Bulgarian Media Moguls Face Money Laundering Charges
The publishers of a major Bulgarian press group, formerly owned by WAZ Mediengruppe, are to be charged with money laundering and tax evasion.
The prosecutor's office is expected to raise charges of money laundering and tax evasion against Lyubomir Pavlov and his partner Ognyan Donev, who have already been summoned by investigators, the Bulgarian National Radio reported.
Prosecutors, who were approached by their former partners Hristo Grozev and Austrian Karl Habsburg, have declined to confirm the report.
The allegations reportedly implicate Pavlov and Donev in a money laundering scheme, thanks to which they purchased by WAZ Mediengruppe assets in Bulgaria and staged a illegal corporate take-over of the newspapers.
The news comes just three days after a scandalous taped recording, implicating publisher of Trud and 24 Hours dailies and chairman of the Union of Publishers in Bulgaria Lyubomir Pavlov, in trading in influence, was published in Presa, a newspaper from the arch enemy group.
According to the transcript Lyubomir Pavlov speaks with an unidentified person, telling him how he will use his media group to get away from prosecution.
He says he will be charged soon, but does not worry about the outcome of the trial because no prosecutor would dare touch him.
The authenticity of the recording has not been verified.
Presa newspaper is published by Tosho Toshev, who is also editor-in chief of the newspaper. Tosho Toshev was former editor-in-chief of Trud daily, which is now the strongest weapon in the hands of his enemies - Lyubomir Pavlov and Ognyan Donev.
In April last year Bulgaria's competition watchdog gave the green light to the acquisition of WAZ Mediengruppe assets in Bulgaria by Ognyan Donev and Lyubomir Pavlov even though they were accused of an attempted corporate mini-coup.
The ruling cemented the decision of Bulgaria's Business Registry Agency to register 83% of the wide-circulation dailies "Trud" (Labor) and 24 Chasa (24 Hours) as property of Ognyan Donev and Lyubomir Pavlov, former chairman of the Sofia-based Municipal Bank.
The ownership of WAZ Mediengruppe assets in Bulgaria, which include the two wide-circulation Trud and 24 Hours newspapers, changes hands just four months after Vienna-registered BG Privatinvest Ltd acquired a majority stake in the publisher, while the remainder was held by local businessmen Lyubomir Pavlov.
The conflict between the former partners flared up in March after Hristo Grozev, who represents the Vienna-registered BG Privatinvest Ltd, controlled by him, Austrian Karl Habsburg, and German Daniel Rutz, accused their Bulgarian partners of an attempted illegal corporate take-over of the newspapers.
Bulgaria's trade registry initially blocked the allegedly illegal transfer of a 83% stake in the holding at the insistence of Grozev, but later, following the intervention of the Justice Ministry, gave it the green light.
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