Bulgarian prosecutors to press new charges against ex-CCB banker Vassilev

Written by on June 9, 2016 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgarian prosecutors to press new charges against ex-CCB banker Vassilev
Shuttered CCB branch in Sofia's Lozenets borough. Photo: Alex Bivol

The investigation against former Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) majority shareholder Tsvetan Vassilev found evidence of an organised crime group operating to defraud the lender, enough to press charges against the former banker, a spokesperson for the country’s prosecutor-general said on June 9.

The new charges would be pressed against 14 people, including two former central bank deputy governors in charge of bank supervision and one other lower-ranked official in the bank supervision department, three auditors and seven former senior executives at CCB. Vassilev, who has already been charged with embezzling 206 million leva (about 105 million euro) from the bank, is accused of leading the group.

Roumyana Arnaoudova, spokesperson for prosecutor-general Sotir Tsatsarov, told reporters that the investigation was transferred to the specialised prosecutor’s office – a separate department set up several years ago to deal with organised crime investigations – as a result of the additional charges; previously, the case was being investigated by Sofia city prosecutors.

Likewise, when the case goes to trial, it would be heard by the specialised court, rather than the Sofia City Court. (One Bulgarian-language media report noted that the Sofia City Court has recently improved the transparency of the process in how cases are distributed among judges, implying that the additional charges might have been pressed in order to keep the trial away from that court.)

Arnaoudova also said that the transfer of the investigation from one office to another would not cause any delays in bringing the case to trial. Under Bulgarian law, investigations can last two years, after which a lawsuit must be filed or the charges dropped – and with the start of the investigation dating back to July 2014, it was presumed that a lawsuit would have to be filed next month.

But Arnaoudova said that the court has already spent some time deliberating related matters, such as hearings on the detainment of some of the defendants, and that time did not count towards the deadline, meaning that prosecutors had another year before the court case had to be filed.

The news about the additional charges against Vassilev came on the same day that public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television reported that a court in Serbian capital Belgrade ruled to extradite the former CCB majority shareholder to Bulgaria. However, that decision was expected to be appealed by Vassilev’s lawyers – another extradition ruling last year was overturned on appeal.

Asked about the Serbian court’s ruling, Arnaoudova said that Bulgarian prosecutors had not received any official word about a ruling or even at what stage of the court proceedings the case was.

The news also came on the same day that four MPs had filed a motion in Parliament to call Tsatsarov to the House floor to report on the progress of the investigation into the collapse of CCB. Earlier this week, the four MPs asked Tsatsarov to do so in a letter sent to his office, but he declined, saying that he would only do so if summoned by a Parliament motion.

(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Shuttered CCB branch in Sofia’s Lozenets borough. Photo: Alex Bivol)



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