Czech Media: CEZ Bulgaria Linked to Powerful Crime Group
A significant stake of the Bulgarian subsidiary of the Czech-owned power distributor CEZ is owned by a company belonging to a local notorious and murky business empire known as TIM, according to Czech media.
The site E15 informs Bulgarian investigative journalists are insisting TIM is the most powerful organized crime group in the country.
The article notes that TIM controls 25% in CEZ Electro and 5% in CEZ Distribution, which is evident from the financial account of CEZ Bulgaria for the last quarter of 2012.
Last fall TIM purchased through its company Himimport and through other businesses CEZ shares on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange from the Bulgarian State. Before that the State had 33% stakes at both CEZ Electro and CEZ Distribution.
E15 cites Atanas Tchobanov, editor of the site for investigative journalism Bivol.bg, explaining TIM has been founded in the early 90s of the 20th century as a security and debt collection company by three former elite navy seals – Tihomir Mitev, Ivo Kamenov, and Marin Mitev. The name of the group is believed to have been formed by the first letters of their first names.
As early as 2005, in a secret cable leaked through Bivol and WikiLeaks, TIM was called by former US Ambassador in Sofia, James Pardew "the new leader in Bulgarian organized crime," dealing with money laundering, illegal drugs trafficking and prostitution.
"They changed in an attempt to clean their image and turned to white-collar crime," Tchobanov says, noting Bivol has obtained documents revealing TIM are using money from their retirement fund for other investments, which is illegal.
"Until recently, common Bulgarians did not have many opportunities to learn anything about TIM because the topic was taboo for Bulgarian media. This was changed thanks to Bulgaria's own Jan Palach, the young man who set himself on fire in sign of protest against them. This was the turning point for the media. Plamen Goranov, 36, set himself on fire before the City Hall of the Black Sea capital Varna, where TIM is based. Goranov turned into a human torch and symbol of the protest against corrupt local Mayor, Kiril Yordanov, who is linked to TIM. Bulgaria is rallying against high utility bills in general; what is happening in Varna is something different. People there are protesting against the mafia," Tchobanov further states.
TIM owners are among the wealthiest Bulgarians. Their business empire owns the national flag carrier Bulgaria Air, the chemical holding Himimport, several media, and much, much more. TIM's properties are valued at anywhere between EUR 1 B and EUR 2 B. They have over 30 000 employees in over 150 companies.
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