A court in Serbia’s capital city of Belgrade ruled on March 6 to extradite Tsvetan Vassilev, the majority shareholder in Bulgaria’s Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), to authorities in Sofia, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) reported.
BNR reported, quoting a court spokesperson, that the judges decided that there were sufficient grounds for the extradition of Vassilev, whom Bulgaria put on the Interpol wanted list and has issued a European arrest warrant in his name.
Vassilev’s lawyers have already lodged an appeal against the first-instance court’s decision, BNR reported, without giving a possible timeframe for the appellate court’s ruling. Vassilev turned himself in to Serbia’s criminal police on September 16 2014.
Earlier, reports in Bulgarian media said that, under Serbian law, should the appellate court uphold the ruling, Vassilev could take his case to Serbia’s justice ministry, which would issue a final decision on the extradition. He has also said that he could seek political asylum in Serbia, where he owns the country’s largest glass factory.
Vassilev is wanted in connection to an investigation into the withdrawal of 206 million leva (about 105.3 million euro) in cash from the CCB between December 2011 and June 19 2014. He has not been formally charged and denies wrongdoing.
CCB, Bulgaria’s fourth largest lender before it was put under special supervision by the central bank in June 2014, had its banking licence repealed by the Bulgarian National Bank in November, with payouts of depositor claims starting a month later.
A lawsuit brought by the bank’s shareholders – including Vassilev and an investment vehicle for an Omani sovereign fund, which had a stake of 30 per cent in the lender – was dismissed by Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court in January but is being appealed. In case the administrative court upholds the ruling, CCB will face insolvency proceedings.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Photo of Vassilev from his personal website, vassilev.bg)