "In the Shadow of Boyko Borisov.
Your statement that Borisov has a long political future might come as surprise to many readers? A number of political experts and pollsters believe that Borisov will not be able to win a second term in office; that he will be forgotten as it happened with many parties here that were based on the leadership of one single person... Why do you believe the opposite?
He will have a long future, even if he does not become PM during the next term. He could, however, be PM for one more term - in some Coalition, but will not be able to finish it. Or, if some complex Coalition, without his GERB party, takes over the rule of the country next - it is possible for it to be toppled quickly, and for Borisov to return on a white horse as PM – like Berlusconi, but not for this long. Borisov had been Chief Secretary of the Interior for 4 years and always in newspapers headlines; he was Mayor of Sofia for 4 years. He will be PM for 4 years as well. The society is already starting to "have enough" of him, however, he will remain a factor in local politics for a long time.
And in 10 years he will be sentenced in a Court of law, like they sentenced, with a huge delay, the former French President and Mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac. Even now, there are two publically known facts that can serve as grounds to try Borisov, but the Prosecutor's Office does not dare to touch him. For example, for his taped and leaked conversations – the former Director of the National Revenue Agency, Maria Murgina, was sentenced for pressuring a subordinate to 4 years of jail time.
There are witnesses of these conversations of Borisov; no one had questioned Customs Chief, Vanio Tanov, employees from the State Agency for National Security, DANS, and the Interior Ministry, who have listened to these recordings on the system's computers. The Prosecutor's Office also failed to interrogate the former DANS employee, who quit the services, and declared before the "Slavi's Show" (there is actually no other TV program where someone would dare to do so) that the tapes were authentic.
No one in the Prosecutor's Office even bothered with it. But, we constantly watched on news how Berlusconi was interrogatednon-stop in Court and by the prosecution. Borisov and Berlusconi are somewhat similar in the way they communicate with the media, but Berlusconi is an educated person; he had graduated from Law School in Milan; he is a media mogul and capitalist, managing different businesses for years... And ours is a firefighter with marginal education, a graduate from the Communist militia school, a former bodyguard, business partner with the "mutras" (editor's note: organized crime figures).
How then do you explain the results of the last elections, in October 2011? There were protest rallies, public booings and hissings of the PM, but GERB scored significant victory; it even took the Presidential office?
People saw in Rosen Plevneliev the better candidate. The Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, could not come up with a better nomination than Ivaylo Kalfin; nevertheless, the margin in the votes between the two of them was not that large; there was a third candidate – Meglena Kuneva, but we all witnessed how tabloids serving Borisov blasted her in just several months; they insinuated even that she was something like a drug dealer...
And the ballot for Plevneliev is not an automatic vote for Borisov and GERB. The PM is lying here when he says that "anyone nominated by GERB would have won." As usual, he contradicts himself – a little before the elections he said that his personal choice was Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, but Plevneliev was more independent. Why didn't he nominate Tsvetanov then?
The situation with Borisov reminds of the cases of Milo Djukanovic in Montenegro and Ivo Sanader in Croatia. Both were leaders with no competition. Djukanovic was PM and President for 10 years, but they started calling him the "Mafia PM," and the "King of Smuggling on the Balkans," even when he was still in office. He resigned when things started turning hot. And only now, one of his advisors came out and said that he ran contraband for EUR 1.5 B a year.
It was the same with Ivo Sanader – two terms as PM; in the middle of the second one, he resigned. Things turned hot for him as well; he attempted to flee abroad and was arrested. He was in preliminary detention until recently. He is to face trial.
Bulgaria is no exception on the Balkans, concerning this type of leader.
Many insist that currently Bulgaria has no alternative to Borisov. Is that so?
I will offer an example from the recent past – before he was toppled, the "red" PM, Zhan Videnov, had no alternative either. His own party was trying to make changes in the cabinet, but he got stubborn. The discontent pushed upfront as alternative Ivan Kostov – even then, already a tainted Minister in two governments.
When the "blue PM" Kostov, on his turn, was falling, he did not have an alternative either. And suddenly, Tsar Simeon emerged, established a party in just 2-3 months and swept both Kostov's Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, DSB, and BSP. And then, media too were against the Tsar.
Something similar will happen with Borisov now – very suddenly an alternative will form, from people, who are well known, but no one is thinking of them currently. But I do not want to mention names, purposely.
Soon after you book was published, one of the defendants in the high-profile criminal case, codenamed "The Killers," told the magistrates that some well-known Bulgaria mafia people and Serbian Drug Lord, Sreten Jocic, plotted to buy for Borisov a senior post at the Interior Ministry. Do you think there is any truth in this?
Rumors about this had been spreading for a while – that someone paid for Borisov's post at the Interior. I did not include it in the book; it cannot be proved. The defendant in question is a former security guard and driver of Bay Mile – a notorious gangster from SIC, murdered Hollywood style with 5 other people. His driver further told the magistrates that the permits for security guards for Bay Mile had been issued by Borisov's security company "IPON." This could not be a lie – it can be easily verified. But no one did and with time passing, such information can be deleted. The defendant also said that Borisov was in charge of the traffic of methamphetamines from Turkey. This detail, about the methamphetamines, I first read about in a secret cable of former US Ambassador to Sofia, John Beyrle, released by WikiLeaks and Bivol. I have quoted in my book. It matches, doesn't it? The testimony of the defendant was cited only by 2-3 online publications. Major newspapers and TV channels pretended it did not exist. Everyone can make their own conclusions.
The case with Borisov is scandalous; media serve him blindly. In Bulgaria, we can talk about "controlled democracy," like in Putin's Russia. But Bulgarian political analyzers, political scientists serve the power and mislead foreign observers that Borisov is a talented politician in the process of learning. They also made him legitimate as a politician and a right-winger – and he is a person, who is not what they present him to be.
Borisov (center) with Lukoil CEO, Vagit Alekperov (left) and the CEO of Lukoil Bulgaria, Valentin Zlatev (right). Photo by "In the Shadow of Boyko Borisov"
You dedicate quite a few pages to the connection between Borisov and Communist dictator, Todor Zhivkov? Why?
Borisov was Zhivkov's student. As he, himself says, the learned a lot from Tsar Simeon and Zhivkov. What did he learn from the quiet Tsar, I don't know. But with Zhivkov, when he was his bodyguard, they talked for a long time while they played backgammon together. And Zhivkov told him about his "redneck" tricks in ruling the country. Borisov had bragged about it before friends. In the book, there is a picture of Borisov and Zhivkov in the latter's hometown of Pravets, sitting at a table together with Valentin Zlatev (editor's note - CEO of Lukoil Bulgaria) and Zlatev Senior.
Is there fear under Borisov's rule?
Yes, fear was instated under Borisov. This has very grave consequences even for the economy – there are schemes everywhere that bind the business. Little and small businesses are going into bankruptcy. People are losing initiative, entrepreneurship. This is a return to the totalitarian times when people were commanded, ordered, and all initiative was banned. Freedom is the strongest moving force of society. Borisov impinged on freedom; abuses his power and violates the principles of a democratic state.
Are you afraid? Have you been threatened?
We, journalists, must set example; we must show that we are not afraid. Otherwise, fear spreads more and more in society. For example, some people, colleagues, did not show up for the book's presentation at Sofia University because they did not want to be seen there. Borisov is sending spies sometimes; there are such cases. During the presentation of the book in the city of Stara Zagora, I noticed a man, sent by GERB to listen and take notes while I was speaking. There were about 70 people gathered for the book's premiere in Sofia, and at some point two uniform police officers showed at the door and took a look around – someone had sent them to see if something would happen – this is ridiculous – this was, after all, a book premiere.
A colleague in an editorial office recently scolded me: "We don't talk about Borisov like this here..." As we still live in Zhivkov's times...
Borisov as Mayor of Sofia on the cover of "Better Health" magazine. Photo by "In the Shadow of Boyko Borisov"
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