'Bulgaria's Oligarchs Are the Politicians,' KTB Owner Vasilev Says

Business » FINANCE | October 9, 2015, Friday // 11:05
Bulgaria: 'Bulgaria's Oligarchs Are the Politicians,' KTB Owner Vasilev Says Photo by BGNES

Developments at collapsed Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) are tantamount to expropriation, Bulgarian businessman Tsvetan Vasilev, who was the bank's majority owner, has said in an interview with private national TV7 station.

Commenting on the collapse of KTB, which was once Bulgaria's fourth-largest lender, Vasilev criticized Prime Minister Boyko Borisov for missing the "historic opportunity" to restore KTB to health in 2014 by accepting a proposal made then by a consortium of investors. KTB was exposed to a bank run in June of last year and placed under supervision

The businessman called the developments at KTB "not privatization [but] expropriation" which allegedly helps certain people to generate wealth using any means possible.

Commenting on his one-time partnership with DPS lawmaker Delyan Peevski - the MP whose appointment to the national security agency in 2013 triggered nationwide process - he said Peevski was "after all, at a certain stage, a necessary evil for me. Because when it comes to business in Bulgaria there are circumstances one has to take into consideration."

Asked to elaborate, he admitted he had needed Peevski to secure political protection of his activities, since Peevski "to a big extent made up for certain deficiencies of the system I built."

"I've had CEOs [that proved to be] wonderful technocrats. But they were not ready, they were not public [enough] to speak to certain people," he went on.

Vasilev and Peevski, once described as "business partners" (despite Peevski being a lawmaker - most of his assests were officially "owned" by his mother Irena Krasteva), drifted apart last year, a process that culminated in mutual accusations of attempted murder in the months around the KTB crisis.

"Peevski has his qualities and I was really wrong to think as a person whom I helped much to develop he should be loyal to me. This turned out to be a mistake and I turned out to be a na?ve, post-middle-aged man."

He described as Bulgaria's "part of backroom games" other politicians who helped Peevski grow into a prominent personality in the country's political and business life, but insisted he has never "been part of these backroom games".

Speaking of former PM (2005-2009), ex-socialist head and PES President Sergey Stanishev, Vasilev said the two "had agreed that he should withdraw his support for [Plamen] Oresharski's government". In his words, the deal had been reached after the BSP's defeat at the European Parliament elections on May 25, 2014. Stanishev headed the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) at the time.

Stanishev "became aware" that Peevski had used him and his influence to make sure tenders were won by companies affiliated to him while the BSP was the senior coalition partner in the government between 2013 and 2014.

Vasilev said that throughout all the years up to 2014 he had been committed to creating an "entrepreneurial type" of national capital - unlike other business figures he named which in his words "brokered between the state and foreign-owned businesses."

He also alleged former Finance Minister Milen Veltchev and his brother George Velchev, both part of Russian VTB bank, of being in possession and de-facto owners Bulgarian telecom Vivacom.

In his words, Vivacom is currently shrinking its market share and "vegetating" after being virtually thrown to VTB which "cannot and should not have any claims whatsoever to the ownership of Vivacom".

Vasilev accused "both the government and the prosecution" of tacitly allowing the developments to "eliminate" his own participation.

Asked whether VTB activities he alleges the bank is doing in Bulgaria are a threat to national security, with Russian capitals and politics possibly flowing into Bulgaria, he said: "at least the doors is open."

About a possible return to Sofia, he said he could "not influence court procedures." Vasilev is in Belgrade, with an extradition request by Bulgarian authorities having been rejected by the Serbian Appeals Court in March.

"My desire is to return to Bulgaria to prove I am not guilty and people accused together with me are not guilty."

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Tags: Tsvetan Vasilev, KTB, Corporate Commercial Bank, Delyan Peevski, supervision, VTB, extradition, Sergey Stanishev

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