Sofia City Court ruled on August 21 to release from arrest the deputy chief accountant of Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), Borislava Teneva, questioning the prosecution’s claims that the lender’s majority shareholder had withdrawn about 206 million leva in cash from the bank.
Teneva is the last of several senior CCB employees – arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting the withdrawal of the money – that have now been released by court decision, without bail and only asked to sign a written agreement not to leave their current address. The court also ruled to release CCB chief accountant Maria Dimova from house arrest in exchange for signing a similar agreement.
Bulgaria’s central bank, which put CCB under conservatorship on June 20, initially claimed that the 206 million leva, or 105 million euro, had been withdrawn in cash on June 19, the day before the bank asked to be put under Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) special supervision.
That claim was dismissed by prosecutors, reports in Bulgarian media citing people familiar with the investigation said in July. Instead, the money had been withdrawn over a longer period of time, between December 2011 and June 2014, the prosecution said earlier this month.
The Sofia City Court said on August 21 that it was not persuaded by the prosecutors’ evidence that the money had been withdrawn illegally, citing the findings of the CCB administrators that the sum had been given as a loan to another company owned by CCB majority shareholder Tsvetan Vassilev.
Prosecutor Ivan Geshev said that the court’s ruling would be appealed, as quoted by local broadcaster Nova Televizia.
At least eight CCB senior employees, including four former board directors, are being investigated by prosecutors on various charges. On August 12, the prosecutor’s office also said that it issued an international arrest warrant against Vassilev in late July, accusing him of persuading the bank’s chief cashier Margarita Petrova and chief executive Orlin Roussev to authorise the cash withdrawal.
Vassilev’s current whereabouts are unknown, although he did give several interviews to Bulgarian media – reportedly in Vienna – in June and July. A report in a Bulgarian daily earlier this week claimed that Vassilev was in Serbia, but the newspaper’s claims have not been officially confirmed.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Logo and corporate motto of Corporate Commercial Bank – “our clients are dear to us” – from a CCB advert. Screengrab from corpbank.bg)