Sofia City Court ruled in February 17 to acquit Alexander Tomov and three co-defendants on charges of embezzling 36 million leva (about 18.3 million euro) from Kremikovtzi steel mill and CSKA Sofia football club. A day earlier, prosecutors asked for a prison sentence of 10 years, the minimum under Bulgarian law for large-scale embezzlement offences.
Tomov and three other people – former Finmetals director Bozhko Bonev, former CSKA chief executive Alexander Garibov and former Kremikovtzi board director Ivan Ivanov – were accused of embezzling 29 million leva from Kremikovtzi and 3.5 million euro from CSKA Sofia.
They were accused of illegally appropriating Kremikovtzi plant property and real estate – a dumping ground for toxic and industrial materials and a dormitory, as well as stealing machinery and other equipment from the steel plant – to finance the acquisition of the football club.
Tomov was chief executive of Kremikovtzi and CSKA Sofia in 2005/09, when both were owned by Indian steel magnate Pramod Mittal. CSKA has since been sold twice (with Tomov acquiring the majority stake through a Luxembourg-based investment vehicle in 2013) and Kremikovtzi went bankrupt.
The case against Tomov dates back to 2009 and he was previously sentenced, in January 2011, to nine years imprisonment, but the Sofia Court of Appeals later ordered a re-trial, finding that the presiding judge used “contradictory legal judgment for the same circumstances” in issuing the guilty verdict.
Tomov himself has always denied the embezzlement charges against him, insisting the case was politically-motivated and the end result of political pressure, as well as claiming that he and his co-defendants were being made scapegoats for the bankruptcy of Kremikovtzi – built in the 1960s, the plant was a flagship of Bulgaria’s industry during the communist era, but relied on imported ore and coal, which made it difficult for the plant to stay competitive on global markets and led to Kremikovtsi being declared insolvent in 2010.
(Justice Palace in Sofia. Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis/flickr.com)