Bulgaria's F1-Gate Expands as Abu Dhabi Executive Gets Threats

Crime | September 5, 2010, Sunday // 16:58
Bulgaria: Bulgaria's F1-Gate Expands as Abu Dhabi Executive Gets Threats Anwar Badwan (l) and Rumen Petkov gave a special press conference on Saturday on the plans to build a Formula 1 racetrack in Bulgaria. Photo by BGNES

The representative of Abu Dhabi company EABG, who arrived in Sofia Saturday to clear an international scandal about the construction of a Bulgarian Formula 1 track, has received not just racket demands but also threats.

The "Bulgarian F1-gate" erupted over the past week starting after the press office of the Bulgarian Economy Ministry reported incorrect information about a cooperation agreement between the Ministry and Abu Dhabi consortium Emirates Associated Business Group (EABG), allegedly for the construction of a Formula 1 track near Sofia.

It received a new spin on Saturday when EABG representative Anwar Badwan, whose position at the consortium is reported to be that of an "adviser", announced that as the Formula 1 scandal developed, he had received a racketeering email reading, "Send USD 94 M in order to iron out the misunderstandings." The letter was signed by a person named Alex Tsakov. Badwan showed a print out of the email to the media.

On Sunday, it became clear, however, that Badwan had also received a second email from the same person, Alex Tsakov, containing threats against him and his family. As a result, Badwan immediately sent his daughter, who was accompanying him in Sofia, out of Bulgaria.

The racketeering demands and threats against Badwan are already under investigation by the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, reported bTV. The cops are trying to establish the identity of "Alex Tsakov", the person who signed the emails to Badwan.

bTV says that Gen. Rumen Milanov, a former head of the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and current adviser of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, has also met with the EABG executive and is familiar with the investigation.

Bulgarian PM Borisov has declined to make comments on the entire F1-gate, the scandal with an intiative to bring Formula 1 races to Bulgaria, whcih threatens to ruin the country's image with the Arab world and foreign investors in general.

"I will not comment on these scribbles in the press because you can see what the tactics of the media are – they write rubbish, then the morning shows and political talks shows pick them up, and at the end of day I have to go there and answer questions about the fabrications of some people," declared Borisov during a visit to the village of Voyvodinovo near Plovdiv.

During his news conference with Badwan on Saturday, the Member of the Parliament from the opposition Socialist Party, and former Interior Minister, Rumen Petkov, who is also the Chair of the Initiative Committee for the project to build a F1 racetrack in the village of Dobroslavtsi, commented the above said mail was only a small fraction of the campaign to sabotage EABG investments in Bulgaria. He revealed the company had received a "disgusting letter," aiming at making them give up on their intentions to finance the project.

On Friday, the Bulgarian daily "Sega" reported EABG refuted statements of Bulgarian authorities it will invest in the project to build a Formula 1 racetrack.

The Sega daily cited a company statement informing EABG had no intentions whatsoever to invest in any such endeavor, and is very disappointed by the way the information got twisted around they would cancel all investment plans in Bulgaria all together.

The CEO of EABG, Raid Abu Hudra, is quoted as saying the group never before encountered such lack of professionalism and will do their best to warn all its partners to not invest in Bulgaria.

The problem largely stems from an August 30 official press release of the Bulgarian Economy Ministry, which listed EABG as a state-owned, not private, and its owner Mohammed Abdul Jalil al Blouki was presented as a Sheikh of "Abu Dhabi", not as businessman. In its coverage, Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) corrected this information after conducting its own research.

Also on Friday, the Economy Ministry declared that EABG is committed to the plans for building a Formula 1 circuit in the country despite a misunderstanding that led to an international scandal.

In Sofia Badwan confirmed the company's desire to continue collaborating with the Bulgarian cabinet.

On Sunday, Bulgarian NGOs declared themselves against the F1 project of the Economy Ministry doubting its economic feasibility and proposing an alternative location.

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Tags: Rumen Milanov, unit for combating organized crime, Prime Minister, Sheikhs, Raid ABu Hudra, Boyko Borisov, Rumen Petkov, Bogdan Nikolov, UAE, EABG, Emirates Associated Business Group, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Abdul Jalil al Blouki, Formula 1, Economy Minister, Traicho Traikov, Economy Ministry, Nikolay Mladenov, Foreign Minister, Anwar Badwan, F1-gate, Formula 1-Gate, Dobroslavtsi

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