Bulgaria seeks Council of Europe help in former CCB owner extradition case
Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office said on February 9 that it was seeking a hearing in the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) concerning the difficulties in securing the extradition of Tsvetan Vassilev, former majority shareholder in the insolvent Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), from Serbia.
CDPC is the Council of Europe office tasked with coordinating the organisation’s activities in the field of crime prevention and crime control. One of its subordinate bodies is a committee of experts on the operation of European conventions on co-operation in criminal matters.
Bulgaria’s complaint argues that Serbia was failing to observe article 18 of the European Convention on Extradition, which requires the recipient of an extradition request to “inform the requesting party […] of its decision with regard to the extradition.”
Bulgaria has requested the extradition of Vassilev – who is wanted on charges of embezzlement of 206 million leva from CCB, which was declared insolvent in 2015 – in September 2014. The prosecutor’s office said that it is yet to receive any answer from Serbia’s justice ministry to that request.
In March 2015, reports in Bulgarian media said that a Serbian court had ruled to extradite Vassilev, but the decision was overturned on appeal a week later.
A second extradition request was sent to authorities in Belgrade in May 2015, detailing additional charges against Vassilev, which has similarly gone unanswered, the prosecution statement said. Bulgaria has also sent a reminder letter in November 2015, seeking answers to its two earlier requests.
Having received no communication from Serbian authorities on the issue, the prosecutor’s office was asking CDPC to begin proceedings for “spirit of friendship” mediation in this case, the statement said.
In related news, the state deposit guarantee fund released on February 9 a list of public figures, including politicians, elected officials and magistrates, who had deposits in CCB or received loans from the bank. It included several high-profile names, such as Movement for Rights and Freedoms honorary chairperson Ahmed Dogan, Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov and former prime minister Ivan Kostov, who had been named in previous disclosures by the fund or had publicly confirmed that they held deposits in the bank before it became insolvent.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Shuttered CCB branch in Sofia’s Lozenets borough. Photo: Alex Bivol)