Illegal Antiques' Channels and Lyudmila Zhivkova's Role, Part V

Novinite Insider » EDITORIAL | Author: Maria Guineva (translator) |June 5, 2008, Thursday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
Illegal Antiques??™ Channels and Lyudmila Zhivkova??™s Role, Part V: Illegal Antiques' Channels and Lyudmila Zhivkova's Role, Part V Photo by Nadya Kotseva (Sofia Photo Agency)

"The Illegal Antiques Channels and Lyudmila Zhivkova's Role", is an investigative material by Darik radio crime reporter Bogdana Lazarova on the state-organized antiques' trafficking in Bulgaria. It was published in the book, called "Affair", written by Bogdana Lazarova and her colleague Nikolay Hristov. is publishing the whole material, dividing it into several installments.

Old treasure-hunters tell that before November 10, 1989, two big treasure-hunting clans existed among the high level circles in Bulgaria - the Troyan - Veliko Turnovo one with Milko Balev and the Minister of the Interior himself, Dimitar Stoyanov as bosses and the other - the Strandja-Sakar one with people from the "Cultural Heritage" circle, mainly Krustio Mutafchiev. The treasure-hunters say that the most gold was located in the Troyan area, where Milko Balev was from. Not so far away from Troyan is the town of Strazhiza - the native place of Dimitar Stoyanov. Both hid their interest in treasure-hunting by pretending to fight against it. The two clans, as it was to be expected, had been hostile towards each other. Right before his death, Krustio Mutafchiev, considered among those at the top of one of the clans, told how Milko Balev's and Dimitar Stoyanov's people murdered an elderly treasure-hunter by beating him with sand bags so that he would tell them where his collection was buried. The old man died several weeks later. Mutafchiev further believed that the repressions against part of the "Cultural Heritage" team at the Foreign Ministry have also been connected to the appetites of the then Interior Minister Dimitar Stoyanov and his circle and of Milko Balev and to their hostility towards those who have been focusing on the treasures of the Strandja area. So, the clans have been competing -the one by looking for gold and the library of Tsar Ivan Shishman in Stara Planina and the other - for the treasure of Valchan Voivoda in the Strandja area known as Beklicktash.

It is even more interesting that Zhivko Popov himself grew up with the treasure-hunting idea. His personal record from March 10, 1982, submitted along with other documents during the legal trail against him, and signed by the Depute Chief of "Human Resources" at the Interior Ministry, stated that Zhivko Popov's father - Yani Kostadinov, who passed away during this same 1982, has been known as a treasure-hunter, distanced from politics and maintaining close relationships with a former police officer from the tsarist police.

The proposal to create the "Cultural heritage" Office in reality belongs to Zhivko Popov himself, Emil Alexandrov and Alexander Fol, then Lyudmila Zhivkova's Depute at the Culture Ministry. The proposal is dated May 1976. In the document addressed to Lyudmila Zhivkova and to then Foreign Minister Petar Mladenov, the three insisted that the Office was placed directly under the State Committee for the Celebration of the 100 Anniversary of the Creation of the Bulgarian State and that its Director was given the authority to control Bulgarian missions abroad.

In addition to four regular employment positions, they requested a room at the Foreign Ministry building, an apartment in the very heart of Sofia on 5, "Bacho Kiro" street and a house also in downtown Sofia - on 4, "Angel Kunchev" street. According to the documents, the Office's main task would have been to collect, process and make available information to different institutions, to research and purchase cultural and historical valuables, related to Bulgarian history. A reference from the legal case shows that from 1978 on, the Office had maintained an activity much larger than the one assigned to it by the Foreign Ministry's leadership. Because of that, the Office has been constantly expanding and taking new spaces in downtown Sofia- on 10 "Rouski" boulevard, on 7 "Gavril Genov"(currently "Hristo Belchev") street, 14 "Angel Kunchev" street.

Several interrogations, referenced in the legal case, show what they have been doing before falling for the treasure-hunting. In an interrogation one of the four accused Vulo Goranov, states that from 1975 to 1979, he had been on special assignments ordered by Zhivko Popov, and connected to Yugoslavia and Albania: "Creating contacts with Yugoslavian citizens wronged by Tito's regime. Establishing who are the Bulgarians living in Yugoslavia. Becoming aware of the Albanian armament in the Kossovo area. Along with all this, Zhivko Popov entrusted me with sporadic tasks such as: what were the arms Yugoslavia was going to purchase in relation to the negotiations conducted during the visit of the US president in 1975. My assignment was to find out "what else was Yugoslaviagoing to request from the US in addition to money." I had to submit the written information directly to Popov with the leaders' names such as those of Tito, Tane Dolanz, Yovanka and some others encrypted. I signed the reports with an alias, which was changed by Zhivko Popov himself - "Friend", Stoyanov" and others. In order to accomplish those tasks, I traveled to Yugoslavia 30 to 40 times during this period. I was introduced to then Yugoslavia's Defense Minister Peko Dapchevich. Regarding Kossovo's armament, I found out that during 1976-77 it was conducted by the Albanian Vebe, around 40 years old, without permanent employment or residency, who traveled in Italy and Austria. He was doing gun trafficking. In addition, Emil Alexandrov, during one of his visits to Vienna ordered me to learn details about the people with strong positions from the group connected to Yovanka, Tito's wife. The situation then was such that a replacement of Tito was expected due to conspiracy from Yovanka's group. Emil Alexandrov came to Vienna two or three times in connection to this and I gave him a written report with the information I was able to collect. I do not remember preparing invoices for the trips and the expenses. Zhivko Popov always used to say: Whatever happens we did not sent you, deal with it by yourself. Since the beginning of 1979 Zhivko Popov and Alexandrov stopped being interested in these matters."

Another interesting episode is hidden under the covers of the legal investigation of the "Cultural Heritage" affair. It tells about the second, if not main, layer in those employees' work. The former Depute Foreign Minister and high level officer from the Intelligence Services, Zhivko Popov and Vulo Goranov, Manager of one of the "Cultural Heritage" firms, also defendant in the trail, have discussed the murder of the writer Georgi Markov and maybe the one of the journalist Vladimir Kostov. This becomes evident from a plan for the work of "Friend", one of Vulo Goranov's aliases. The plan included work from September 1, 1978 to August 31, 1979. It was coordinated with and approved by Mircho Spasov, Director of the "Human Resources" Department of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, close friend of Todor Zhivkov and protector of the circle around Zhivko Popov, and it bears his signature in the upper left corner. Article 7 of the plan states: "Action "Friends" - search and make new contacts for the accomplishment of this task." In an interrogation related to the legal case, conducted by the investigator Toncho Tonchev on December 8, 1981, Vulo Goranov explained what the above meant: The activities were specified between me and Zhivko Popov. The plan was approved on August 18, 1978 by Mircho Spasov. Article 7 - Action "Friends" relates to the following: Vladimir Kostov deserted from Bulgaria in Paris and prior to him, Georgi Markov in London. Both have been very active and were writing publications against our regime. Zhivko Popov assigned me to find people who were willing, for money, to make Kostov and Markov shut up i.e. physically eliminate one of them. The initial idea was mine, but after I discussed it with Zhivko Popov, I think he coordinated it with comrade Spasov and at the end, the action was included in the plan. To accomplish the task, I made contacts, but nothing practical came out it, because Georgi Markov died and the others from the immigration circles got scared and results, after all, were not achieved."

It is interesting that Georgi Markov was, indeed, killed in London on September 7, 1978.

In reality, Zhivko Popov, until 1975, was part of the top-secret headquarters of the First Central Bureau of the Secret Services. The Chief of the 10th Section "Top Secret Staff" at the Bureau was Colonel Dyako Dyakov, who was the sole chief of the section since its establishment in 1967 to its closure in1975.

Section 10 was created in 1967 under the initiative of then Chief of First Central Bureau, General Dimitar Kiosev. The difference from other sections was mainly in its staff, composed of highly educated people, assigned or able to undertake key positions in Bulgarian organizations in the country and abroad. The section's task has been to infiltrate the highest echelons of the political and social life and state institutions in foreign countries of interest of the intelligence at the time. This staff has been undercover to the deepest possible levels, the officers themselves did not know their colleagues, and the Secret Services' officers did not know who they were. The intelligence agents have been selected among highly regarded specialists with great reputation in the society - journalists, political analysts and experts, publishers, professors, scientists, artists. In the beginning, there have been 10 officers, but later this number had grown to 50. A few of them have been the so-called "paratroopers" - hired from above sons and daughters, son-in-law's and daughter-in-law's or in some other connection, people close to political "highnesses", who were there only to receive decent salaries in BGN or currency, and tour the world under honorary titles. In addition to Zhivko Popov, who has been in the 10th section until it was closed, (he was moved at the time to the 14th section), Vladimir Kostov, has also been among those top secret employees at the 10th.

Konstantin Chakurov, Todor Zhivkov's personal advisor tells about the activity of the 14th section:

This was a very delicate activity, connected to border states, not regulated, without any clear legal base or codes. It was an activity behind which stood specialists-experts in the area of art, from the Culture Committee. The Interior Ministry guaranteed its discretion, the Foreign Ministry - its diplomatic channels. The activity was related to purchasing art from foreign countries in order to create a fund called "Foreign Art", which was supposed to lead to some results on its own. If then we paid BGN 5 to 10 M, these items today are worth BGN 100-200 M. They do exist as a fact, this activity yielded good results and it could now be confirmed by experts, who can tell what was their price when they were purchased and what is their real value now. Indeed, all rich countries with good taste have established such funds; look in Europe - all museums are filled with art chef-d'oeuvres. In Europe, Asia, Latin America rare and valuable art items were acquired. The activity was conducted on operational level by a specially created structure. It was conducted politically in the direction of an international cultural activity and three people signed under it - Lyudmila Zhivkova, as a Chair of the Culture Committee, the Interior Minister Dimitar Stoyanov, and the Foreign Minister Petar Mladenov. Inside, there were many people, experts and many others who belonged to the intelligence structures since this was a discrete activity that could not be entrusted to experts only. The Office also had a financial structure, which was headed by Zhivko Popov, who was..., and an expert section was attached to it, composed of specialists, who have proved their expertise - such as Bogomil Raynov, Alexander Fol, people who could make the distinction between counterfeit and real valuable art since then one could not purchase whatever came across.

What was exactly Zhivko Popov's rank at the First Central Bureau?

In the Foreign Ministry he was in the management of diplomat resources. In First Central he had a high-ranking - General-Major, and respectively he provided very important channels for coordination between Bulgarian Intelligence and Bulgarian Diplomacy.

What exactly were his assignments in connection to First Central?

By any means providing intelligence activities, they are complex - there is financial, material, diplomatic provision. He worked in the line of diplomatic provision. And his concrete tasks need to be found out from his personal record. They are none of my business.

The 14th Cultural and Historical Intelligence (CHI) section where Zhivko Popov was transferred after the closure of the top secret 10th section, was created in the beginning of the 70s after the decision to officially celebrate the 1300 anniversary of the creation of the Bulgarian State was taken. The establishment of the 14th section also happened with Lyudmila Zhivkova's blessing, as some of its officers remember. Its main tasks were: with the means and the ways of intelligence to search and acquire documents and materials related to Bulgarian history, especially in connection to arguable issues, object of falsifications on the part of foreign historians. One of them has been the so-called "Macedonian Issue". In the same time, a similar section was created in the Foreign Ministry for the acquisition of archives and artifacts from abroad. The staff was composed of 15 officers. Several authoritative scientists, professors and State administrators were added to it, some of them were also part of the secret intelligence staff. The core of this section have been historians from Sofia University, according an ex-intelligence officer from the section.

These were the people who created and worked at the "Cultural Heritage" Office at the Foreign Ministry. From the legal investigation it becomes evident that they were well aware of the part of the Secret Services' activity called "secret transit". On January 24, 1981 Krustio Mutafchiev wrote to the Minister of Foreign Trade Hristo Hristov. He began with the explanation that the "Cultural Heritage" Office had special assignments and the budget financing was not sufficient to cover the Office's expenses (this was natural since afterwards the legal investigation established the fact that the Office's budget was mainly used to finance foreign intelligence activities.). From Mutafchiev's letter it becomes clear that "Cultural Heritage" had been doing serious deals having nothing to do with culture. He explained that the Office had created several companies, one of them "Metimpex" of Metodi Dimitrov, proved the most profitable and effective. It, as Mutafchiev wrote, has been registered in Switzerland, Greece and Yugoslavia and was represented in Bulgaria by the then Bureau for Provision of Services to Diplomats. Further, Mutafchiev explained that in a matter of a year and a half, the company exported Bulgarian goods worth over USD 4 M and had imported cultural heritage for over USD 350 000. Mutafchiev also wrote about a second such company from "Cultural Heritage" - "Ulpia", registered in Austria and managed by Vulo Goranov. Mutafchiev complained to the Foreign Trade Minister that the foreign trade company "Rudmetal" was interfering with the "Metimpex" activities by withholding its commission for a load of cigarettes, which, on its part had created problems for "Kintex". So, Mutafchiev requested from the Minister to instruct foreign trade companies such as "Rudmetal", Himimport", "Korekom", "Electroimpex" and others directly working with "Cultural Heritage" to fully collaborate with it.

Another such foreign trade company "Hemus" had significant contributions to the antiques' traffic. It was headed by Ivan Abadzhiev. The antiques' channels passed through "Hemus", where rare and valuable coins were exported and offered at world markets and auctions and huge amounts of money were made.
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