Sofia Court of Appeals ruled on September 18 to reject the appeal brought by lawyers acting on behalf of Tsvetan Vassilev, majority shareholder of the Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), asking to revoke the arrest warrant against Vassilev.
Unlike the Sofia City Court, which last week refused to hear the case and dismissed it as “premature and inadmissible at this stage”, the appellate court allowed the hearing to proceed, but upheld the ruling of Sofia City Court judge Ivan Koev, who argued that legal provisions in cases to rescind arrest warrants were applicable only after the person in question has been detained.
Speaking to Bulgarian National Television from Belgrade, Vassilev said that he would not volunteer to be extradited to Bulgaria and would return to Bulgaria when he felt safe. He said he was considering lodging a request to receive political asylum in Serbia, where he owns the country’s largest glass factory.
Vassilev is under investigation on suspicions of large-scale embezzlement at CCB and is accused of illegally withdrawing nearly 206 million leva (about 105.3 million euro) in cash from the bank between December 2011 and June 19 2014.
CCB, Bulgaria’s fourth largest lender before it was put under special supervision by the central bank, will remain under conservatorship until at least November 20, the Bulgarian National Bank said earlier this week.
In July, Bulgaria has issued a European arrest warrant in Vassilev’s name and has also included him on Interpol’s wanted list.
Earlier this week, Vassilev turned himself in to Serbian police in Belgrade. He has not been detained, but is required to check in daily, in person, at a Serbian police precinct.
Vassilev will next face a Serbian court that will have to decide on whether to extradite him to Bulgaria. The court date for the extradition hearing has not been made public.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Screenshot of Tsvetan Vassilev from Interpol website.)