Sofia Court of Appeals confirmed, on November 13, a lower court’s ruling 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.
The three-judge appeal panel said it agreed with the Sofia City Court decision, which said that it found no proof of any embezzling in the evidence presented by prosecutors. The ruling can be appealed further at the Supreme Court of Cassation within a period of 15 days.
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.
According to the prosecution, the four defendants appropriated 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 three times (with Tomov acquiring the majority stake through a Luxembourg-based investment vehicle in 2013 and then selling it earlier this year after the club was relegated two divisions for failing to pay its overdue taxes) 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)